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Brunch Around the World

There’s nothing like brunch on a rainy, lazy Sunday in the neighborhood. It’s even better when brunch is at Pomelo and the neighborhood is the hip-to-be-square Noe Valley. It would be easy to pass right by the 38-seat boite if it weren’t for the huge, plump yellow pomelo hanging over the café’s awning.

With a line growing out the door, the staff checks in with each party and reassures that the wait won’t be long, and sure enough, it isn’t. (Reservations are only taken for parties of 6 or more.) The manager even goes as far as to set up a nice corner table for us with a nook for the tot in our group. The restaurant is definitely family-centric as there’s a toddler at just about every other table, and surprisingly all well behaved, or parents are courteous enough to get some fresh air when little tempers start to flare.

As soon as we are seated, we are treated to mini-muffins filled with walnuts. I am drawn to the hibiscus bellini ($6.50). With hints of fruit and flora, this pretty cranberry hued libation perfectly matches the bright beams, which are pleasantly contrasted by pale yellow walls, opening up the squarish space. The dining room, food, and drink could be a study in mood therapy.

The menu packs in a global influence with each plate cleverly appointed the name of a destination and given an international twist. We traveled all over the map, taking in a little piece of the Northwest with the Eastlake ($10.50), a red potato hash mingled with smoked trout and accompanied by wild rice, two poached eggs, and a just-right accent of horseradish cream. The eggs were delicately poached to perfection.

We moved on to Italy with the Monte Cristo ($9.50), by far our favorite. The eggs are paired with a savory polenta sandwich of prosciutto, mozzarella and sun dried tomato. A straight-up plate of eggs, bacon, potatoes and toast is available for the more traditional diner; the toast in particular is rustic, holds butter beautifully, and if served a tad cool, will be graciously replaced with hot toast fresh from the oven.

At dinner, Pomelo is known for their equally international focused noodles and grains, so we went east and ordered the Nasik ($11.50), an Indian quinoa salad to get a taste of the evening offerings. The little dark beads of quinoa grains have great texture and while faintly nutty, they soak up the flavors of bell pepper, currant and scallions marvelously.

Brunch usually seems to be an indulgence in itself, but there’s no reason not to follow the savory course with a sweet one for a nice ending to the meal, especially when that first course tastes healthful and not too heavy. So we worked our way closer to home on the menu with the Hawaiian Makena ($7.50), a toasty, warm brioche French toast stuffed with bananas and topped with roasted macadamias and coconut syrup. It was so delicious we ordered a second.

Between Pomelo’s two locations (the smaller 18-seat location is at 92 Judah), it satisfies and far exceeds expectations of brunch with diverse flavors and its extremely affordable menu. It is certainly a treasure worth searching for. And if you get lost, just look for the big yellow pomelo hanging above the café.

Outer Noe

Reservations essential? No.