Saturday, January 23, 2010

Fred's Place - Sausalito

 My Sunday morning ritual not broken by moving boxes and packing tape, I headed to Fred's Place on Bridgeway for a pre-moving feast and another chance to say goodbye to this funny little town.  Okay, I know, I'm not moving to Washington or anything. My nostalgic nature has been seriously kicking in though, so it was quite fitting for me to spend my last Sunday at this quintessentially Sausalito breakfast joint, perched precariously at the counter on a barstool practically on top of the cash register, the perfect birds-eye view down the line:  plates flying, pancakes griddling, rows of bacon and piles of hash browns sizzling away on the flattop.  It also gave me a chance to chat with Tien, who is always there, running the floor, the register and the counter, spinning like a top with his eye on everyone and everything.  Knowing most of the customers by name, Tien has worked the counter at Fred's for 6 years, which is a drop in the bucket to the old timers there:  Toto has been expertly working the flattop for the last 26 years, and his sidekick, Sergio, for the last 16, scrambling eggs, and making omelettes on the smallest 2 burner stove you've ever seen.   Wait a second, what's the deal with all the sixes??? 

On any given day Fred's is rifled with locals of every shape, size and economic status, sharing communal-style tables with tourists since way back before communal tables were chic and in.  Let me just set things straight right now (in case you had any reason to think otherwise), Fred's is about as local and lowbrow as one can get, and I say that in the fondest way possible.  In fact, most breakfast places are pretty lowbrow when you think of it.  Eggs, cheese, bacon and fried potatoes aren't exactly haute cuisine. No, they aren't organic or serving nitrate-free meats with producers prominently displayed on the menu.   A place that turns tables every 30-45 minutes (I was seriously in there for less than 30), is no place for a food snob or someone wanting Riedel crystal for their Mimosa.  And they do have Mimosas by the way, great fresh O.J., decent coffee and even better lattes and cappucinos. 

As I waited for my bratwurst and poached eggs, dry rye and hash browns (yes, a walking contradication), I watched Toto carefully whipping eggs and pancake batter in a Hamilton Beach shake blender, you know, the old-school kind with 4 heads and fast spinning parts that look like a bitch to clean (been there, done that!).  What a great idea to keep the pancake batter the right consistency and the eggs fluffy.  See, Fred's has its own way of doing things and that's what keeps this place hopping 364 days of the year (they are only closed on Christmas, Tien tells me, as the cooks are "Catholic and that is their holiday").   They don't have website, so it was  hard to find out just when the original "Fred" passed-on and exactly when the Korean family that efficiently runs the place took over.  As far as I can see though, they are doing a grand job with Fred's creation.

Fred's menu is huge, with every kind of sausage imaginable:  Polish, Linguica, Chicken Apple, Breakfast Links, the aforementioned Bratwurst...  Their lunch menu has the usual suspects:  club sandwiches, BLT's, burgers and the like.  They also have Korean-style short ribs, deliciously teriyaki-ed medium rare, grilled right along side the toast.  Yes, you heard right, Fred's doesn't have a toaster, but instead has a guy dedicated to grilling each and every piece of toast they put out.  Their pancakes are the thin, swedish style, perfect to soak up the huge slather of butter (although it looks yellowish, like margarine from where I'm stationed) and they do have real maple syrup, but you have to ask for it.  I'm pretty sure the hash browns came from a freezer bag, and that hollandaise sauce I saw Toto whisking with a dinner fork, it probably came from a packaged mix.  However, somehow the ambiance, the bustling activity and the locals make it all not matter.  If you're worried about saturated fats, and knowing which farm your pork came from, then Fred's is probably not for you.  If you want a great old fashioned, down to earth breakfast, with interesting conversation, a snapshot of locals mixed with tourists and other Marinites from neighboring towns, then Fred's Place is just the ticket.

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