If you’re looking for a good, simple breakfast or lunch without all the frills and sauces, you might want to check out the latest addition to the South San Francisco Street restaurant scene.
In June, Patrick Flanigan opened Carmels Flagstaff on South San Francisco in the building where Sugar Mamas used to be and almost immediately had business walk in the door.
“I wanted it to blend in with the rest of the street. Like it had been here forever,” he said of Carmels' décor inside and out. “I wanted it to be warm and funky, like Flagstaff. I wanted people to walk by and say, "How could I have missed this?’”
The creamy paint inside and out, warm orange awning and the tri-colored linoleum floor are all a throwback to the 1960s. A ceiling-to-floor photograph of the late astrogeologist Gene Shoemaker in a prototype space suit on one wall completes the effect. The photo is Flanigan’s tribute to Flagstaff’s place in the 1960s race to the moon. He got the photo from the archives of the Flagstaff U.S. Geological Survey’s Astrogeology Science Center office.
Everyone in town has something about Route 66 or the Grand Canyon or historic Flagstaff as a theme in their business, he said. Very few people know about the important role Flagstaff played in the space race and he wanted to showcase that.
In the early 1960s, the astronauts who were part of the Apollo moon project trained near Flagstaff at the Cinder Lake, where the government blasted craters in the cinder field to recreate the face of the moon and test the lunar rover. They also studied geology at Meteor Crater.
The food at Carmels, named after Flanigan’s mom, is also a bit of a throwback. The dishes are free of sauces, spices and hot sauces, the maple syrup is real, the butter is real, the eggs are cage-free and the meat is hormone-free. The orange juice is fresh-squeezed and the coffee fresh-brewed. He also tries to source as many ingredients as possible locally.
“I wanted good, clean food, without a lot of spices or sauces. I wanted the opposite of fast food. I wanted comfort food,” Flanigan said. “If people want to add that, we have hot sauce, salt, pepper and sugar on the tables.”
He wanted big portions at a reasonable price. All of the breakfast menu items are under $10 and all items on the lunch menu are under $11. Some breakfast favorites include a breakfast croissant sandwich with two eggs, bacon, cheddar and hash browns and savory crepes with two poached eggs, goat cheese, spinach, cherry tomatoes and breakfast potatoes.
The lunch menu has classics like the Carmels sirloin burger with 1/3 pound of grass-fed, hormone-free sirloin grilled in butter with a brioche bun, cheddar and shoestring potatoes. The menu also includes wine, beer, bloody Marys, Mimosas and other cocktails.
Flanigan originally opened Carmels in the Valley after retiring as a weather forecaster for Channel 10 news in Phoenix.
“You know, everyone has that dream of opening a business, of becoming their own boss,” he said. “This is mine.”
But the location, a strip mall, just wasn’t right. He and his wife have had a home in Flagstaff for many years. He’s eyed San Francisco Street and specifically the building that Carmels is currently in for years as a possible location. One day when Flanigan saw the building was open, he grabbed the opportunity and moved Carmels to Flagstaff. He hopes to eventually expand it into the building next door and fix up the space in the back to create a nice back patio -- there’s already a small patio at the front.
Currently, Carmels only serves breakfast and lunch, all day, seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. But Flanigan is hoping to add dinner down the road.