Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Seven Important Signs of a Damn Good Breakfast Joint

The previous Sunday morning, I pulled out all the stops for serving breakfast for the kids. I went out to the store the night before and picked up a carton of fresh strawberries and whipping cream. The next day I made the weekly stack of pancakes but added the berries, cream, and even used some smuckers strawberry fruit syrup. This super sweet breakfast fare conjured up images of my own childhood going to different suburban pancake houses with Mom, Dad, and my two brothers. We did not go out to dinner too often, but I can recall several instances where we piled in the big chevy tank and hit the booths for waffles ala mode, blueberry pancakes or some egg dish with about two or three meat sides. Good breakfast joints still exist if you really search for them. Try to avoid the everyday chain locations and franchises and opt for the pancake house that delivers everything under the sun.  Stick with word of mouth from co-workers, neighbors, and visit your hometown restaurant message boards. Word travels fast. I put up my own criteria of what makes a damn good breakfast joint.
1. Eggs Served in all Varieties – Okay I like my eggs done just about any way. I would expect a great breakfast joint to offer up all the possibilities. The definite criteria for egg varieties for a good breakfast restaurant would include fried, scrambled, poached, omelets, frittatas, and “skillets”. Benedicts, Diablo, or juevos rancheros are pure bonus.

2. Pancakes Served in all Varieties. As much as I enjoy eggs, meat, and potatoes for breakfast, the sweet tooth also rears its ugly head on occasional weekends. A quality breakfast establishment will not only offer pancakes, but “uber “delicious pancakes such as the Dutch baby, German apple pancake, and Swedish pancakes. Any griddle or "iron" baked product that is capable of hosting a pool of syrup should be on the menu.  Are you listening waffles and French toast? Oh yes, and French toast has to be of the thick or Texas style variety.

3. Condiments and more condiments. (Wide ranging syrup selections, sugar packets with sailboats or trivia questions, you name it). What is it about the days of youth that trigger memories of the funkiest table side items awaiting the arrival of your breakfast feast? I remember the carousel of fruit flavored syrups typically strawberry, blueberry, and maybe a mixed fruit that would go well with that fruit ala mode Belgian waffle or mile high stack of pancakes. Sorry maple syrup, fruit flavored syrups ruled this roost.

4. Coffee carafe kept on your table – Eliminate the need to keep hounding the food server. Why more diners and restaurants do not offer the table carafe of coffee is beyond my guess. Everyone knows the first cup goes down really fast. Give us our own carafe and we will quit hounding you for more coffee.

5. Deep booths – Another past time missed. Nothing against tables, but I sure miss the deep booths for breakfast. Yes they are still out there but really hard to find. What is not to like with the giant vinyl chaise lounge booth where you can eat your three egg Mexican frittata in comfort? Comfort might be a stretch as I usually have to prevent a war or mess on account of my three children getting whipped cream and syrup all over the table and the vinyl seating. (At lease it wipes right off)

6. Combinations are available – Maybe this is a page out of the traditional Dennys “Grandslam”, but restaurants that provide egg/pancake/meat combos are keepers. Lot of bang for the buck.

7. Breakfast establishments named after family – Most successful breakfast restaurants have a common denominator of “Aunt”, “Grandma”, or “Uncle”. For some reason they make the best pancakes or biscuits and gravy. Don’t disappoint family! Pay Aunt Sally a visit. Hopefully Uncle Pat has a defibrillator on hand if you have too many sides.

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