As in all of my other groundbreaking articles about American dining, these are things I've ordered and eaten personally. When I look at a menu, the first directive is to find something out of the ordinary, followed admittedly with bang-for-the-buck. Not everyone here interprets a menu as I do. But here in the land of food efficiency, most in fact do. Thus, breakfasts and brunches have evolved into individual feasts. Everything was 13 dollars or less, without beverage.
The Blueberry Danish Pancake at Wildberry Streeterville in Chicago
Best. Pancake. Ever.
Average wait times to get into one of the four or so Wildberry locations in Chicago are insane. But it's worth it. Like all the establishments in this article: coffee is taken seriously; nothing has been frozen or shipped from afar; portions are really multiples of what a human should eat at a single sitting; and there is a singular item that has stuck with me.
This is not two breakfasts. At Wildberry, all of their omellets, skillets and benedicts are served with a side of toast. Or muffin. Or short stack of pancakes or french toast. They have many pancake varieties. The one above is the Blueberry Danish pancake, with cream filling, blueberries, almond struesel, cream cheese frosting and blueberry anglaise. So much yum.
Oh yeah, and the cheesy country skillet that honestly could feed a family of small children, is there too.
The BP Slinger, Benton Park Cafe, St. Louis, MO
Gravy atop everything, with a side of gravy?
We visit St. Louis frequently. Benton Park Cafe isn't listed in the most widely known "best brunches in St. Louis". That's fine with me. The wait is long enough as it is.
What you see before you is the BP Slinger. The top part is their beer biscuits topped with cheese scrambled eggs, sausage gravy and crumbled bacon. The bottom is their hash brown casserole which is silky, rich and damn I want some right now. Nobody judges you when you ask for gravy over everything. I am also partial to the McGrittl This, the older and more well-off brother of the McDonalds McGriddle sandwiches in which egg, meats and cheese are served between two pancake-substance things.
Full bar. Open 24 hours on weekends. Tremendous coffee, which is only improved by the available top shelf spirits.
Don't tell anyone.
The Sourdough toast and the Spring Mix side at First Watch Cafe, Phoenix
First Watch Cafe, Phoenix, AZ
First off, don't you love their plates? We want to get some for our kitchen, and after I licked my plate clean, I turned it over so I could see the manufacturer. I don't remember who it was. The Head of Household Ops took the information. If you have any hints please leave a comment. I recall this was a daily special Chicken with Southwestern salsa omelette which was great. All their omelettes, frittatas and benedicts are excellent.
I love their toast. My daughter just got toast the last time we went there. Avocado toast. Toast with marmalade. Cinnamon butter toast. White, whole wheat, sourdough, brioche, even gluten free was really good. Also note the mixed greens on the side. Now, I love their potatoes. But the lemon greens are just the perfect light, fresh accompaniment to their spicier breakfast entrees. First time I ever did that, and it not only opened up breakfast a bit more, it also reinvigorated my love for mixed greens.
Believe it or not, I do love salads and vegetables.
The Breakfast Buffet, Butcher Boys Cafe, Sherrils Point, NC
Butcher Boys Cafe, Sherrils Point, NC
Someday we shall discuss the American Buffet Epidemic. We avoid them for the most part, with a few specific exceptions. My best friend lives in a suburb of Charlotte, NC. His wife is an excellent cook and she loves entertaining. But I require and insist that we start each and every day at Butcher Boys.
What you see before you is two fairly long buffet tables full of pastries, casseroles, eggs, toasts. What is not visible on the left side is another 6 linear feet of, well, every kind of breakfast meat known to mankind. Sausages, ham, bacon, liver hash, chicken-fried steak, chicken-fried chicken, two kinds of sausage gravy for the biscuits. Honestly I rarely deal with the starches there. My plate is always a ketogenic avalanche. Next time I go, I'll take more pictures and devote an entire article to my favorite breakfast place...in the world!
Crabcake Benedict with Cheese Grits, Huey's Riverfront, Savannah, GA
Pictured: first row: Crabcakes Benedict second row: cheese grits.
Savannah, GA is my favorite American city. Not only is it the haunted setting of "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil", just dripping in history and Southern charm, it has my all-time favorite pub crawl circuit, River Street. The trouble is, my wife wants to see the sights, and more often than not I'm too hung over to be a good companion.
Above you see the ultra-decadent Crabcake Benedict at Huey's Riverfront. They accompany this with beignets, a New Orleans staple which is basically fried dough with powdered sugar. Now, that sounds simple, but there's a big difference between a piece of carnival fried dough and a proper beignet. Never been to the Big Easy, so I've come to accept these at Huey's as the yardstick. They are kind enough at Huey's to serve me a bitters drink every morning to snap me out of whatever fog I wandered into the night before. BleagagagagahauhuhuahWHOOO!
Moose Cafe, Asheville, NC
This...is just the starter
A tremendous farm-to-table cafe in the Biltmore Manor area of North Carolina, The Moose has a small menu and it's all killer, no filler. To start your breakfast, they give you Southern biscuits (which ain't no cookie) and some apple butter. Then the actual breakfast arrives. They make their own pork breakfast meats, the blueberry pancakes are perfect, and I haven't yet mentioned their famous breakfast potato casserole served on the side. You've noticed by now that great breakfasts are a tradition in the Southeast US.
And, the Upper Midwest. And the Southwest. Not to mention the East Coast. I guess they all do.
Jurassic Pork, Breakfast Republic Gaslight District, San Diego, CA
Breakfast Republic, Gaslight District, San Diego, CA
Breakfast Republic is a small California chain of brunch cafes. They have great coffee. They offer both traditional breakfast favorites like french toast along with Southwestern dishes such as chilaquiles. Portions are fresh and huge. I don't have any pictures of the french toast or the chilaquiles. Here's what you may have noticed from above: the small orange puddle of meat juice.
My friends, that is Jurassic Pork. Thick-cut bacon is marinated in brown sugar and smoked paprika, and the result is the illicit love child of a menage-a-trois with Chinese spare ribs, chorizo and beef jerky. Breakfast Republic is not an all-you-can-eat; each side of Jurassic Pork costs $5. My wife dragged me out of the place as I attempted to order my fourth side. I might still be there stacking up greasy plates in front of me if she hadn't intervened.
Could we have kippers for breakfast? Mummy dear, mummy dear...
Unfortunately, these great meals are the exception. But pretty much ever village, town and municipality in America has at least one 'greasy spoon' breakfast spot where portions are huge and cheap. Born from a time when we physically labored from dawn to dusk to clear the prairies, dig the coal, and build the highways of our vast nation by hand, it isn't necessary for an IT Analyst to tuck into three pancakes, eggs and bacon before work. But we can, and often do. Our breakfasts often exceed the required number of calories needed to function for an entire day. But noon arrives, and we get to go out and do it all over again.
What of appetite control? If you ate a whole day's amount of food before 9AM, do you really need lunch? Let alone dinner? Logically speaking, no. But if I miss lunch, somebody is going to get stabbed in the eye with a front pocket screwdriver this afternoon. God bless 'Murrica!