I’ve never been much of a breakfast eater. You could probably say I’m Break(fast)ing Bad. I think it stems from the trauma of watching my granddad soak saltine crackers in his coffee then place them on his Corn Flakes and peaches. The result is I don’t really care for breakfast foods. I do like your Euro-breakfast foods with their breads and meats and cheeses and Nutellas. But American breakfasts are ho-hum, which is one step below hi-ho. There’s nothing exciting about pancakes and I never cared for eggs partly because they come out of a chicken’s butt. But like most things that come out of a chicken’s butt, I guess they taste okay if you put enough cheese and hot sauce on them. Asian breakfasts with their mystery slimes are right out.
I grew up eating sugary cereals and Pop Tarts for breakfast and heading off to school in all my ADHD glory. I never ate breakfast in high school, though I probably would have if I were in a club with Molly Ringwald. It drove my mom nuts. “You’ve GOT to eat SOMEthing,” she would say. I have one of those moms who finds meaning in feeding her family and thinks you’re wasting away if you’re not consuming at least 12,000 calories a day. I found out not too long ago that my mom hasn’t eaten a real breakfast on her own since 1962.
My dad however, is the opposite. He’s The Breakfast Whisperer. He knows every decent breakfast spot within a seven-state radius and has this little twitch whenever he gets near a Cracker Barrel. He can discuss the sausage quality at each one and waxes eloquent about the virtues of patty versus link. [Insert ‘sage’ pun here.] Several years ago, he discovered that there is a tendency here in Minnesota to put Polish sausage in sausage gravy. This is nothing short of blasphemy and has been a topic of damnation ever since.
When at home, my dad eats breakfast at the same restaurant—called Jackie’s Place—every morning. Except when it burned down he had to shuffle around during rebuilding to various other options, each with its own distinct shortcoming, which was often verbalized. He’ll often show up five minutes before Jackie’s opens and stake it out in the lot until they unlock the door. It’s one of those places where you can still get two eggs and toast for $2.99. Add coffee and a generous Dutchman tip and you can get out for under five bucks.
It used to be that if I ever went out for breakfast, it was to spend time with my dad. I generally didn’t eat much during these outings because, you know…chickenbutt. Then about a dozen (coincidence?) years ago we as a family of manly men took to going on motorcycle trips together and when you’re on a motorcycle at gawdawful in the morning in flipping-cold Michigan, you find any and every excuse to get off said motorcycle and warm up your softail—including breakfast.
I eventually got so I would eat the same artery-hardening goodness as the rest of my man-family and even have been known to go out for breakfast on my own now that I’m a pretend adult. In fact, I even enjoy occasionally sliding onto a round vinyl stool at a local greasy spoon and bellying up to the Formica with the boys. So I thought I would share some of my favorite breakfast spots from around the country with you, the disinterested reader. You’ll notice that most of them are on the west coast. This is because the West has this time-warp thing wherein I wake up early and have time to develop a hankerin’ before everyone switches to the lunch menu. I don’t hanker much at home. If I go out for breakfast in the Minneapolis area it’s because my dad is visiting. And if I don’t go with him he’ll end up at the nearest McDonald’s where they charge the temperature for your second Egg McMuffin. In January, he more often than not makes money.
Locally, I like The Oasis Café in Stillwater, MN. The food is excellent, the portions are consumable, and they made the national news a few years ago because they printed an Obamacare surcharge on their bills so you would know how much you were paying for your free healthcare. I also like The Coffee Cup in St. Paul, whose goal I think is to grow your glutes to the size of their ridiculous pancakes as they are served with about 18 ounces of bacon and a half a loaf of toast. A short stack will feed a family of four. teen.
My absolute favorite breakfast spot is Snow City Café in Anchorage, AK. This is probably because I’ve been up since four and no place is open until my body is ready for lunch. The down side is that their menu is a bit touristy with things like salmon and crab cakes and reindeer sausage—and they’re way too sanitary to be considered a true greasy spoon.
At the opposite end of the squeaky-clean spectrum is The Satellite Diner & Lounge in Spokane, WA. Notice the ‘& Lounge’ in the title. I think about half of the patronage sticks around from the night before, but man is it good—in a gut-bomb, grease-fire, watery feces sort of way.
Also in Washington is Lola in Seattle. This is the first diner I ever walked into and had them ask me if I had a reservation. But then, as I found out, it’s not really a ‘diner’ per se. You’ll pay as much for a cup of coffee here as an entire meal at Jackie’s, but it is So. GOOD. (And I don’t use the word ‘so’ lightly.) It has a unique menu that includes octopus, which is weird because I always thought octopus was more of an afternoon tea kind of thing. Be that as it may, I will be back just as soon as I cash in my 401k.
Then there’s Mo’s Grill in San Francisco, source of the above picture. Come hungry, leave bloated, and don’t look too closely behind the counter if you’re an FDA inspector.
The one non-west coast selection I’ll throw in is Rooster in St. Louis. They try to be all bohemian and hipster-healthy-farm-freshy, but I go for the Rooster Slinger, which is andouille sausage, breakfast potatoes, fried eggs and sausage gravy served over Texas toast. My cholesterol spiked just typing that out.
And finally I’ll mention The Pantry in Los Angeles. This place often has a line around the block and has been continuously open since 1924, as closing for cleaning is so passé. I like to go here on holidays and have their Christmas ham. Also known as New Year’s ham. Or Easter ham. Or Passover ham. Et cetera.
I am always up for eating something I shouldn’t in new and exciting locations so please leave me your favorites/recommendations below. A breakfast fuss for the rest of us!