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Saturday, June 7, 2008

Top Ten: breakfast places

As I told you, I forced Uncle Jack to go to the Miss Albany Diner on the way up to Montreal -- which he admitted was a damned fine place, quite an admission for a guy who's an avowed "two over easy, sausage, and dry toast" breakfast eater -- and then I mentioned, as we drove past the Keene Valley exit on the way back through the Adirondacks, that there was another of my "top ten breakfast places" just up that road. Jack made fun -- as he's wont to do -- and then said I should do a top ten list every month, my favorite places for everything. He was jerking my chain, but the more I thought about it, the more it seemed like fun. So, for as long as it's fun, I'm going to do it. I make no claims for completeness, I do this in the sense of sharing, and if you've got suggestions, well, make them: because it struck me that one of the best reasons to do this is that folks may come up with new places for me to go. Yum. Thanks, Jack.

Lew's Top Ten Places for Breakfast (unranked)

1. The Roadhouse, Belchertown, MA. We found the Roadhouse early one morning back in 1989, just cruising around New England, and there was this place: rustic, kind of hand-made in appearance, and promising. We went in, and since then I've been detouring 50 miles out of my way to have breakfast here. Why? I've already said.

2. Moody's Diner, Damariscotta, ME. Plenty of folks have told me that Moody's is not really that great, or not what it used to be, or has lousy service. I'm sorry they feel that way. I haven't been going forever, just since 1986, but it's certainly held up over that time. Moody's is solid, real, and serves breakfast the way I like it: well-made, with both traditional and special breakfasts. I'll be stopping in every time I'm nearby.

3. Noon Mark Diner, Keene Valley, NY. Pleasantly eccentric, but in an old-fashioned, genuine way, not an art-school working-at-it way. This is one of the few places I'll eat pie for breakfast, because the pies (and the coffee) are so good. Worth the trip just for the scenery...but eat.

4. Miss Albany Diner, Albany, NY. Yum. Very creative breakfast specials -- when was the last time you had duck sausage with your diner breakfast? -- genuine Rhode Island coffee milk, some of the very best service you'll ever get, a pleasantly curmudgeonly owner, all in a beautifully-maintained Silk City diner, and only 5 minutes off the I-787 expressway (and only a 5 minute walk from the Pump House brewpub!).

5. Blue Moon Cafe, Baltimore, MD. The coffee alone is worth the trip, but the food I've had here has been top-notch, and the service is personal and friendly, if occasionally quirky. A great place after a long Fells Point night.

6. Dottie's True Blue Cafe, San Francisco, CA. Cathy and I found Dottie's on the last day of San Francisco WhiskyFest. It's small, busy, dedicated to local, hand-made food, and serves delicious breakfasts. A must-stop; we'll be there in October again.

7. Lawrence Park Dinor, Lawrence Park, PA. Long may it wave. I've pretty much said it all here; don't know if George has found a buyer yet.

8. Littleton Diner, Littleton, NH. I stumbled on this place during "The Beerhunt of the Last Free Man," a short rip through beery New England the weekend before I got married. I'd go just for the house-made corned beef hash, but everything else -- including the grilled blueberry muffins -- is great, too. They've got a wonderful attitude about small-town business; bless 'em.

9. Lynn's Paradise Cafe, Louisville, KY. Lynn's has booze, Lynn's has...stuff all over (and you can buy a lot of it in the gift shop, including the spark-spitting, wind-up nun seen at the top of this post), Lynn's is artsy and colorful and fun...but you know what? That's all well and good, but it's the excellent, outstanding food that brings me back every time I go to Louisville (and I might just squeeze in a trip when I go to Bardstown in a couple weeks). Delicious, on both the traditional and the innovative. Go out of your way to get here.

10. Hot Metal Diner, West Mifflin, PA. I've actually never been to the Hot Metal Diner...yet. I'm planning on correcting that in about 10 days. But I've been to Wendy Betten's previous diner, BOBS, a number of times, and I have no doubts that the breakfasts at the HMD are the equal of the fantastic breakfasts I've had (and led people to) at BOBS. Looking forward to making this official. ( longer true, I have been to the HMD, and things are just fine: attitude? Check. Woman power? Check. Great value for excellent food? Check. Massive breakfasts? Check. Go hungry, and with tongue in cheek.)


TC said...

I don't have an extensive breakfast place ranking, but I'd like to make two suggestions for places that have never steered me wrong:

Mariner's Cove - Point Pleasant, NJ. Good coffee, a million omeletes, and everything is good.

Morning Glory - Philly. It's everything it's cracked up to be.

Lew Bryson said...

Cool. It's working already. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I agree with Mr. Thursday's Morning Glory recommendation (just go early, esp. if it's a weekend, or be prepared to wait).

Let me add the Early Girl Eatery in Asheville, NC. More of a restaurant than a diner, but they do have breakfast 7 days a week. I had a couple of meals there 2 years ago and found it very good.

Eric said...

Egg! in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, (not far from the Brooklyn Brewery) a must try even if New York mag did anoint it NYC's best breakfast.

Anonymous said...

Cracker Barrel is good too ( for a chain) as is Chez Cora's in Montreal, I'm sorry you missed it when you were there.

Lew Bryson said...

I've had some really bad Cracker Barrel experiences, Bill -- incredibly slow service and those damned scented candles -- and I'm an ardent anti-chain guy (though I'm usually happy to find a Tim Horton's...go figure). Chez Cora's sounds interesting, though.

okbrewer said...

WHAT!? Not even a mention, or an honorable mention for the only place I'm quite sure that you ever had smoked brisket, pecan pie, fruit tart and spiced braggot for breakfast!? I thought for a moment that I had eeked in at 10th place, but no, that was ANOTHER Bob's!

Lew Bryson said...

Well, Bob, a great breakfast, to be sure, but your house is so much more than just a "breakfast place." Oh, yes. Art gallery, theater, concert hall, beer cellar, brewery, meadery, smoked meat joint... I wouldn't have wanted to sell you short!

1 said...

Noon Mark Diner, great place. Keene Valley is absolutely beautiful.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful list! Unfortunately, I have only been to Moody's, but based on that choice, the others must be great. I keep meaning to get to Morning Glory...
If you are ever in Charleston, please try the Hominy Grill. Best breakfast I ever had.

Lew Bryson said...

MMMM...thanks for the memory jar, Tony. Elmo's diner in Durham may break top ten this year if the repeat visit is up to the first one. Great service, excellent cheese grits, and gut-paving biscuits and gravy. Mmm, boy. I gotta get me more Southern breakfasts.

Matthew D Dunn said...

Classic Diner in Frazer (Malvern?). Maybe my favorite breakfast place.

The Baltimore Babe said...

Blue Moon is utterly fab. I was just there this past weekend! I think the coffee is locally made by Zeke's which you can also get at the farmer's markets on Saturdays/Sundays. Zeke's may be roasted locally in the Harford Road area. Need more info? Let me know!

Next time you're in Bmore, I'd also recommend Pete's Grille on Greenmount and Ashland Cafe in Hunt Valley. Forget the service and enjoy the food!

Anonymous said...

two places that are th bomb
both is asshville NC
Tupelo Honey
Early Girl Eatery

Lew Bryson said...

Another vote for the Early Girl!