Two of a kind: Omelets are a breakfast staple, whatever form they’re in

WHERE'S THE GRUB?

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Tip Top Restaurant’s scrambled-style omelet stands out as one of the area’s best breakfast options.  Photo: Elli Williams Tip Top Restaurant’s scrambled-style omelet stands out as one of the area’s best breakfast options. Photo: Elli Williams

My mom had the most ridiculous omelet maker when I was a kid. It was essentially a hinged non-stick skillet, with two half-moon shaped sides. You would pour your egg mixture into the pan, top either or each side with your omelet ingredients, and when the egg was just beginning to set, flip the skillet at the hinge to flop one side on top of the other.

The hinge was comically wide. You had to be quick to make sure you didn’t get any egg on your face, and the whole proceeding was more violent than an OCD chef wielding a Slap Chop.

Somehow, though, the contraption made great omelets, and it’s influenced my thinking about omelets to this day. To me, the archetypal omelet is essentially an egg-based Hot Pocket: fluffy chicken ovums folded delicately around melted cheeses, crisp-tender vegetables, and salty breakfast meats.

If you’re looking for an omelet that could have come out of the egg-flip-o-matic itself, look no further than The Nook. The Downtown Mall diner’s been serving breakfast under one name or another since 1912 and went through a major renovation in 2007, making it no stranger to the comings and goings of a trend or two. But the omelet they’ve settled on these days is all folds of thin egg layers winding around tasty filling. The individual layers of egg are well seasoned and all so nicely layered that the overall effect is almost flaky.

The Nook’s omelets aren’t perfect, though. The amazing-sounding combination of sweet basil, tomato, and asiago cheese tucked inside layers of scrambled eggs, doesn’t quite work for me, and the restaurant has fallen victim to a few careless errors on my visits. Last time I was in, the kitchen sent out its Original Ham Omelet—shown on the menu with ham, caramelized onions, cheddar, and Monterey Jack—with no cheese at all. And on a previous visit, the mushrooms were distributed in such a way on my mushroom and Swiss omelet that half the omelet was just a Swiss.

Still, properly cheesened with its salty-sweet caramelized onions and stacks of deli ham, the Original Ham from The Nook is a solid omelet that stands in contrast to so many omelets these days that are really no more than a glorified scramble, eggs and ingredients thrown together in a pile and served flat and without substance. More often than not, this strategy results in a dense, rubbery mouth full of indistinct ingredients. But, done right, it can be a satisfying diner meal, indeed.

Take the dish served up at Tip Top Restaurant, the oft-forgotten Pantops joint tucked between row after row of new and used cars at the surrounding auto dealerships. Tip Top’s omelets are the type that would never come out of my mama’s kitchen, but their deliciousness is in their simplicity.

“We throw all the ingredients into a bowl, scramble them, throw it on the grill, flip it and fold it,” said manager Cody Vassalos, whose father runs the joint. “When you mix it all together, the ingredients still get sautéed, it cooks in the eggs, and it adds to how quickly we can make an omelet.”

Both Tip Top’s Western Omelet (green peppers, onions, ham) and Greek Omelet (feta cheese, black olives, onion, tomato) are satisfying breakfast options. The eggs used in either case are cooked perfectly, and served fast and with a smile. The veggies, although a little undercooked due to the quick sauté, taste fresh, and the knife work is consistent, which helps both dishes come together.

“These cooks have been here for a long time, and they’ve cut a lot of produce,” Vassalos said. “They have it down to an art form.”

If you decide to go for the diner’s Western Omelet, be advised it’s a straight-up traditional Western, meaning no cheese. Even my server last time I was at Tip Top knew I was not going to be happy to see a plate of hot eggs, peppers, onions, and ham come out without some melted cheese on it.

“Would you like cheese on your Western?” she asked me. Why, but of course. How did she know? “I know people,” she said. And I’m inclined to believe her.

  • PG Tipps

    “properly cheesened” ? Oh my this is just scandalous. Cville you’re living on the edge here; hope it works out well.

  • JoBob

    I’m sorry, but these are not good omelets. The Tip Top one is not even an omelet. It is a scrambled egg. I’ve been there twice, only because I thought that the College Inn family would provide a decent successor to The Tavern (where one could get a real omelet). Far from it. Cheap ingredients off the Sysco Truck. I could do no worse at a Cracker Barrel. If you want to write a worthwhile article about food, go to more restaurants than two. We still have many breakfast places here. Maybe get a good omelet first, so you have some frame of reference for comparison

  • RO

    shea gibbs, stop writing these horrible food columns.

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