Wake up, sunshine: Four breakfast spots that will make you want to face the day


The menu at Chaps is rife with pleasant surprises, and raises the bar a tad for standbys like Tip Top. Photo: Preston Long The menu at Chaps is rife with pleasant surprises, and raises the bar a tad for standbys like Tip Top. Photo: Preston Long

After covering kebabs and burgers in my last two columns, I should, in the interest of my own constitution, undertake my signature psyllium screwdriver cleanse, which involves copious amounts of vodka, orange juice, a hot water bottle, and, well, you get the idea.

Instead, I’m soldiering on, and have been eating eggs and meat for breakfast, lunch, and the occasional dinner for the past week in search of the perfect anytime meal. As one single soul (and gullet) charged with covering every available economical breakfast option in town, this is obviously not a comprehensive sampling. It is random and perfunctory. Shoot me. Better yet, e-mail me your own favorites and I’ll visit them and tell you why you’re wrong.

Though I am not native to the region, I feel qualified to comment on the common-man cuisine hereabouts as I too hail from a place (Los Angeles) given to similar self-aggrandizement, where the people labor under some mass delusion that their town and its citizens are somehow special. They are not and you are not. But we can all eat eggs together.

There really is nothing more satisfying nor anything more American than the all-American eggs, meat, and potatoes breakfast. Yeah, chocolate bread to start the day can get you in the right state of mind to shuffle around art museums and stroll along the Left Bank. The same as cappuccino and biscotti may be perfect preparation for a gondola ride through the canals or flirting with pigeons on the Spanish Steps. But nothing will bolster the spine to take on the drudgery of an empty workday, or a mind-numbing road trip into the teeth of a blizzard like fried eggs, a couple slabs of sausage, and a pile of potatoes, washed down with boiling hot coffee.

Let’s start with Chaps (1), where the menu is rife with pleasant surprises, and raises the bar a tad for standbys like Tip Top. The sizeable sausage patties are perfectly spiced and griddled to juicy perfection. Over easy eggs here means over easy —great for dipping the thick rye slices in. The home fries are cooked to the optimum consistency, fluffy but not mushy, and hot and soft all the way through. The Downtown Mall joint serves breakfast all day and throughout the evening. The coffee is great too and sometimes you can get a homemade donut for dunking.

Over on the other side of the railroad tracks, on Second Street SE, Bluegrass Grill & Bakery (2) puts out a hearty spanakopita omelet for the Appalachian gourmet set. There’s feta cheese, spinach, mozzarella, and gyro meat folded into a thin casing of scrambled egg. I go for the grits side. They are piping hot and perfectly creamy. And the plate comes with a hefty homemade, whole-wheat biscuit. At almost $11, it’s the most expensive option among this week’s considerations, but well worth the upgrade. The breakfast menu here is expansive and it’s served all day too, but the day ends at 2pm at Bluegrass. There’s always a line on weekends but it’s fairly accessible Tuesday through Friday.

On the days you just can’t be bothered to sit and interface with a human being, Calvino Italian Bar and Eatery at the Main Street Market (3) turns out some fine breakfast sandwiches, with evocative names, over the counter. Last time there I tried the Isolina and ordered with my sunglasses still on. Prosciutto (a thin-sliced, cured ham), mozzarella, basil, and scrambled egg on buttery grilled Italian bread. Butter, cheese and meat, what could go wrong? Nothing here. Plus, it’s five bucks. There’s also an array of fruit smoothies on offer. And solid espresso coffees at clearance prices.

This week’s winner for me was an old breakfast-in-the-afternoon standby: huevos rancheros at the Fry’s Spring Guadalajara (4), which is two fried eggs drowning in ranchero sauce alongside refried beans and Mexican rice with flour tortillas for scooping and sponging up all the goopy goodness. The sauce is a dark, oxblood color, rich and zesty. It is tomato-based, spiced with chiles, ancho and guajillo. If you’re getting a late start to the day and need a little extra wake-up boost, the spice will set you right. If, by chance, the rest of the day is all yours, nothing complements rancheros better than an icy margarita. Which gives me an idea for another cleanse. Orale.

  • A. Nightmare

    What do L.A., “self-aggrandizement,” and the Left Bank have to do with food writing on hearty breakfasts in town? Seems like your persona could stand a healthy dose of Southern manners instead of a “signature psyllium screwdriver.”

    • Sally Ann

      also agree!

  • food me, please

    This is good insight for a foody town. Thanks.

    Tip Top has some of the best service in town. Their waitstaff are amazing.

  • anon

    pigeon hole easily has the best breakfast in town, even if they never get love from cville mag

  • esteban

    All the breakfast places in town, and this is what you came up with?

    • overeasy

      @esteban – What are your picks?

      • estebano

        In no particular order, The Nook, Blue Moon Diner, The Cavalier Diner, West Main, Beer Run, Ace Biscuit, Aqui es Mexico, Stoney Point Market, Bodo’s…….

    • Sally Ann

      I so agree with you!

  • Breakfast Lover

    Fox Cafe is the best choice for your basic old fashion breakfast.

  • brkfst lvr

    Good reviews but I am guessing that you’re 24 years old. I can’t believe you went to Guad over Blue Moon. Have you ever tried their Huevos Bluemoonos? and Chaps? SRSLY? You may want to mention that Bluegrass Grill ONLY ACCEPTS CASH. Stop at the ATM on your way in. And if you want a table after about 9am be prepared to wait – but if you go early I’ve never had a problem getting seated quickly.

    Here’s another hot tip: go to Michoacana (also bring cash) and you’ll wonder why you spend all your taco money at Guad. I’m not wrong about this one.

    Moore’s Creek used to have some pretty slamming breakfasts back in the day if you didn’t mind getting served by a waitress with a cigarette in her mouth. She’d slap those sunglasses off your face and there were car parts hanging on the walls. It was more of an ‘experience’ than anything else. Not even sure if they’re still open??

    Dr. Ho’s Humble Pie is great for brunch and their nachos are insane. You’re 24 – you’ll love it.

    Also – Spudnuts has a pretty bangin’ and simple egg and sausage sandwich on white bread for CHEAP. It has single handedly cured more of my hangovers than I can care to remember.

    And YES the Pigeon Hole is excellent as well – great atmosphere too. Plus, you’re 24 so it’s in the same place where you went to all the bars last night trying to pick up coeds.

    I could go on…. man I love breakfast.

    • esteban

      When the Bluegrass was being run by the Rev Jim and Joan Marie, it was the best breakfast in town, now it’s overpriced and overrated….

  • still hungry

    I completely disagree with your assessment of Bluegrass Grill and Bakery. My husband and I went there two weeks ago after reading many positive reviews and found the food to be inedible. I had an omelet with a side of potatoes and toast. The omelet was tasteless (don’t know how that is possible considering the amount of grease on the plate underneath) the toast was hard and hardly worth consuming. My husband’s experience with the eggs, bacon, grits, and biscuit were the same. We barely ate half of our breakfast before giving up and feeling very bummed because we disatisfied and still hungry!

    • esteban

      have to agree with you on Bluegrass. The original owners built up the place into the best breakfast in town. Now, the place is running on empty; overpriced, average food coming out of a kitchen that has lost focus….

    • Miss_Fritz

      Agree. We got food poisoning from the turkey sausage some time ago and never went back.

  • c

    La Taza has a pretty slammin’ breakfast, as does Beer Run, especially Saturday breakfast tacos

  • Bon Apetit

    Don’t forget about Wayside…they have great biscuits with egg, cheese and sausage…& huge!

    Also, I LOVE Bluegrass and they have wonderful vegetarian choices that even us carnivores like! My favorite is their soy chorizo with potatoes! It is soooo good! And I love their omelets.

    Also, Cafe Cubano has some excellent and different breakfast choices.

  • Leeroooooooy Jenkins!

    No Beer Run, La Taza or Blue Moon? WTF, Guad…. really??

    Beer Run – Breakfast Tacos on Saturday, Biscuits and Grazy on Sunday.

    La Taza – The Hangover is a BAD motha (shut yo mouth). This concoction is gospel.

    Blue Moon – Huevos Bluemoonos, Hogwaller Hash or the Breakfast Burrito

  • Dave

    Why wasn’t this guy fired after the burger article?

  • http://www.facebook.com/johnny.frankenberger Johnny Frankenberger

    How do you know there’s someone from LA at the party?……Oh, they’ll tell ya.

  • http://c-ville.com/ Giles Morris

    Facebook comment that needs an answer… From Penny Hill Bowles: “Please, can anyone tell me where I can have an awesome vegan breakfast in Cville? I mean like an organic tofu scramble or something interesting? I can find fruit and bread and coffee…but…um…vegans…where do you go?”

  • Buck up buttercup

    Why so grumpy, Mister? Food’s supposed to be fun, not silently-consumed, beige drudgery doused in sauce. Eat a little better, take off your Ray-Bans, smile at your fellow “citizens,” and maybe it will cure your case of the crankies (and your self-absorption). You live here now–so change that pair of poopy pants you’re wearing so that you don’t stink up the town for the rest of us.

  • laura contrary

    this is the loveliest photograph of toast i’ve ever seen. this guy reminds us food {and writing about it!] IS art.

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