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Monthly Archives: June 2008

Photo: crab cakes for breakfast!

My wife’s family recently returned from their annual trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. We were not able to go this year because we’re a little too close to our first child’s due date (39 weeks today!), but our loving family brought us back some fresh crab and hush puppy mix. We made some of the favorites with it, including crab cakes and a cream cheese crab dip. This morning we took some leftover crab cakes (don’t ask me how there were leftovers) and made breakfast sandwiches out of them. The “recipe” if you will:

1 crab cake
1 English muffin toasted
2 eggs, over easy
1 small dollop of Trader Joe’s mayonnaise (rated the best mayonnaise by Real Simple!)
1 dash of rogan josh spice

Instructions: toast the English muffin. Cook the eggs. Put the mayonnaise and rogan josh (you could also use curry) on one half of the muffin. Then place the crab cake and one egg on top. Take the other half of the muffin, butter it slightly, and put the other egg on top. Eat both halves separately. Don’t use a fork.

Blog post: #36 from the blog Stuff White People Like: Breakfast Places

I don’t know how I didn’t find this one earlier… the blog Stuff White People Like is a humorous list of things that, well, white people like. Entries include grammar, the Ivy League, being offended, New Balance shoes, and indie music. Number thirty-six in the list is Breakfast Places. As usual, the description is spot-on, especially about the propensity to hit up your favorite breakfast place on the weekend.

West Egg Cafe | Chicago, IL

Image from Yahoo! Local

West Egg Cafe
620 N. Fairbanks Ct.
Chicago, IL 60611

(312) 280-8366

Open Mon-Fri 6:30 a.m. – 10 p.m.; Sat & Sun 7 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Accepts cash and credit cards

Date of Visit: Sunday, May 11, 2008 at 10:30 a.m.

IMPRESSIONS: On a recent trip to Chicago with some friends, we spied a breakfast joint across the street from our hotel called West Egg Cafe. It looked quaint and busy, so we set aside the last morning of our trip to visit. Earlier we had observed a big line out front, so we tried to plan ahead. We got in quickly with four of us (my wife Beth and I, and our friends Andy and Amanda), despite it being Mother’s Day. We called ahead as we were checking out of our hotel across the street (the excellent Doubletree Hotel on the Magnificent Mile). When you arrive, there’s no direct sign telling you where to go, so you either guess or follow a line of people up to the counter toward the back wall.

Also… no mention of the West Egg reference to The Great Gatsby. Is there supposed to be a connection? If so, nothing about the Chicago cafe mentions it.

ATMOSPHERE: West Egg Cafe is a tall, big place, with plenty of tables, booths, and even a faux diner counter on one end. So if you have a seating preference while you breakfast… the choice is yours (provided the place isn’t too busy)! The overall color palette features beiges and blues – the standard scheme for your relaxing, family-ish, breakfast/brunch hub (see First Watch in Columbus for another example). Basic artwork of giant stylized breakfast items adorn the walls. When we visited, the place hummed with activity: every table was full, a line of folks stood at the register to sign in or pay, and servers darted in and out of the kitchen. We could see through the wide opening in the south wall into the kitchen which, as expected, was clattering and alive.

FOOD: The menu is pretty funny and snarky. It features items called As the Bird Turns (for the rotisserie chicken), In Pursuit of Eggcellence (their egg dishes), The Swiss Account (a Swiss cheese omelet), Berried Treasure (blueberry pancakes), and The Benediction (their list of eggs benedicts). There’s a great variety of menu items – something to please everyone, and the dishes we tried were certainly tasty.

Here’s Beth’s hot chocolate, complete in tiny mug with dollop of whipped cream. I like that the clear mug allows you to appreciate the look of the hot chocolate. And Beth said it wasn’t half bad either!

I myself was in a Steak & Eggs mood, and I happily obliged my appetite. The potatoes, eggs (over easy, of course), and English muffin were great. Eggs were done right; the potatoes seasoned nicely. The steak was pretty good. That’s the thing with breakfast steaks: because they’re typically thin and cooked quickly, you can’t really have them cooked to order, and they often come out a little bit tough. You’re then left to soak them in your runny egg yolks or A1 Sauce (or some other sauce available). West Egg’s was not bad – it fit well with the eggs, potatoes, and bread. But these types of steaks are naturally limited in terms of flexibility.

Beth ordered the Myron and Phil’s Scramble, consisting of lox, grilled onions, and eggs. I personally had never tasted lox (being previously turned off by its inclusion in an Encyclopedia Brown mystery… long story, don’t ask), I was wary, but the salted salmon was quite good – salty, but good. Being spread around in the eggs helped temper the saltiness. And the bagel and potatoes were all tasty, too.

Andy ordered the Pork Chops & Eggs. Again, a new dish for me, but given the usual success of steak and eggs, pork chops makes total sense. He let me try a bite – some similar problems to the steak, but otherwise good.

Finally, here’s a peek at the side of biscuits and sausage gravy Beth and Amanda split. They said it was good – not a lot of meat in the gravy – but worth ordering.

SERVICE: The service was just okay at West Egg. I understand it was a busy morning, and Mother’s Day, but we felt a bit ignored by the server. It took him a while to come to us to get our drink orders, and even after we ordered, he forgot our coffee and Beth’s grapefruit juice. The food came out pretty quickly, but we got the overall feeling that we were in the way or just not important enough for him. Maybe it was just him, or maybe it was just the day, but still… lukewarm service makes an impression, doesn’t it?

That being said, the host still got us seated immediately when we called ahead. We walked past a line of at least a dozen people and were shown directly to our table. Nice.

OVERALL: West Egg Cafe wasn’t a totally eggsceptional (ha ha) experience, but it’s a good quality breakfast/brunch place, and with a prime location in downtown Chicago. Judging by the clientèle that day, it’s a great place for families looking for some grub. The next time I’m in Chicago, I’ll probably seek out something more unique (like the one of the Orange With a Peel locations recommended by my sister-in-law Katelyn), but I can’t say I was unhappy to dine at West Egg. The food is well above-standard, the location spot-on, and if the service could improve a bit, it would be well-worth the return visit.


West Egg Cafe on Urbanspoon

Ramsey’s Diner (High Street) | Lexington, KY

Ramsey’s Diner
(Facebook / @RamseysDiners)
496 E. High St. (map it!)
Lexington, KY 40507
(859) 259-2708
Mon-Fri 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Sat & Sun 10 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Accepts cash and credit cards

Date of Visit: Saturday, April 26, 2008 at 9:30 a.m.

IMPRESSIONS: On a recent visit to some family in Lexington, Kentucky, we hit up a breakfast joint called Ramsey’s Diner. Ramsey’s has five locations around Lexington, and – after unsuccessfully trying one closer to their home – we hit up the location closest to downtown.

Ramsey’s reminded me of a less-kitschy Aretha Frankenstein’s, in that it’s a bar and restaurant that also serves breakfast. We all discussed the tradition of going out to breakfast on weekend mornings, particularly on Saturdays. Most of us grew up with it, whether it was a family brunch after church on Sundays, a group of friends with a weekly meeting, or like my parents, who are Saturday-morning regulars at the Real Food Cafe. But apparently this tradition isn’t necessarily a southern thing. Ramsey’s, despite being known as a breakfast joint, doesn’t open until 10 a.m.! In my mind, a true breakfast joint opens around 7 a.m.

ATMOSPHERE: From the outside, Ramsey’s seems like an easy-to-pass corner pub, and the inside kinda reflects that. Again, echoes of Aretha Frankenstein’s here. The low ceiling and dark-ish lighting, long bar with rows of bottles and taps, and wall pictures – combined with the wooden tables and chairs – gives a bar-like feel with a dash of family restaurant to boot.

Hoping for an earlier breakfast, the group of us showed up right at 10 o’clock. Shortly after we were seated, the restaurant started to fill up. So clearly Ramsey’s breakfast draws a crowd, despite the later opening time.

FOOD: Ramsey’s is known particularly for the Traditional Ramsey’s Breakfast, which at $8.45 includes your choice of any or all of the following: 5 eggs (prepared any way except poached or as an omelet), bacon, sausage, hash browns, pancakes, and toast. This is an absolute steal if you’re starving and can’t make up your mind. If you’re hungry for just some eggs and toast… try something else.

My version of the Traditional Ramsey’s Breakfast included the pancakes, bacon, sausage, hash browns, toast, and two eggs over-easy. The pancakes, we saw, were prepared by one of the servers over a griddle on the bar. These bad boys came out first, accompanied by packets of butter and syrup. Simple and straightforward. The pancakes weren’t bad by any means – they were plate-sized and puffy – but they reminded me of something I could easily make at home using Bisquick.

Here’s my plate. It is a good-looking breakfast, isn’t it? Meat-wise, the breakfast did well. The bacon was definitely good, and the sausage patties okay. Sausage can always be iffy, you know? Especially when in patty form. I’ve tasted some nobly-homemade varieties that are bland, while some store-bought versions I’ve sampled are over-processed and more than a bit frightening. These patties landed square in the middle of the sausage spectrum: probably not homemade, but still tasty.

Here’s my breakfast in wide shot. The hash browns needed some seasoning, and all of us noticed that they looked suspiciously like cut-up fries, but it’s hard to argue with fried potatoes. The eggs were excellent – probably some best specimens of over-easy eggs I’ve tasted. Look at those! They’re nearly aesthetically perfect. (Beth tried her eggs scrambled, and they were great as well – a little bit slippery; just how I like ‘em.) Finally, the toast was lightly buttered, a little floppy, and a good accompaniment to a whole symphony of breakfastness. Round this off with some coffee that classifies as good brown, and you’ve got a fair-priced, plenty filling, all-around decent breakfast.

SERVICE: Because we caught Ramsey’s right at opening, the employees were all ready and raring to go… perhaps a little too much. We noticed a total of seven employees plus a manager working the place – and Ramsey’s isn’t huge. This doesn’t count anyone who was in the back cooking everything but the bar-griddle pancakes. The employees all wore T-shirts and jeans, with tool belts strapped to their wastes and ties loosely tied over their shirts. Funny little get-up. Where it got a little uncomfortable was when the over-abundance of employees just stood in a corner and stared at the handful of customers while they ate. I know work might be boring at first, before the big breakfast crowd, but do you have to stand their awkwardly in the corner and stare like you’ve never seen a human eat before? (Hint: the answer is no.)

OVERALL: Ramsey’s certainly wasn’t the most exceptional breakfast I’ve ever had, but it’s definitely filling and the food isn’t all that bad. Again, if you’re really hungry for a big meal, the Traditional is sure-fire bet. You can get up to 5 eggs, in addition to all the meats and carbs. But if you only want 2 eggs and toast, you’d be wasting money to order it. Overall, though, I would go again – it’s a good breakfast with a few quirks that make the place interesting.

Ramsey's Diner (Downtown) on Urbanspoon


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