Up and Eat ’Em
Rise and shine, Texas! It’s time to smell the bacon, butter the biscuits, and dig into the huevos motuleños. We’ve compiled a list of the forty restaurants in the state where you’ll find the greatest breakfasts ever, so lay off the snooze button and head for the door. Here are the very best reasons you’ll never want to skip the most important meal of the day again.
“Let’s go out for breakfast!” Who doesn’t love those five words? Instantly, they improve your day: you aren’t obligated to cook or even to open a cereal box; you get to shake up your mundane routine; and for one brief, shining hour, you can keep the workaday world at bay.
Some six months ago, it dawned on us that it had been ages—since February 2000, in fact—since this magazine had surveyed the Texas breakfast scene. No sooner had that realization sunk in than we knew it was time to do it again. So we assembled a task force of six staff and freelance writers and gave them their marching orders: go forth and eat your weight in waffles.
Ninety-three breakfasts later, they staggered back, having applied their critical acumen to crab cakes in Austin, Salsa Baked Eggs in Dallas, Belgian waffles and chicken wings in Houston, apfel pfannekuchen in San Antonio, and a Texas Scramble in Bastrop that can stave off hunger for three days.
Narrowing the selection to our favorite forty proved daunting. Texas is a huge state, with culinary traditions that are distinctive to every national and ethnic group that has crossed its borders. We couldn’t include them all, but we felt it was our duty to touch on the hallmark dishes from the Deep South, the Old West, and Mexico. If this required repeated visits to verify our judgment about an especially difficult bowl of yellow grits or plate of huevos rancheros, we never shrank from the challenge.
So without further ado, we hand over our syrup-stained list to you. We hope it makes your day.
BY P. SHARPE
The cooks behind the namesake counter preside in stained aprons over a massive black stove, slipping eggs into a pan of simmering water and slapping small, tall, onion-and-red-pepper-bolstered crab cakes onto the griddle. Sooner than you can finish reading local activist Amy Babich’s latest paean to bicycles in the Austin Chronicle, your plate of Cakes & Eggs will appear, along with two sauces so addictive it’s surprising they’re legal: curried peanut pesto and a tart-sweet, near-frothy lemon aioli. (Incidentally, tell your server you’re picky about your eggs, because when the place is busy, they can come out overdone.) The other dish you want here is Quail & Eggs. The grilled quail are always perfect: toasty brown outside, rosy pink inside, tender through and through, with biscuits and breakfast potatoes to round out the plate. And should you momentarily blank out on which city you’re in, the nitrate-free bacon and organic chocolate soy milk on the menu will refresh your memory.
(Original Cafe) 626 N. Lamar Blvd, (East Cafe) 1914 E. 6th St.
Both location open 7 days 7:30–4
The secret to good huevos motuleños is the black beans. At Curra’s they are just soupy enough so when you stab the fried eggs with a fork, you get a fabulous mooshy mix of yolk and beans. (This detail is important to the motuleño fanatic.) Chipotle sauce—smoky and strong—completes the picture. Unless you’re crazy about bananas, substitute deeply bronzed, less-sweet fried plantains. Any health-nut Austin friends you’ve dragged along will jump for joy over the Juju Plate: scrambled egg whites with sautéed mushrooms, veggie chorizo, fresh spinach, and sliced avocado. Borracho sauce—with roasted tomatoes and jalapeños—gives the decorous dish a welcome kick in the pantalones. Sometimes the service is leisurely, so order a second cup of Oaxacan coffee and enjoy the scruffy setting, with its mural of a guitar-strumming peasant and a flirtatious señorita.
614 E. Oltorf
Open Sun–Thur 7 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri & Sat 7–11
“You snooze, you lose” has real resonance at the Sustainable Food Center market downtown, starting with Dai Due, whose chalkboard menu is often papered with “sold out” signs, the better to let you know what you’ve missed, like Texas toast topped with maple pork belly and a fried duck egg. The same goes for Bola Pizza, whose wood-fired oven can churn out only so many crackly crusts bearing aged cheddar, salty speck, red onion, and sunny-side-up eggs. Then there’s the Zubik House, where they think outside the trailer with truffled asparagus Benedict and all manner of kolaches. You won’t go hungry. But you may just set your alarm come next Saturday. —CB
Republic Square Park,
400 W. Guadalupe
Open Sat 9–1
Trio, Four Seasons Hotel
Morning light dapples the magnolias outside and filters through the floor-to-ceiling windows into this modern, spacious dining room overlooking Lady Bird Lake. Nearly an inch tall, Trio’s pancakes put the emphasis on “cake”; the best of several iterations is the fluffy oatmeal version, topped with toasted pecan halves. Or have the fantastic shirred (bake-poached) eggs, sensuously dabbed with butter and cooked in a cast-iron skillet with roasted-tomato salsa and wild boar sausage from local maker Dai Due.
98 San Jacinto Blvd
Open Mon–Thur 6:30 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri 6:30–11, Sat 7–11, Sun 7–10
What with its devotion to today’s locavore and organic philosophies, 24 Diner could star in an episode of Portlandia: it’s very serious about what it does. And yes, you’ll feel virtuous ordering the veggie sausage—dark purple, beet-laden, and slightly, um, soggy. But why do the right thing when you can be wicked and order the steel-cut oatmeal mixed with cream and insanely sweet raisin-apple-cinnamon-brown-sugar chutney? Split it with a friend and you’ll need to diet for only three days afterward. A lesser indulgence, but still divine, the tender, crisp-ridged waffles are made from yeast-risen dough, with bourbon vanilla and raw sugar mixed in and light amber Vermont maple syrup alongside. All too often, frittatas look and taste like leftovers. But here they are made to order, so they are substantial yet airy, a bit like a scramble. And big. The cooks say each one has only three eggs; if so, they must be ostrich eggs.
600 N. Lamar Blvd
Open 7 days 24 hours, except Wed 1 a.m.–6 a.m.
Magnolia Cafe South
Is it the whimsical artwork, cheery print tablecloths, and mismatched booths? Or the toy pterodactyl hanging from the ceiling? Either way, the South Austin Magnolia has the hippie-dippie vibe nailed. The coffee is better than average, and the menu is economical and good. Order the fried-egg sandwich on sourdough—two eggs over easy, three tomato slices, ruffly leaf lettuce—or the house version of the three-egg omelet, with avocado and cheddar-jack cheese (you know you want that lemon–sour cream sauce). And never, under any circumstances, pass up the city’s best home fries, creamy inside and perfectly crispy from the griddle.
1920 S. Congress Ave
Open 7 days 24 hours
TRY THE . . .
Chocolate croissant at Baguette et Chocolat, because it’s the Frenchiest croissant in town. Blueberry blintzes at Blue Dahlia Bistro, because you’ll never make crepes with sweet ricotta and blueberries for yourself. Joey Rocha Plate at Joe’s Bakery and Coffee Shop, because after carne guisada, potatoes, beans, and bacon, you’ll never be hungry again.
BY J. NAYLOR
Scrambled eggs—moist and fluffy—are a true art form at this Deep Ellum hangout. For proof, order the exemplary plate of migas, which come with a deep green salsa imbued with cilantro, fresh tomatoes, and jalapeño. Chunky oven-roasted potatoes and firm black beans shore up the works. The huevos rancheros, with sunny-side-up eggs atop crisp corn tostadas, are also sensational. Perhaps the heartiest option, though, is the chicken-fried steak and eggs, anchored by an ultra-thin filet with a golden, crunchy crust and served with a side of grits, which spring to life when topped with fresh pico de gallo. Cheap mimosas, Mexican-tiled tables, and a quirky staff add to the Austin feel at this live-music venue, whose tagline is, rightfully, “After a long, hard night of partying . . . we still look great the next morning.”
Open Mon 9 a.m. –2 p.m., Tue–Sun 9–9
The Salsa Baked Eggs have us panting in anticipation, although that rush could just be from the Luna Negra—a double espresso shot—we downed upon nestling into our cushiony banquette at this elegant Highland Park mainstay. When the Latin-style entrée arrives, the poached egg is blanketed in bubbling roasted-tomato salsa and a blend of cheddar and Gruyère, perfect for spooning onto warm flour tortillas. Alongside we enjoy bites of lean Argentine sausage flavored with chimichurri sauce. Dessert afterward? Why not have pastry chef–owner Dunia Borga’s glorias—buttery puff pastries filled with guava paste and cream cheese, a specialty of her native Colombia.
4620 McKinney Avenue
Open Mon–Fri 8 a.m.–9:30 p.m., Sat 9–10:30, Sun 9–9:30
On a chilly morning, nothing satisfies like digging into the Deep Bowl at this sleek yet crunchy spot. At the bottom of said bowl is your choice of meat (we order the sliced, pepper-riddled venison sausage), which is topped with a hash of double-roasted sweet potatoes sautéed with bacon and onion, then crowned with avocado and two over-easy eggs. Stacks of daily newspapers on the counter, serve-yourself coffee and tea, and sunlight pouring through huge picture windows all add up to a laid-back vibe.
2217 Greenville Ave
Open Mon–Fri 8 a.m.–3p.m., Sat-Sun 8-5
The famed sticky bun rivals a catcher’s mitt in size. We pinch off cinnamon-swirled bits and lick the caramel icing, flecked with chopped pecans, from our fingers. Eventually we focus on the main event, a breaded pork schnitzel, fork-tender and riding high on a bed of sautéed spinach and buttery cheddar grits. Lest you think they were serious about “diner” in the name, notice that a veal jus surrounds the arrangement, which is then topped by an exquisitely poached egg and a cascade of lush hollandaise. We prefer the relatively sane weekday crowd to the weekend crush at chef-owner Tom Fleming’s shiny year-old addition to the Presbyterian Hospital district.
17194 Preston Road
Open Tue–Sun 7–2
Among a half dozen or so reasons we’re now haunting this Bishop Arts District newcomer is the Hatch Chile Scramble, sumptuously made with pork shoulder, mozzarella, tortilla strips, and salsa verde. We wash it down with a cup of single-origin joe that we pour from our own French press. For carb-loading, the choices are tough. Will it be the mound of light, airy beignets, hot and crunchy outside, drenched in powdered sugar, and served with honey and lemon? Or should we go for the hubcap-size pancakes, one each of gingerbread, banana–peanut butter, and red velvet (the last topped with sweetened cream cheese)? Even if we hit the crowds, a given after ten o’clock on weekends, we’re still happy to settle down on the outside benches, warming our hands around that killer coffee and waiting for a seat inside. The space is a vintage storefront, but it feels comfortingly like Grandma’s farmhouse kitchen.
316 W. Seventh
Open Mon 6:30–2, Tue–Fri 6:30–2 & 5–10, Sat & Sun 7–2 & 5–10
This Oak Cliff neighborhood darling—attached to the fabulous forties Belmont Hotel—serves the most popular breakfast in Dallas. Under the watchful gaze of campy seventies family portraits, we tuck into pulled, smoked beef brisket swaddled in saucy green-chile rajas atop a bed of diced cornbread, all sitting beneath a beautifully poached egg improbably decorated with a couple of watercress sprigs. A theme emerges: down-home, with class. A close second favorite, the house-smoked salmon and pickled red onion, must be savored on buttermilk-dill toast spread with a smidge of goat cheese. A side of pork belly bacon planks, one of owner-chef Tim Byres’s hand-hewn meats, provides a smoky contrast to the morning’s dessert, a platter of “Heavy-Handed” but singularly lighthearted pancakes. They’re made with blueberries and ricotta, then dressed with apricots poached in vanilla and dollops of freshly whipped cream. If there’s the usual wait on the weekend, hang out at the bar while nursing a super-spicy Bloody Mary.
901 Fort Worth Ave
Open Sun–Thur 8 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri & Sat 8–11
TRY THE . . .
Mr. C at Buzzbrews Kitchen, because house-made chorizo with sautéed onion and red bell peppers folded into soft-scrambled eggs and topped with cheese is available around the clock. Sam’s Benedict at Original Market Diner, because spicy sausage patties and poached eggs atop English muffins get a dose of both cheddar cheese and hollandaise. Veggie scramble at Bread Winners Cafe and Bakery, because spinach, tomato, broccoli, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, and onion make you feel virtuous (until you notice the herbed cream cheese in there too).
Best Breakfasts—El Paso
BY L. B. HEDRICK
Crave Kitchen and Bar
This hip neighborhood cafe serves big breakfasts with freshly brewed coffee. Silverware hanging from the ceiling with twine, flat-screen TVs tuned to news, and a lively waitstaff wearing cool Crave T-shirts give the place a bohemian feel. Locals favor the croque-madame, a feast of hot ham slices, melty Swiss cheese on grilled, buttered bread, and a fried egg. Or try the Turkey and Green Chile Scramble, a pile of roasted turkey bites, green chile, eggs, avocado, and cheddar that’s served on a flour tortilla.
Open Mon–Sat 7 a.m.–11 p.m., Sun 7–6
El Rincon de Cortez
This is the go-to spot for early power meetings among the city’s suits, who invariably feast on steak ranchero and eggs, a savory stew of tender beef strips, jalapeños, onions, and tomatoes topped with two fried eggs. The festive interior with brightly painted tables and chairs fills up seven days a week, and deals are brokered over endless cups of fresh coffee and homemade tortillas.
3415 Sun Bowl Dr
Open Mon–Sat 7:30–8, Sun 7:30–6
H&H Car Wash and Coffee Shop
There are two kinds of people: those who think it’s weird to patronize a cafe in a car wash and those who understand that the whole is greater—and tastier—than the sum of its parts. Founded in 1958, the 22-seat H&H is loved as much for its weathered aqua-blue Formica counter as its straightforward, soul-satisfying Mexican food. Traditional breakfasts like huevos rancheros and eggs scrambled with chorizo come with potatoes, beans, tortillas, and coffee. When you spot what looks like an ancient convenience store, you have arrived. —PS
701 E. Yandell Dr
Open Mon–Sat 7:30–3
TRY THE . . .
Potato pancakes at the Pastry Chef Cafe, in El Paso, because the buttery undertones of these German beauties perfectly complement a side of bratwurst. Grandma Bunion’s Lumberjacks at the Swiss Pastry Shop, in Fort Worth, because—with whole wheat, oats, millet, flax, sunflower seeds, pecans, and raisins—these are basically flapjacks made with trail mix. SOB Eggs at Jazz Cafe, in Fort Worth, because the tender corn tortillas, spectacular pico de gallo, and dreamy black beans make this one of the best migas plates anywhere.
Best Breakfasts—Fort Worth
BY J. NAYLOR
Esperanza’s Bakery and Cafe
Here are our insider tips: first, stop in the bakery to grab a pumpkin empanada to snack on while sipping your coffee or horchata. Next, strongly consider having the migas: a plate of fried corn tortilla strips tangling with soft-scrambled eggs and shredded chicken, all beneath a lattice of melted jack cheese (request them with the perky tomatillo sauce). On chilly, ravenous mornings, we like to bump up these migas with rich chorizo, which is a nice complement to the sublimely smooth refried beans and the oniony sautéed potatoes (on top, put a spoonful of the breakfast salsa, a ruddy mixture of braised onion, tomato, and chile). Equally winning are the perfectly fried huevos rancheros; their mild salsa recipe comes from Mamasus, the late wife of renowned Joe T. Garcia, whose parent restaurant sits half a block away. It all adds up to our favorite Mexican breakfast in Fort Worth. Period.
2122 N. Main
Open 7 days 6:30-5:30
Old Neighborhood Grill
When we’re jonesing for a meat fix (this is Texas, after all), we go for either of these two Wild West favorites: a pair of thick, smoky pork chops and two eggs over medium or scrambled eggs with a small bowl of dark and spicy Uncle Joe’s chili. Taking time to sort through the newspapers and watching to see which local politicians have stopped in for breakfast, we know there’s not a homier way to start the day.
1633 Park Place Ave
Open Mon–Sat 7–9
Cowtown Farmers Market
Queuing up at 8 a.m. in this little market on the U.S. 377 traffic circle, almost at the far west end of Fort Worth, is essential if you want some of the best baked breakfast goods in town. Gwin Grimes’s Artisan Baking Company typically sells out of the most beautiful creations by mid-morning, and to miss out on her cranberry scones, her mini brown-sugar-and-almond coffee cakes, and her iced cinnamon-raisin biscuits can be a blunder that bugs you all weekend long. Snack on a sackful while perusing other market goodies, including beans roasted at Fort Worth’s new Avoca Coffee. On cold mornings, tear into a packet of fresh pork tamales, found a few stands down at Hot Tamalez.
3821 Southwest Blvd
Open Sat 8–noon
Psssst! Want to know the best-kept breakfast secret in town? It’s this downtown burger joint. The joys begin with oatmeal pancakes, nearly coppery in color, shot through with cinnamon and accompanied by crisp, smoky bacon. It’s best to split an order so you’ll have room to share eggs and chicken-fried steak, its seasoned cream gravy the perfect foil for the meat’s crunchy jacket. The side of cheddar-powered grits is even better with two dashes of Tabasco. We always swear we’re full, but somehow we make room for a baseball-size cinnamon roll, laced with caramel and covered in cream-cheese-and-pecan icing.
Open Sun–Wed 7 a.m.–10 p.m., Thur 7–11, Fri & Sat 7–midnight
The wake-up call here comes courtesy of the B-52, the super-leaded coffee from the cafe’s serve-yourself bar. Our favorite dish—especially when we roll in at 4 a.m.—is the Breakfast Relleno Crepes, silken, tissue-light pancakes folded around scrambled eggs, roasted poblano strips, chorizo, and shredded cheddar (with chile-studded cream sauce pooling around the edges). Our second favorite is the Brazilian Breakfast, which calls for piercing the two over-medium eggs to let the yolks cascade over a plump chorizo empanada topped with cheddar. But we always try to bring along a friend or two, as it’s a crime to miss the beautiful golden-brown banana-walnut pancakes.
2880 W. Berry
Open Mon-Wed 7 a.m.—4 p.m., Thurs-Sun 7 —10
BY B. ALBRIGHTY & E. GERBER
A strictly logical world can stress the booze-besotted brain in the early morning hours. Which is why Down House’s eclectic mix of formal leather sofas set against cinder-block walls, and delicate botanical prints alongside a funky old bicycle, seem oddly comforting. So does its menu, especially the weekend Local-Egg Omelets. The combo of roasted portobello, tomato, arugula, and ricotta is delish, with fresh Italian cheese making for a lovely, moist interior. While the breakfast tacos are forgettable, another handheld food, the fried-egg sandwich, is memorable, combining gloriously runny melted Gouda with avocado and tomato on rye. The best of all possible worlds, though, is the pulled-pork hash, a plate of unctuous meat crowned with marigold-yellow eggs, oniony sautéed breakfast potatoes, and feta. The pork, tossed with a spicy chile-and-citrus sauce, is so generous that you’ll virtuously swear to save half for a snack later in the day. Ha! Good luck with that. —PS
Open 7 days 9–11 p.m.
Urban Harvest Farmers Market at Eastside
Om cooking, anyone? At this parking-lot tent city in the heart of Houston, you can eat well and feel good about it. One stall prepares breakfast-worthy plates undergirded by hearty canary-colored lentils, brown rice, red and black quinoa, and assorted veggies, while neighbors sell tofu-scramble tamales and vegan cinnamon rolls. But foraging omnivores can also take home fresh yard eggs, boutique bacon, croissants, preserves, and honey, plus flower arrangements for the table. There’s even goat’s milk soap for washing up.
3000 Richmond Ave
Open Sat 8–noon
The Breakfast Klub
Rushing to open the door or offering coffee while you wait for your party to arrive, the Breakfast Klub’s uncommonly good-natured staffers make even first-timers feel like family. Owner Marcus Davis helped revitalize Houston’s Reggae Hut Cafe, but this immensely popular Midtown spot is puredee Southern. Vivid jazz-themed paintings adorn the brick-red walls, and the menu is rigorously down-home. You can get half a dozen coffee blends, as well as pancakes, omelets, and breakfast sandwiches. But the urban eatery’s signature dishes are a Belgian waffle dusted with powdered sugar and framed by six exemplary fried chicken wings, and a whopping catfish filet paired with grits, eggs, and a fat and fluffy “biskit.”
Open Mon–Fri 7–2, Sat & Sun 8–2
Dot Coffee Shop
The neon says it all: “Steaks, Shakes & Pancakes.” The crazy old uncle of the Pappas Restaurants family, this authentically retro diner in Gulfgate serves bulging breakfast platters round the clock to blue-collar workers and blue-haired ladies alike. The oh-so-subtle Breakfast Feast crams together pancakes, eggs, hashbrowns, and bacon, plus sausage, plus ham. (Forget healthy—is this even legal?) Expect gritty waitresses with your grits and crowds during peak hours.
Open 7 days 24 hours
A barbacoa platter for breakfast? Tamarind juice instead of OJ? Sí, ¡¿cómo no?! Often overshadowed by neighboring Ninfa’s, this East End landmark has its own scruffy appeal, and cross-cultural diners can mix and match their huevos a la motuleña with pancakes or their migas with bacon as easy as you please.
2509 Navigation Blvd
Open Mon 7–3, Tue–Sun 7–11
Elouise Adams Jones hasn’t catered to lumberjack appetites since opening the original Ouisie’s Table in trendy Rice Village in 1973. But her plate-smothering chicken-fried steak with biscuits and gravy is plentiful enough to glut Paul Bunyan and leave some leftovers for Babe. Once available only on Thursday nights and now on tap every day just past sunup, the tender meat is sheathed in a crackly mantle, and the cheese biscuits flecked with green onion epitomize elevated Southern cooking. The oversized specials blackboard and worn tables, including the community table that has prompted many a new friendship, reflect the restaurant’s homey heritage. But the upscale menu features standards like cornmeal pancakes and eggs Benedict as well as exotic fare like harsha (dense Moroccan herb polenta with honey) and wild boar sausage.
3939 San Felipe Dr
Open Mon–Thur 7 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri 7–11, Sat 10–11, Sun 10-10
TRY THE . . .
Morning Thali at Pondicheri, because an Indian breakfast—including beef keema, potato curry, and saffron yogurt—can be the most imported meal of the day. Venison sausage at Goode Company Taqueria, because it’s just lip-smackingly good. Pigs in a Blanket at Avalon Diner, because adults like retro kiddie food too.
Best Breakfasts—San Antonio
BY P. SHARPE
Magnolia Pancake Haus
They must have a drill sergeant running the kitchen, so efficient is this well-loved, locally owned pancake emporium. The famous apfel pfannekuchen, or apple pancake, is a monster of hedonism, with deeply caramelized apples, an entire tree’s worth of cinnamon, a blizzard of powdered sugar, and an Everest of whipped cream. By comparison, the terrific Texas-pecan waffles seem positively spartan.
606 Embassy Oaks
Open 7 days 7–2
At this brick-walled Italian restaurant, the decidedly un-Italian breakfast lineup appeals to Americans’ penchant for lingering. After all, it would be a shame to rush through a goat-cheese-and-pesto omelet. And you don’t want to be in too much of a hurry to enjoy the oatmeal mixed with dried fruit, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Find any excuse to get the wonderful rosemary new potatoes.
200 E. Grayson
Breakfast Tue–Fri 7–10, Sat & Sun 9:30–3. Lunch Tue–Fri 11:30–3. Dinner Tue–Sat 6–9:30, Sun 6–9..
Pearl Farmers Market
“Fresh.” “Local.” “Sustainable.” Why should these words be limited to collard greens and goat’s milk cheese? At the market at the Pearl complex, several homegrown bakeries supply plenty of sustenance to get shoppers through an arduous morning of strolling and sampling. If it’s cold, line up indoors at the tidy cafe run by the Culinary Institute of America for a cappuccino and a fluffy, sugar-spangled brioche muffin, then plunge into the maze of open-air vendors outside. One top breakfast stop is Sol y Luna Baking Company, for moist cranberry-orange muffins. The latter—fragrant and ribboned with nutmeg and cinnamon—will make you want to gather around the hearth of a country farmhouse on a crisp morning, especially if you grew up in a city of a million people.
200 E. Grayson
Open Sat 9–1 Sun 10-2
Since 1859, the little stone cottage on the landscaped grounds of Pioneer Flour Mills has defined “charm.” Now it does more than ever, with its marblelike table tops, fresh posies, crisp white napkins, and multipaned windows. The sweet-cream waffles are a legend in their own time, and the slivered-almond pancakes run a close second. One caveat: arrive before nine on the weekends (or almost any day during the holidays) or wait a very, very long time for a table. At least you can watch the San Antonio River meander by from the outdoor terrace.
205 E. Guenther
Open 7 days 7–3
Ocho, Hotel Havana
Valiantly attempting to smile at each other, you and your new girlfriend stumble into the tall, narrow dining room of the hip Hotel Havana, with its Tiffany-blue rafters and rose and aquamarine velvet lounge chairs. It’s morning, and your headache is doing a good version of the big bang. Someone—possibly you—threw a party in your room last night. But the details are hazy. You’d better stall for time by ordering coffee. Oh, yes, that certainly helps. Maybe you can avoid conversation by staring thoughtfully through the floor-to-ceiling glass walls. Pretend to be beguiled by the tropical plants lining the River Walk. But now the waiter’s back for the third time, so you’d better order breakfast. Here are two that sound good: a creamy omelet (filled with sliced avocado, “queso blanco,” and bacon, plus a little arugula salad on the side) and plantain-chunk hotcakes topped with blueberries. Wow. They are fantastic. You’re starting to feel human again. And there’s no putting it off any longer. You gaze across the table into a pair of ironic blue eyes and ask, “What was your name again, darlin’?”
Open Sun–Thur 7 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri & Sat 7–midnight
Mi Tierra Café and Bakery
Nowhere is the power of the piñata—not to mention banners of papel picado, strings of twinkle lights, and ten zillion Christmas decorations—more spectacularly on display than at Mi Tierra, whose vast restaurant and bakery has been a 24-hour refueling station for San Antonians for seventy years. The scrambled eggs and chorizo dispatch hangovers with aplomb, especially if supplemented with the pan-fried cubed potatoes mixed with bits of red and green bell pepper or the refried beans topped with queso fresco. As you head out, hack your way through the piñata forest up front, take a number, and get a sack of pan dulce to go from the overflowing cases of baked goods.
218 Produce Row
Open 7 days 24 hours
TRY THE . . .
Buttermilk pie at MadHatters Tea House and Café, because you need pie for breakfast after last night’s attack of the munchies. Egg-white omelet with bacon, cheese, tomato, and mushrooms at the northside location of Mary Lou’s Cafe, because your friends will say, “What kind of fool orders an egg-white omelet at a Mexican restaurant?” but you’ll have the last laugh. Sour cream–pecan muffin at Broadway Daily Bread Co., because it will make you glad you crawled out of bed after all.
Best Breakfasts—Small Towns
BY P. SHARPE, C. BOND & J. NAYLOR
Monument Cafe, Georgetown
Whether it’s the relaxed, friendly white-jacketed servers, the vegetable gardens out back, the in-house specialty grocery, or the biergarten, you’ll feel a sudden urge to move to Georgetown so you can join the table of geezer regulars who gather to kibitz about the weather and their lumbago. Order the eggs if you must, but don’t neglect the texture-rich steel-cut oatmeal, which comes with little cups of raisins and brown sugar on the side, or the ginger pancake, which is thin, dark, and redolent of spices. And whatever you do, do not leave without trying the heavenly yellow stone-ground grits, which hail from the Homestead Heritage gristmill, near Elm Mott, and taste like creamed corn. If there are any better in Texas, it’s hard to imagine them.
500 S. Austin Ave
Open Sun–Thur 7–9, Fri & Sat 7–10
Rough Creek Lodge, Glen Rose
Executive chef Gerard Thompson makes every item from scratch at this luxury retreat, including the cinnamon rolls and the bagels. Choose your breakfast as you take in the spectacular view from Chalk Mountain: Will you go for an omelet with country ham, spinach, portobellos grilled over an oak fire, and cheddar from the local Veldhuizen dairy? Or poached eggs with a slab of house-cured pancetta and sweet-corn griddle cakes topped with tomatoes and basil microgreens? Oh, but then there are migas made with smoked duck and fresh tomatillo salsa. If you find the decision impossible, just stay the full weekend and have two breakfasts. The tab is pricey but worth every precious penny.
5165 County Rd 2013
Breakfast Mon-Fri 8–10, Sat & Sun 8-11. Lunch Mon–Fri 11:30–2, Sat & Sun noon–2. Dinner 7 days 6–9.
Maxine’s on Main, Bastrop
In an area that has only just begun to recover from the devastation of fire, this storefront cafe’s cheerful clutter of knickknacks, ragtag tables, friendly waitresses, and stick-to-your-ribs menu offers a respite from life’s vicissitudes and encourages a hearty resolve to face whatever’s next. Order the Texas Scramble, with two eggs, crumbles of sausage, home-fried potatoes, onion, fresh jalapeño, and cheddar—plus a home-baked biscuit—or the migas, a spicier mix with thick strips of corn tortilla. And for a reminder of life’s sweetness, try the pecan-praline griddle cake, a twelve-inch monster with a wonderful aroma that tastes pleasingly, and appropriately, nutty.
Open Sun–Tues 7–3, Wed & Thurs 7-8, Fri & Sat 7–9
Megg’s Cafe and Hamilton Bread Co., Temple
The moist, fluffy chocolate-chip pancake is a tall order—literally—and it’s interspersed with melty chunks of bittersweet chocolate to boot. That’s one good way to start on your daily carb ration; another is the individual coffee cake, shot through with a layer of cinnamon and cocoa and topped with brown-sugar streusel. As for eggs, the choices are ample, including five omelets and eggs Benedict, a nicely turned-out version (despite slightly overcooked eggs) with a hollandaise of the mellow (not tart) persuasion. These and other mainstream dishes come to you courtesy of young husband-and-wife team Corey (chef) and Jennilee Hamilton (pastry chef). They both worked in New York for internationally renowned chef-restaurateur Thomas Keller, owner of Per Se and Bouchon Bakery. If you were wondering why the cafe looks more urban and classy than country and kitschy, those pedigrees just might explain it.
1749 Everton Dr
Open Mon–Sat 7:30–8, Sun 7–3
Weatherford Downtown Cafe, Weatherford
This creaky, century-old storefront on the Parker County courthouse square is the perfect place to fortify yourself before taking on, say, Weatherford’s First Monday Trade Days. For the sheer gluttony of it, order the chicken-fried bacon plate: three strips coated in a thinnish, crackling batter that come with a side of peppery cream gravy for dipping, shredded hashbrowns (we request them extra crispy), and two eggs any style (we also ask for a side of smoked green chiles, to cut through the richness). Only slightly more virtuous, the Bandito omelet includes shredded fajita beef, chopped asparagus and cilantro, a scattering of pico de gallo, and a deft ladling of tangy ranchero sauce. For something sweet, skip right over the pancakes and check out the blackboard desserts, especially the juicy blackberry cobbler.
101 W. Church
Open Mon–Thurs 7–2, Fri & Sat 7-8, Sun 8–3
Royers Pie Haven, Round Top
At this tiny historic cottage, pie for breakfast is compulsory. (Or, more accurately, pies, since at any given time there’s a score or so of the fat-crusted beauties from nearby Royers Cafe in the display case.) Actually, it’s hard to pass up a sausage-bacon-and-cheese biscuit, but Bud Royer’s cherry pie oozes under a lattice crust, and the sour cream–topped lollapalooza known unofficially as “crackberry” delivers a sugar high worthy of its own twelve-step program. Order your pie and espresso drinks at the register and go perch either along the counter or at an ice-cream-parlor table in the charming little wallpapered main room.
Henkel Square, one block east of Texas Hwy 237 and the blinking light (or 190 Henkel St.)
Open Wed–Fri 10–5, Sat 8–5, Sun 10–4
Manuel’s, Port Isabel
In the shadow of the Port Isabel lighthouse is a revered family joint whose cinder-block walls are adorned with the scribbles of thousands of happy visitors who’ve come seeking huevos rancheros, migas, and chilaquiles. But they’ve come for something else too, something whose very name makes them quake in their flip-flops: the Con Todo, a tortilla the size of a hubcap stuffed with eggs, potatoes, cheese, refried beans, and choice of meat. A word of advice: bodysurf all morning to work up an appetite. Hell, go ahead and swim from South Padre, ’cause that’s the only way your estómago will be ready to go mano a mano con el Con Todo.
313 E. Maxan
Open Tue–Sun 7–2
TRY THE . . .
Cream cheese kolaches at the Czech Stop, in West, because the proceeds from Czech pastry sales at this crazy convenience store on I-35 exceed the entire U.S. GNP. Drop biscuits with sausage gravy at Cochineal, in Marfa, because the cooks never overwork the dough. Glazed doughnuts at Round Rock Donuts, in Round Rock, because they were declared the best doughnuts in Texas by TEXAS MONTHLY in 1976, and they still are. Chile cheese grits at Cafe Homestead, outside Elm Mott, because eating at this pioneer craft village is a trip back in time.