Feature

Rise & Dine

Ahh, breakfast. The smell of sizzling bacon alone brings back the Saturday mornings of childhood. And while the meal was ignored for too long by serious restaurants, that’s no longer true. Here, our favorite 64 spots for morning eats.

March 2011

 

FOR THE HEALTH NUT…

  • We’re not totally convinced that Hot Cakes’ health nut pancakes are actually all that nutritious, but we want to believe. These blueberry flapjacks come topped with granola, chopped walnuts, and more blueberries. We look at it this way: With antioxidants in the berries, fiber in the granola, and Omega-3s in the nuts, you’re getting a kick of nutrients amidst the goodness. 1400 E. 18th Ave., 303-832-4351, eathotcakes.com
  • A frozen yogurt spot for breakfast? You bet. At Kuulture, owner Hidemi Ena’s açai bowls attract the morning crowd. There are several combinations—all featuring a smoothie-like blend of organic fruit and açai (a Brazilian super fruit)—but we go back again and again for the kuulture bowl, a combo of açai, strawberry, blueberry, and banana topped with organic hemp granola, banana slices, and agave nectar. Bonus: Every bite is vegan and dairy-free. 1512 Larimer St., 303-573-7200
  • We adore Encore’s Greek yogurt parfait with pears and chef Paul Reilly’s cranberry-pumpkin seed granola. If that’s too healthy, add a side of the sagey, house-made sausage patties. 2550 E. Colfax Ave., 303-355-1112, encoreoncolfax.com
  • Those looking for a gluten-free indulgence will find one at Centro Latin Kitchen & Refreshment Palace. Here, chef Ian Clark makes decadent chocolate-chip pancakes using a gluten-free mix from Boulder-based Lillabee. You won’t be able to tell the difference from the regular pancakes—of course, the caramelized, tequila bananas don’t hurt either. 950 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-442-7771, centrolatinkitchen.com
  • Order the oatmeal at Cozy Cottage and you’ll be rewarded with a hearty bowl of oats long simmered in nondairy substitute (so that the dish is vegan-friendly), honey, and brown sugar. Each serving arrives topped with walnuts and banana slices, so if you finish the dish, you’ll be coursing with energy all day long. 4363 Tennyson St., 720-855-9800

DARE TO TAKE THE KIDS…

  • Children of all ages love Waffle Brothers’ Belgian-style waffles—with crunchy, candylike sugar nibs embedded in the batter. Order with fresh fruit, or top with Nutella or marshmallow cream cheese. 393 Corona St., 303-733-1212, wafflebrothers.com
  • Boulder’s Chautauqua Dining Hall might seem like a haul, but not if you make a day of it. Plan on breakfast (Mickey Mouse pancakes!) and then go for a hike. 900 Baseline Road, Boulder, 303-440-3776, dininghall.net
  • Second Home Kitchen + Bar’s Pajama Brunch, a Sunday morning fixture that begins at 7 a.m., is a go-to kid pleaser. Children eight and under still dressed in their pj’s eat free from the kids’ menu. The pancake and waffle bar may not be the healthiest (toppings include gummy bears and Oreos), but it’s a special treat. 150 Clayton Lane, 303-253-3000, secondhomedenver.com

WHERE TO GET BUZZED...

  • Root Down’s blood-orange mimosa might cost $12—two dollars more than the restaurant’s traditional sparkling cocktail—but the brilliant color and slight raspberry tang are worth the indulgence. And: It’s bottomless. Better yet, trade the bubbly for a more potent (but not bottomless) blood-orange Caipirinha. 1600 W. 33rd Ave., 303-993-4200, rootdowndenver.com
  • At Bistro One, the fleur de lis—a cocktail that stirs floral St. Germain Elderflower liqueur with smooth vodka and fresh-squeezed ruby red grapefruit—is a grand step up from the Greyhound. 1294 S. Broadway, 720-974-0602, bistroonedenver.com
  • While the Ultimate Bloody Mary is Lola’s most popular morning sip, our go-to is the pineapple mimosa. The bubbles cut the juice’s natural sweetness, and it’s a perfect complement to the green chile hash with roasted chiles, shredded Yukon golds, chile rojo, and an over-easy egg. 1575 Boulder St., 720-570-8686, loladenver.com
  • At Olivéa we alternate our drink orders. Option one: the spicy Bloody Mary, a riff on the classic Bloody with a habanero kick and a garnish of tomato, basil, and balsamic-marinated mozzarella. Option two: the refreshing Camapri sunrise, with Grand Marnier and fresh orange juice. Either way, you win. 719 E. 17th Ave., 303-861-5050, olivearestaurant.com
  • We appreciate that Parallel Seventeen’s cocktail lineup is in keeping with the restaurant’s Vietnamese spin: Sparkling wine lovers should try the bottomless guava mimosa, a tropical rendition of the classic that’s light and refreshing, with none of the tart-sweetness of orange juice. 1600 E. 17th Ave., 303-399-0988, parallelseventeen.com

IF YOU’RE A HIPSTER…

  • Even in the light of day, Sputnik retains its Broadway-cool vibe. Paper lanterns hang over tables and offer just enough light to see your “green eggs and ham” breakfast sandwich stacked with eggs (or tofu) scrambled with spinach pesto and topped with Swiss and shreds of Canadian bacon (or soy ham). 3 S. Broadway, 720-570-4503, sputnikdenver.com
  • If Table 6’s haute pocket—a getup of steak, bacon, scrambled eggs, cheddar, and grilled onions on a milk roll—is good enough for the Food Network show The Best Thing I Ever Ate, it’s good enough for you, too. 609 Corona St., 303-831-8800, table6denver.com
  • Dig into Venue’s slightly spicy shrimp and creamy grits while listening to the Highland gossip drift from nearby tables. 3609 W. 32nd Ave., 303-477-0477, venuebistro.com
  • It might sit on the Hill in Boulder, but don’t be fooled: Café Aion is no CU hangout. The rustic farm-to-table menu is constantly changing, but we go back again and again for the fried-to-order doughnuts and the hearty steel-cut oatmeal with Moroccan fruit compote. 1235 Pennsylvania Ave., Boulder, 303-993-8131, cafeaion.com
  • The Bohemian set descends on Paris on the Platte, where pitchers of strong coffee are a must. Over conversation, or between pages of a dog-eared novel, fuel up on sunny bites of French toast stuffed with bananas and honey-walnut cream cheese. 1553 Platte St., 303-455-2451, parisontheplattecafeandbar.com
  • Set in the heart of Capitol Hill, the brand-new Jelly has already found a following. We love the house-made preserves, but it’s the breakfast sliders—mini frittatas set on toasted buns—that bring us back. Don’t miss the Savory: goat cheese frittata, bacon, and spinach-walnut pesto. 600 E. 13th Ave., 303-831-6301, eatmorejelly.com

WHEN YOU DON’T WANT THE NIGHT TO END…

  • Nothing sweetens the morning after better than Gaia Bistro’s peanut butter, banana, and honey crêpes; if you’re looking for something more substantial, try the baked eggs with black beans, tomato, and goat cheese. Even when it’s packed, this Platt Park spot feels cozy and—depending on your company—even romantic. 1551 S. Pearl St., 303-777-5699, gaiabistro.com
  • If the weather is right, pick a table on Bistro Vendôme’s tucked-away patio. Outside or inside the intimate space, we could spend all day sipping smooth French 75 cocktails (gin, Champagne, lemon juice, and sugar), eating gooey, decadent bites of croque madame, and dreaming of Paris. 1420 Larimer St., 303-825-3232, bistrovendome.com
  • Slip inside the door of Olivéa for a New York–style bistro experience. Order the eggs Olivéa—sunny side ups over polenta with sage, soffrito sauce, and pine nuts—and don’t pass up the basket of buttery pastries and house-made jam. 719 E. 17th Ave., 303-861-5050, olivearestaurant.com
  • At The Kitchen, share a cannelé—a dainty, French pastry—over sips of espresso. Then order the slow-roasted Long Farm pork shoulder with salsa verde, sandwiched between slices of Udi’s ciabatta. 1039 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-544-5973, thekitchencafe.com
  • If you have the willpower to walk past Devil’s Food’s pastry case without ordering a treat, we commend you. (Just save room for after breakfast.) Settle into the comfortable dining room for rustic eats such as cornbread topped with scrambled eggs, ham, and melted Brie. Brighten up the meal with a roasted half grapefruit with brown sugar. 1020 S. Gaylord St., 303-733-7448, devilsfooddenver.com

WHEN THE USUAL JUST WON’T DO…

  • On Sundays, stop by Buchi Cafe Cubano for the $16 brunch that includes a plate heaped with arroz con pollo, Cuban pork roast, black beans, picadillo, flan, and platanos maduros. During the week, chow on the Cuban Mix—a classic Cubano sandwich with pork, ham, Swiss, onions, mustard, and pickles. 2651 W. 38th Ave., 303-458-1328, buchicafecubano.com
  • The Aurora location of Pho 79 opens at 9 a.m., and regulars quickly file in for Vietnamese pho, a bowl of rice noodles swimming in seasoned beef. Tip: Order a Vietnamese coffee (drip coffee mixed with sweetened condensed milk and poured over ice). 1080 S. Havana St., Aurora, 303-344-0752
  • We love dim sum at Star Kitchen for several reasons—not the least of which are the dishes of pepper shrimp, steaming siu mai, and turnip cakes that make their way around the room on pushcarts. The place is always packed, the carts never stop circulating, and we always leave stuffed. 2917 W. Mississippi Ave., 303-936-0089, starkitchendenver.com
  • Chef-owner Milan Doshi's traditional Indian breakfasts are reason enough to book a night at the Queen Anne Bed & Breakfast. Guests are treated to a complimentary morning meal, and if you’re lucky, you’ll hit on a day when he’s whipping up aloo paratha (a savory potato pancake with garlic, ginger, and chile). 2147-51 Tremont Place, 303-296-6666, queenannebnb.com
  • Denver is about 4,000 miles away from Ireland, but you can forget the distance during weekend brunch at Casey’s Bistro and Pub in Stapleton. We dare you to finish their Authentic Irish Breakfast plate of two eggs, rashers (thick slices of Irish bacon), bangers (pork sausages), black and white pudding (more sausage), sautéed mushrooms, roasted tomatoes, and Irish brown bread. 7301 E. 29th Ave., 720-974-7350, caseysbistroandpub.com

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IF YOU’RE IN A HURRY…

Cherry Creekers know to order an Americano and a dried cherry scone at So Perfect Eats (278 Fillmore St., 303-862-9074, soperfecteats.com), while biscuit lovers make their way to Crestmoor’s Rise & Shine Biscuit Kitchen and Cafe (330 Holly St., 303-322-5832, riseandshinedenver.com) for the sometimes sweet, sometimes savory flavor du jour. At Wooden Spoon Cafe & Bakery (2418 W. 32nd Ave., 303-999-0327) in Highland, the pan au chocolate is our go-to choice—or head to Trompeau Bakery (1729 E. Evans Ave., 303-777-7222) near DU for the ham-and-cheese-filled croissant. In Five Points, don’t miss Hutch & Spoon’s (3090 Larimer St., 303-296-2317, hutchandspoon.com) feta and egg breakfast sandwich or the filling oatmeal latte at Crema Coffee House (2862 Larimer St., 720-235-2995, cremacoffeehouse.net). Breakfast burrito lovers know Little Anita’s (multiple locations, littleanitas.com) wraps up bulging potato, cheese, and chorizo burritos in mere minutes.

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ESSAY

Uncomfortable Luxury

Breakfast in bed can be awkward—but it’s always worth it.

A few weeks ago, my husband and I spent a night away from the dog, the laundry, and the alarm clock. We packed a duffle bag and drove five miles from our home in Wash Park to the new Four Seasons hotel downtown. We enjoyed a splendid dinner, ordered a nightcap, and then fell into the pristine-white bed linens, pleased with our mini vacation. Before we dozed off, a giddy smile spread across my husband’s face as he said, “In the morning, we’re totally ordering breakfast in bed.”

I wasn’t nearly as excited about taking my tea and toast between the sheets. Don’t get me wrong, I dig the eating part. Eggs, hash browns, a cup of coffee, some jelly-slathered toast—now that’s the way to start the day, especially if you don’t have to cook it yourself.

It’s the delivery of these tasty morning eats that puts me ill at ease. The five minutes from the time a stranger knocks at the door and then invades what has, at least temporarily, become my bedroom is brutally embarrassing. Watching the server maneuver around my overflowing suitcase or a towel crumpled on the floor makes me feel self-conscious. Making small talk about how we’re liking our stay while still in pajamas is humiliating. And feeling like I should’ve actually made the bed before someone came to visit defeats the point of breakfast in bed.

But I have to admit that, at the Four Seasons, the decadence was worth the discomfort. There, breakfast came on a nifty cart that folded out into a white linen–covered two-top with a discreet food warmer stowed underneath. Jams, cream, sugar, hot sauce, salt and pepper, butter at room temperature—everything was at our fingertips. And the food. Ah, the food. The eggs Benedict had a thick slice of salty ham in place of the typical Canadian bacon and a tangy hollandaise that was plate-licking good. The egg-white omelet with roasted tomatoes, mushrooms, and goat cheese was so rich I didn’t even miss the yolks. Yes, I cringed a little when our friendly server tried to fill the silence, but by the time I took my first bite—all while leaning up against the crisp pillow—I’d forgotten all about it. —Lindsey B. Koehler

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WHERE TO NURSE A HANGOVER…

  • Even if the mere thought of beer makes you hiccup, order Gallop Café’s PBR biscuits and gravy. The suds lighten the biscuit, which comes topped with scrambled eggs and sausage gravy. 2401 W. 32nd Ave., 303-455-5650, gallopcafe.com
  • El Diablo’s chilaquiles are the ultimate morning-after grub: Layers of corn tortilla chips are simmered in mild guajillo salsa before being topped with scrambled eggs, queso, and crema. 101 Broadway, 303-954-0324, eldiablorestaurant.com
  • If you can handle the line at Lucile's, reward yourself with the Cajun breakfast: spicy red beans, poached eggs, and grits—doused in hollandaise. Multiple locations, luciles.com
  • Under the Umbrella’s smothered breakfast burrito—egg, cheese, potatoes, green chiles, and bacon—comes wrapped in a tortilla big enough to fill a dinner plate. 3504 E. 12th Ave., 303-256-0797, denverbakeryandcafe.com
  • The best time to visit Breakfast King is in the wee hours of the morning. Take in the 1970s kitsch and the eclectic crowd over eggs (any style) and hash browns. 300 W. Mississippi Ave., 303-733-0795
  • Steuben’s first sold its chicken and waffles as a New Year’s Eve special, but its popularity has landed the dish on the regular brunch menu. We just wish we could order it for dinner, too. 523 E. 17th Ave., 303-830-1001, steubens.com
  • At Sam’s No. 3 we go for the Greek omelet, stuffed with gyro meat, feta, tomato, red onion, and a side of tzatziki. 1500 Curtis St., 303-534-1927 and 2580 S. Havana St., Aurora, 303-751-0347, samsno3.com

The Elusive Bacon-Egg-and-Cheese

While working two delivery jobs in New York years ago, I made it my mission to try breakfast sandwiches at every deli I came across. Crispy bacon, a slightly runny egg, and a melted slice of cheese, all cooked to order and crammed into a soft kaiser roll: It’s breakfast perfection. Denver, unfortunately, is home to an abundance of lousy breakfast sandwiches, featuring microwaved-egg hockey pucks, flaccid slices of bacon, and awful bread. For a few years, I limited myself to the very solid N.Y.-style sandwich at Deli Zone in LoDo (1601 Blake St., 720-904-1000, delizone.net), though I’d advise ordering it with one egg instead of two, to let the bacon and cheese shine through. Recently, though, I’ve made a bunch of joyful breakfast sandwich discoveries. The whizzes at Masterpiece Delicatessen in LoHi (1575 Central St., 303-561-3354, masterpiecedeli.com) cook up a bacon-egg-and-cheese on a bagel that’s so flavorful you can leave the hot sauce on the table. And although I’m a traditionalist—bagel or roll, please—the egg sandwiches on house-made biscuits at Hi-Rise (2162 Larimer St., 303-296-3656, hirisedenver.com) have won me over with their rich, pillowy goodness. Finally, for a true New York deli experience, I head south to The Bagel Deli & Restaurant (6439 E. Hampden Ave., 303-756-6667, thebageldeli.com), a family joint that’s been around for 53 years but escaped my attention until lately. Their egg sandwich with beef “baken” is a hearty, meatier take on the traditional sandwich. Don’t forget a few black-and-white cookies to go. —Patrick Doyle

ESSAY

Why I Hate Brunch

The case against a hackneyed waste of time and money.

Weekend breakfasts are brilliant. There’s time to relax, unfurl, and dig into a plate of eggs, bacon, pancakes—whatever. Thirty minutes, in and out: A bit of food, a jolt of caffeine, and you’re off. Ready for a bike ride, to watch the game, to build a fort with your kids. Doesn’t matter. Breakfast launches your day.

Brunch, on the other hand, becomes your day. It’s an overindulgent, fawning, yuppie tradition that we ought to have left in the last decade with the dying gasps of Sex and the City and the Bush administration. Consider: You arrive at your superhip restaurant at 11 a.m., put in your name, and find a 45-minute wait. You hang out on the patio, sipping your $9 Bloody Mary made with sustainable tomato juice and served in a Himalayan-pink-salt-rimmed glass, eavesdropping on your neighbor’s success on Match.com. Your pocket buzzes: It’s a text from your lazy-friend-who-has-to-cancel, so you tell the hostess you’re down to a table of four, but oh-wait-that-couple-you-met-last-night-is-coming, so you’ll need a six-top. She gives you the evil eye while pouring the vodka for your second round of Bloodys. Gulp.

Finally you’re seated, squished between a table of hungover college kids and another full of toddlers, one of whom wipes his syrupy hands on your coat while the others let out battle shrieks. The menu arrives and you notice it adheres to the law of Magical Brunch Egg Inflation, by which 10-cent eggs are converted into $14 eggs. So, you order your cream cheese–stuffed French toast oozing with syrup, or your decadent eggs Benedict, because, of course, you can’t order something light—like, say, oatmeal with fruit—because you’re going to split the check, and only a sucker pays $23 for oatmeal. You gorge yourself, talk about kids or the bar last night, and order another round of drinks. While you’re fishing around for the last pickle in the Bloody Mary bar, the bill arrives, and, holy shit, that’s a lot of money! Why didn’t you just go to a nice restaurant for dinner and get a bottle of wine?

That’s brunch: It’s 2 p.m., you’re buzzed, and your day is shot. Hope you had fun.

So: Please don’t invite me to brunch, ever. I will not go. Breakfast, on the other hand? I’m there. —PD

WHERE TO SEAL THE (BUSINESS) DEAL…

  • Denver’s newest powerbroker breakfast spot is Edge Restaurant inside the Four Seasons, where chef Simon Purvis stacks the menu with thoughtful fare. Not to be missed: the Front Range hash with eggs any style (we prefer over easy), braised buffalo, Yukon potatoes, bell peppers, and a zippy chipotle hollandaise. 1111 14th St., 303-389-3000, edgerestaurantdenver.com
  • Ellyngton’s breakfast begins at 7 a.m., so you can dine early and still get to the office on time. Keep it light with a broiled grapefruit followed by house-made granola, or go big with the Denver omelet. 321 17th St., 303-297-3111, brownpalace.com
  • Racines is a gathering place for the politicos and local movers and shakers, so you’ll be rubbing elbows over your skillet breakfast or buttermilk pancakes. (If you’re meeting with the opposition, you’d be wise to head elsewhere.) 650 Sherman St., 303-595-0418, racinesrestaurant.com
  • Trying to impress a client? Head to the quiet, handsome dining room at Elway’s. Order the springy asparagus and mushroom frittata—expertly paired with fire-roasted tomatoes and rosemary breakfast potatoes—for a dish that’s light but filling. 1881 Curtis St., 303-312-3107, elways.com

Bagels Worthy of Consumption

There’s a reason there’s nearly always a line outside of Moe’s Broadway Bagel (multiple locations, moesbagel.com): The shop makes killer bagels (not squishy or stale), in 16 varieties, including traditional stalwarts like onion and poppy, as well as newer, worthy flavors like tomato-cheddar and cranberry-walnut. When we’re farther south, we head to the Bagel Deli (6439 E. Hampden Ave., 303-756-6667, thebageldeli.com), where the rounds are so fresh and tasty—crispy on the outside, soft on the inside—that toasting them should be considered blasphemy. —PD

ESSAY

Cracking the Shell

How I learned to scramble eggs.

Hand me a recipe and chances are I’ll master it on the first try. I can bake multitiered cakes and homemade breads, stir together a gorgeous roux, and turn out a mean duck breast—all without a problem. But I cannot make eggs. Scrambled, fried, basted, folded into an omelet…every rendition is disastrous: hard, sulfuric, inedible. They are so bad that my three-year-old daughter steadfastly refuses to eat any egg cooked by me. Instead, my husband mans our egg pan and fills our plates with buttery, perfect goods every blessed time.

My eggy failure weighing on me, I cajoled a lesson from Snooze’s Scott Bermingham and Spencer Lomax. First, we talked basics: Use a nonstick pan, add a dash of half-and-half for scrambled (not skim milk, which has a high water content), and most important, use high-quality eggs. Aside from switching from milk, I was doing everything right. Except I wasn’t.

Over the hot stovetop, I watched as Bermingham melted butter in a pan and began to scramble a mixture of three eggs and half-and-half. I immediately identified my cardinal sin: While Bermingham constantly jostled the pan and stirred its contents with a spatula, I let my eggs sit for a few seconds. Another mistake: Where I would cook the mixture until it was cooked all the way through, Bermingham pulls his off the stovetop just before it’s done. The idea is that eggs continue to cook slightly, even after they’ve hit the plate. A sprinkle of kosher salt and I tasted a forkful of Bermingham’s light prototype. Heavenly.

Then came the moment of truth: I poured a blend of eggs and half-and-half over bubbling butter and immediately began scrambling. It felt wrong, not letting the eggs sit in peace for a brief moment, but I could tell from the encouraging nods that things were going well. A minute or so later, I plated a pile of shiny scrambled eggs that looked and tasted just like the pros. I tried again and again with the same results. Three dozen eggs later and I was christened an egg cook. Now, even my daughter agrees. —AMF

Breakfast Bonus

  • We could go to Root Down (1600 W. 33rd Ave., 303-993-4200, rootdowndenver.com) for the butter alone. Pastry chef Samm Sherman uses unsalted Plugrá butter as a base for spices such as nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, and black pepper. Our favorite combo: the savory and sweet white miso–vanilla.
  • If you grew up on IHOP’s flavored syrups, Syrup’s (300 Josephine St., 720-945-1111, syrupdenver.com) eight offerings are your heaven, with blends ranging from maple-vanilla to apricot. Our go-to is the fruit-forward blackberry.
  • Ever the farm-to-table restaurant, Duo (2413 W. 32nd Ave., 303-477-4141, duodenver.com) features house-made, seasonal preserves worthy of smearing on flaky breakfast pastries—or even replacing syrup on the French toast.