Brunch generation

A sunny Sunday at Beat-inspired breakfast joint

Bongo Benedict

Bongo Benedict

PHOTO Courtesy of beatniks

Beatniks Coffee House & Breakfast Joint
1387 E. Eighth St.
Hours: Monday-Friday, 6 a.m.-3 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 7 a.m.-2 p.m.

We arrived for brunch at Beatniks Coffee House & Breakfast Joint (stop No. 2 on what will be an ongoing tour of local brunch spots in the coming months) on a sunny Sunday afternoon. We pulled into the winding parking lot the café shares with several other businesses between Eighth and Ninth streets just a bit after 1 p.m. Thanks to the glorious weather, a cheerful and colorful multitude of diners occupied the outdoor seating area in front of the restaurant, lounging in the sun at an array of black steel-mesh tables comfortably scattered across the large concrete patio.

Inside, the spacious café is highlighted by intricate stained-glass nature scenes hanging against the plate-glass windows and a selection of paintings decorating the walls. A smiling server directed us to the ordering station beneath blackboards displaying the menu items and specials, many named for Beats and other counterculture icons of the 1950s and 1960s—the Dobie Gillis, the Jack Kerouac Florentine, etc. My friend Missy and I ordered the Bongo Benedict ($10.50). Our brunch partners, Jeffy and Nevada, ordered, respectively, the special frittata ($10.50) and the Wavy Gravy ($9.50), the latter featuring house-baked biscuits with sausage gravy plus two eggs.

We retired to the outdoor dining area, where Missy had commandeered a recently vacated table for four. Coffees ($2.50, including refills) and waters were self-serve, and our adult beverages—one Sierra Nevada Hop Hunter IPA and one mimosa, served with an empty tall flute, orange juice in a carafe and a split of sparkling wine—arrived promptly, followed in short order by our attractively plated breakfasts.

The Bongo Benedict, served on a large, rectangular white platter, was lovely. The two perfectly poached eggs nested on Canadian bacon atop the halves of a split English muffin and drizzled with richly yellow house-made hollandaise sauce, sat comfortably beside the Beatnik Spuds (thinly sliced new potatoes fried with minced red bell pepper and onion). A few shakes of salt and a dash of green Tabasco brought the flavors out of the warm, crispy potatoes, which were, we agreed, the highlight of the dish.

The hollandaise sauce on the eggs benedict, while certainly pretty and velvety in texture, lacked any discernable hint of lemon, butter or the bite of cayenne or white pepper usually associated with it, and the paper-thin slice of bacon wasn’t quite hardy enough to add much flavor or texture when matched with the lightly toasted muffin and soft egg. Gustatory quibbles aside, we cleaned the platter, mopping up every drop of sauce with the English muffin.

Nevada’s Wavy Gravy biscuits came in a serving so generous that she packed up some to take home for a snack. The tall, round and simultaneously fluffy and rich biscuits were perfectly complemented by the unctuous, deep brown and slightly sweet sausage gravy. And Jeffy’s frittata was equally generous and tasty, a rectangular slice of fluffy eggs about two inches tall with a layer of minced red pepper worked into the top portion and a toasted layer of cheese smoothly covering the top.

I returned for a solo visit a few days later at dawn on a drizzly morning and enjoyed a bottomless cup of house coffee and a Herb Caen omelet ($9.95) indoors and watched the room fill with regulars as the sun broke through overcast sky.

As I was working my way through the pleasant mix of fluffy eggs, diced ham and shredded cheddar, a friend, local defense attorney and rock guitarist extraordinaire Saul Henson, dropped by my table to say “hi” and offer an endorsement of Beatniks, telling me that he comes in “every day.” Given the pleasant atmosphere, friendly service and unpretentious food, it’s not hard to see why.