e all know breakfast is the most important meal of the day and all that, but we working folk aren’t always up to making elaborate dishes at the crack of dawn. Except for our editor, D. Brian Burghart, who makes some epic breakfasts on a regular basis, but he’s weird. But that doesn’t mean we don’t like breakfast, because if we had our way, we’d probably eat it for every meal. And hey, we live in Reno, so the best time to eat breakfast is, well, whenever—preferably after a long night of hard drinking. Luckily, Reno has no shortage of establishments to try, so we highlighted our favorite breakfast rituals.
Keep your pants on
My girl and I have a tradition: If I stay at her house, she makes breakfast. If she stays at mine, I make breakfast.
My breakfasts always include one egg for her, two for me, a half a piece of fruit each, a half an avocado for me, a quarter for her. Sometimes, there are sautéed mushrooms.
And then there’s the meat. At my house, it’s almost always whole meat—like a pork chop, salmon fillet, beef steak, lamb or ham. She’s just as likely to serve sausage or burnt bacon. I don’t know why she always burns the bacon. And the eggs.
That’s a long way of saying breakfast is my biggest and favorite meal of the day. It’s always better than anything I can buy anywhere else. Let’s be real, your typical breakfast has about $3 worth of ingredients, and if the chef has the patience to cook it on low heat, it’s always going to be perfect. My coffee comes from Guatemala—I’ve been grinding and brewing it to my taste for 30 years.
So, why in the world would I consider eating breakfast in a restaurant? It’s roughly six times as expensive, and I often have to put on pants. I’m never satisfied with the amount of salt, the quality of the coffee, or the robustness of the cocktails. Inevitably, I walk out of the place, $50 broker and feeling screwed. As opposed to having breakfast at home.
That being said, if I can’t make it, I have no problem spending for it. And I can tell you, I can’t do kioke coffee and buckwheat pancakes like they can do them over at PJ & Company, 1590 S. Wells Ave. They open at 8 a.m. on Saturday and Sundays, and 6:30 a.m. weekdays. I have no idea what time they close because if I’m going to start drinking at breakfast, I can say for a fact that what time a bar closes is irrelevant. I do know that on Saturday, they stop serving breakfast at noon.
But anyway, buckwheat pancakes at PJs. I can tell you they have a full breakfast menu, with fancy omelets, a spinach quiche that my girl quite enjoys, all the staples. This is, of course, a classic American café. The service is always great. The light is great. In fact, I’d be there all the time if it weren’t for my peculiar sensibility about breakfast.
However, I’ve never made buckwheat pancakes in my life, but I’m sure you’re far better having buckwheat pancakes with your kahlua, brandy and coffee than with a processed wheat pancake. It’s simply a matter of good health. A short-stack goes for $5.95 and a full, since I’m inevitably sharing with my baby, $7.95.
The problem with PJs is that my girlfriend or I will always see someone we know. Usually, I’m shabby enough that I can pass unnoticed, but if we’re wearing the same clothes as we wore the night previous … well, you can see how that could raise questions of our professional competencies. Her’s, anyway.
And for those mornings, there’s Big Ed’s Alley Inn, 1036 E. Fourth St. I’ve been going in that place since they hung beer-can airplanes from the ceiling, and I’ve never run into a single person who would question the suitability of my attire or my choice of breakfast beverage. The service is often surly as the patronage, but the delicious food is always amiable. The Bloody Marys, $4.50, are the best. I’ll be honest, I’m generally going to get chicken-fried steak and eggs $9.95, three eggs, a fantastic English muffin, home-style potatoes and peppery gravy. Again, I don’t keep most of this stuff at home, and even if I did, I could not prepare it like this. It’s almost reason enough to catch a hangover and put pants on in the morning. In fact, I’m resolved.
—D. Brian Burghart
Party in the U.S.A.
I’m hung over this morning. Last night got pretty wild. My head aches. My brain is rolling forward with all the efficiency of a paraplegic driving a Flintstones car. My skin is coated in a thin layer of mucous-like sweat-slime.
Of course, I’d be in much worse shape if the fine folks over at 5th Street Bakehouse, 953 W. Fifth St., didn’t offer up a hearty hangover-curing breakfast within walking distance of my place. (I live west of the university, so it’s just a quick jaunt over the Vine Street overpass.) I’ve never been much of one for Bloody Marys or other hair-of-the-dog type hangover solutions. I battle the demons of Sunday morning, which I myself summoned by some bizarre ritual the night before, with the exorcist’s most powerful weapons: strong coffee and fluffy eggs.
The shopping center that 5th Street Bakehouse occupies is one of those bad economy-ravished places, with many closed, shuttered and abandoned businesses, which is too bad because the Bakehouse itself is fairly cozy inside. It’s a casual, laidback spot, with old magazines to thumb and lots of solo diners—though it occurred to me after I got there that I probably should have showered before heading out into public. I met my wife there. She was on her lunch break—it was 11 a.m.—and she looked very pretty and professional, which contrasted nicely with my slovenly zombie fashion.
Anyway, in addition to their breakfast and lunch menus, 5th Street Bakehouse bakes their own bread and makes their own ice cream. It’s a unique little neighborhood joint. But, yeah, we were there for breakfast. They’ve got a bunch of appealing breakfast options, like “the morning Cuban,” ($6.95), a pulled pork and egg sandwich, but today I went with green eggs and ham ($6.95), because Sam I am not. … Oh, hell. That joke was terrible. But seriously, how could I order green eggs and ham and not reference Dr. Seuss?
The Bakehouse’s version of the dish is a ham-and-cheese quesadilla, a couple of over-easy eggs, and some very tasty and not-that-spicy green salsa. It went down easy, made me happy, and coupled with three or four cups of their potent coffee, gave me just enough strength and focus to put some words on this page.
No other meal attracts as many clichés as breakfast. It’s “the most important meal of the day.” When I was a kid, my dad used to say, “eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.” To me, that paternal, and somewhat medieval, advice has always been a great excuse to pig-out first thing in the morning.
And perhaps no other restaurant I’ve ever encountered encourages that impulse quite as explicitly as BJ’s Hog Wild Café, 80 E. Victorian Ave., Sparks. Their signature breakfast platter is actually called “the trough” ($10.95) The dish is like a parody of the traditional all-American breakfast: eggs, bacon, sausage, ham, potatoes, biscuits, onions, bell peppers and cheese all piled onto a giant platter and covered with gravy. And—it gets better—you can order the dish “wild style,” and for an extra three bucks, they throw in a chicken-fried steak. Bam! It’s an atomic gut bomb.
The grub’s all pretty good, comparable to a half dozen such places in the valley and millions of others all across the U.S. of A. The service and the place itself are similarly down-home and old-fashioned, the kind of place that, if you don’t like, you might as well move to Russia. It’s a baseball, grandmothers and Chevrolet joint.
So the major appeal of Hog Wild Café is the quantity. You get a lot of food at a good bargain. I stuffed myself silly and still had enough left over for dinner that night. The bacon deserves a special mention. It’s above average, meaty and juicy, not the pieces of burnt cardboard that a lot of places serve.
Hog Wild Café is owned by the same family that own BJ’s Barbeque, a Sparks meat-eating institution, and the two businesses recently combined locations, which is good news for America.
This old house
I look for two things in a breakfast spot: a killer Bloody Mary and a creative take on my favorite morning dish, eggs benedict. Fortunately, my favorite breakfast items are two that restaurants don’t mind getting imaginative with. And among the Reno breakfast scene, no one steps out of the box better than The Stone House Café, 1907 S. Arlington Ave.
Those with taste palettes that beg for variety will find solace at the Stone House. Not only do they a great Bloody Mary, they make four great Bloody Marys, each one distinct and flavorful. Want a Mary with a bit of a twist? The Stone House stirs up a “Ginger Mary,” made with ginger vodka and wasabi for an extra kick. Can’t get enough spice in your drink? Find reprieve in the “Stone Wall Mary” with an extra spicy base mix and an added punch of drizzled wasabi. Yearn for a drink that will fill you up? Take the “Bloody Bull,” a deliciously different bloody mary, made with Citroen vodka, A1 and Worcestershire sauce. Though I’ve tried and loved them all, I usually opt for the standard recipe Bloody Mary—spiced to perfection, thick in consistency, and with the perfect vodka-to-tomato-juice ratio.
The main event at the Stone House is truly the amazing variety of eggs benedict. Of course, there’s the classic preparation with Canadian bacon. But my two personal favorites are the chorizo eggs benedict, served with a spicy chipotle hollandaise, and the melt-in-your-mouth crab cake benedict. Try as I might, I simply can’t go to the Stone House for breakfast and not order a benedicts. There’s just something about poached eggs and hollandaise that I just can’t quit. No one feeds my addiction quite like the Stone House Café.
Good food, good company
Since my boyfriend and I don’t go to church, we made a tradition to get breakfast on Sundays and have meaningful conversations. Most recently we spent a couple of hours analyzing Bane in the latest Batman film over plates of biscuits and gravy. That’s about as spiritual as we get, so the breakfast we eat while dissecting pop culture has to be good enough to fuel our conversation.
I have a hard time with breakfast places that only stay open until 2 p.m. or so because it means that on weekends, after I’ve been up all night playing video games, I have to be up and showered by noon so we don’t get there right before they close. This means that two of Reno’s most popular breakfast haunts—Peg’s Glorified Ham and Eggs and Squeeze In, both of which close at 2 p.m.—aren’t always our go-to places. But when we are up early enough, we go to Peg’s, where we know we’ll always have a hearty and satisfying meal. The two locations I’ve visited—420 S. Sierra St. and 720 S. Meadows Pkwy.—are great places to have nerdy discussions because the restaurants are always busy and bustling. I love sitting at the counter because I feel like I’m in a hip indie film or something. I usually order the spinach omelette ($9.99), which comes layered with tons of spinach, a side of hash browns, and sourdough toast. They never scrimp on the coffee refills, so by the time I leave, I’m always a little jittery.
But since we moved a few months ago, Squeeze In at 5020 Las Brisas Blvd. is closer to use than Peg’s. This place was on the Food Network, so naturally, it’s one of those places that could either be overrated or deserving of the attention. It’s a bit of both, but overall I like this place quite a bit. My biggest problem is the pricing of the items, most of which are over $10, with breakfast foods averaging at around $12. I think more than $10 for an omelet is too much, especially since my boyfriend makes the best omelets in the entire world, so my standards are really high. And $30 for a breakfast for two people hits my measly journalist income pretty hard. But that aside, Squeeze In has some damn good food.
Since I was a kid, I’ve had a really strange anxiety that arises at restaurants that have silly names for the items on the menu. Even though I don’t pick the names for the meals, I always feel like I have to justify the silliness. Most notably, Denny’s has an item called Eggs Over My-Hammy that gets me every time. I fear that the waiter is going to laugh in my face. It’s pretty irrational, admittedly. Sometimes the Squeeze In omelet names set off my odd social anxiety. Dirty Dick, Randi Chandi and Sgt. Sponaugle are among a few that are hard for me to order, but the items have numbers next to them so it’s not that bad. My favorite omelet is the Patti Cake ($12.49)—number 16—which has thick pieces of turkey, avocado and swiss cheese. The home-style fried potatoes are great with the optional cheese and onions. I only get through a third this plate before I feel full, and this is the only omelet I’ve ever had that tastes good reheated several hours later. In that sense, I suppose the price is justified since one meal will hold me over all day.
The menu at Squeeze In is huge and a bit overwhelming, but the nice waitresses are good at helping me select a dish. I’ve only visited the location on McCarran, and I love the eclectic décor, including the writing and odd artwork all over the walls. But I always forget to bring a Sharpie so I can contribute to the wall art. It’s just hard thinking straight so early in the afternoon.
“We don’t do ambience,”
Miss Patty on Gilmore Girls said, “Food without ambience isn’t really food, is it?”
Actually, it is. In fact, food with ambience tends to be pretty bad, as a rule, and that’s particularly true of breakfast places. Upscale breakfast restaurants are like those eighth-grade essays that need to be written in colored ink and placed inside a plastic cover to make up for their shortcomings. Can ambience and quality food combine? Sure. But it’s rare. The Spartan places are the ones with the good food.
Besides, there is ambience and there is ambience. As the Gilmore Girls’ Luke would say, “This is a diner. We don’t do ambience.” Go to the Gold ’N’ Silver, 790 W. Fourth St., and Jack’s Coffee Shop, 2200 Victorian Ave., Sparks and the ambience is community. These are the kind of places where running into friends is common, where high school teams stop in the morning on the way to an out-of-town tourney, where on-duty police eat.
In fact, at the Gold ’N’ Silver the first people I saw when I looked for a table (no “Please wait to be seated” here except during busy times) were police officers. I stopped to chat, then found a table near the kitchen doors. I used to be a waiter so I like to reduce traveling time for the staff.
I ordered eggs benedict ($9.85). Even on the platter, ambience is lacking—the only garnish was an orange slice. But the dish itself was terrific. The weak point was the home fries, which I chose over hashed browns. They were undercooked so that a disconcerting raw taste made itself known. But the muffin was toasted just to the right point, the eggs were perfect, the ham tasty and the hollandaise smooth and light.
I always think of Jack’s as the only place I know of in this valley that has a fried egg sandwich on the menu. That alone makes it special. Just for comparison, I ordered the same thing at Jack’s—Eggs Benedict ($8.99). I ordered home fries again, though they were a different dish—home fries seem to be any breakfast café’s special way of preparing potatoes that isn’t hash browns. They were cooked well, even too much. The Benedict was delicious, a bit better even than the Gold ‘N’ Silver. My guess would be that the ingredients were better, because the flavors of eggs and ham were a bit more pungent.
Lunch and dinner can be a disappointment and life goes on, but breakfast is important. A day goes well or badly from there and no one will be disappointed at the Gold ’N’ Silver or Jack’s.