I've always heard that breakfast was the most important meal of the day, but that's not how I grew up. While I was told to eat everything on my plate, it didn't apply to breakfast. I usually gulped down a glass of ice water on my way out the door to school.
Both my parents were toast and coffee for breakfast types. On rare occasions, it might be a frittata mom made on a whim. That meant that the concept of eggs, bacon, omelets, breakfast burritos and hash browns were not part of my vernacular. As I trudged to school everyday at 7 a.m. I always wondered why all those people at the Town Diner in Watertown, Mass., couldn’t just make their own toast or pour themselves a bowl of cereal at home. Why go somewhere?
Then I left home and went to college. Once I got out in the world and discovered food, the concept of breakfast suddenly made sense. Breakfast is not only the most important meal of the day, but it defines the start of a routine for many that would throw the gravitation pull of the Earth off kilter if it were to be interrupted. Whether you stop in for your daily muffin, bagel or meat scramble with hash browns, toast and fruit, you have a daily tradition that leads to the next step you take in seizing the day. Without it, you get lethargic, cranky or just functionally shut down.
While it is easy to find the staples at corporate chains like , , Country Waffles, or ’s, it is the local eateries that stand out when it comes to breakfast because they’re full of your neighbors and friends and friendly staff building a community through terrific food.
A couple of these neighborhood joints in Concord really make you feel like a part of the family and continue to serve up terrific dishes that are sure to please. is one such place. Located in the corner of a nondescript strip mall on Clayton Boulevard, it quickly becomes obvious when you enter that it is a place for “regulars” with the rack of personal coffee mugs people leave there to use when they eat there. In addition to the standard pancakes and omelets, you’ll find eight types of Eggs Benedict with such ingredients as avocado, mushroom and tomatoes, to sausage patty, spinach or Dungeness crab smothered in a homemade Hollandaise sauce.
Two egg combinations come with 16 different main dishes like calamari, pork chop with gravy, corned beef hash and rib eye steak. Each comes with hash browns, cottage cheese or sliced tomatoes and toast or biscuit.
What’s nice is that you always can find a healthy alternative to the starchy potatoes. Even the Min’s Low Carbohydrate breakfast with four egg whites scrambled with chicken apple sausage cottage cheese and sliced tomatoes makes going to breakfast a diet worthy occasion. You’ll also find a selection of tasty lunch alternatives that will only throw a wrench into your selection process and make you keep coming back to try other items on the menu.
In my of on Feb. 3, I mentioned the great atmosphere and delicious burgers. But what I didn’t get into was how delicious the breakfast is here, as well. Forget the fact that the prices are incredibly reasonable, you get lots of food for your buck. Imagine two pork chops, three eggs and toast for $8! There are eight egg combinations on the menu that keep you coming back to try them over and over.
For light eaters, you can indulge in the equally diverse mini menu that serves up one egg, one slice of toast and a choice of meat for a couple of bucks less than the full accompaniment.
Omelets are big and filling. I had the Kitchen Sink on my last visit and it did not disappoint with onions, mushrooms, bell peppers, cheese, sausage and bacon. You’ll find the chicken-fried steak under the omelets as it is served with the eggs on the side along with hash browns and toast or English muffin. If you’re still hungry after that meal, have yourself checked out for a tapeworm.
Waffles, French toast and pancakes are equally deserving of your admiration served up with an egg and meat of choice. The friendly staff and communal atmosphere is infectious and will also keep you coming back over and over.
is one of these diners where time stopped a long time ago. If you go, there will be a crowd and you will have to wait for a table but that’s a sign that the place is good. Once seated, be sure to take in the quaintness of your surroundings. If you are lucky enough to sit at the counter, you get the added benefit of talking to the cook and wait staff as they effortlessly go about their routine. In what seems like total chaos, they manage to take your order, bring you your drinks, bring your food and check back in with you. Omelets are huge and filling and egg combinations bring the usual accompaniments as the other places discussed above. The throwback décor and time-warp atmosphere add some added flavor to this greasy spoon. My only complaint is they only took cash but there is an ATM for your convenience in the restaurant to make sure you are not stuck with washing dishes.
The last local breakfast joint I would urge you to check out is the While the Sugar Plum is a throw back to diners of the '60s, the Bay Leaf Café is a quaint neighborhood café that serves breakfast and lunch but specializes in the “breakfast all day” concept. Like most good neighborhood cafes, the crowd there is eclectic and diverse. On my first visit there, I walked past a man sitting at one of the outdoor tables in front of the café with a large multicolored parrot while another man sitting at the next table pretended not to notice it. The menu features 17 types of omelets in addition to steak and eggs, scrambles, great corned beef hash and biscuits and gravy. The staff is attentive but distant so that they’re not overbearing. And if you’re not in the mood for breakfast, check out the many lunch selections as an alternative.
All these places have two things in common. Crowds and waits on weekends. So grab the newspaper, your main squeeze, and even the dog (or parrot) if you can get an outside table at Bay Leaf and head on out to enjoy the most important meal of your day.
El Monte Shopping Center
3505 Clayton Road, Concord
Daily, 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
1895 Farm Bureau Road, # B
Mon-Fri, 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Sat, 7 a.m. to 3pm
Sugar Plum Coffee Shop
1815 Colfax St.
Mon-Sat 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Sun, 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Bay Leaf Cafe
2123 Pacheco St., Concord
Daily, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.