One of my food buddies has two categories for breakfast dining.
Category 1: The fill ’er up. It’s cheap, fast and filling.
Category 2: The wow-me. That’s the one worth lingering over on a weekend morning.
We all know where to get the morning fuel: That ubiquitous blue bag of Krusteaz pancake mix and a hot griddle in our kitchen — or a fast-food drive-thru, if desperate.
Category two breakfasts? Those are trickier to find. They must come with some special element: Fresh-squeezed OJ, good bacon, a specialty pancake or two, and extra points for SOS and chicken-fried steak.
Lucky us, I’ve recently found two wow-me breakfast stops. One opened in late December, the other opened Monday. Both are so new, I’ve only had time to drop in for a single meal. It’s tricky to judge a restaurant based on a single visit, but from what I saw on my breakfast plate, both restaurants show promise.
ORIGINAL PANCAKE HOUSE
Sixth Avenue: 601 Pine St., Tacoma; 253-212-0580.
South Hill: 16116 Meridian E., Puyallup; 253- 604-0791.
More info: ophnw.com.
The Sixth Avenue Original Pancake House is the third location for Ryan Medford and Blake Williams, who opened their South Hill Original Pancake House in 2009 and a Maple Valley outpost in 2013.
OPH is a regional, Oregon-based chain. As you might guess from the name, pancakes take top priority, but waffles and crepes hold secondary starring roles. I’ll point you to two old-timey dishes increasingly hard to find on breakfast menus anymore: Real buckwheat pancakes and Dutch babies, the German dish that’s part pancake-part souffle.
The menu also lists the requisite country-fried steak, corned beef hash, omelets and more traditional breakfast fare, but for my inaugural visit, I stuck with cakes and crepes.
What this restaurant aspires to be is the best from-scratch breakfast restaurant in the area. And in that regard, the restaurant seems to excel.
Griddle cakes are made with a housemade sourdough starter, which imparts a noticeable waft of yeast and a distinct tanginess.
Williams and Medford also serve hand-shredded potatoes. Said Williams, “We take whole potatoes, boil them until nearly done, cool them, hand peel them and then dice them. The diced potatoes are then cooked with clarified butter and seasoning on the grill before being served to customers.”
And the syrups? All house made, or house blended. Blueberry compote, a tropical-flavored syrup, apple and strawberry syrups are all made from scratch. The maple syrup is not pure maple syrup, but it is blended to mimic the thinner viscosity of maple syrup. It’s awfully sweet, and that’s by design, Williams said. “The syrup, then, is very sweet and is made to complement the flavor profiles of the buttermilk pancakes (which can taste yeasty) and our whipped salted butter.”
And speaking of that whipped salted butter: That and the fresh-squeezed orange juice nailed the wow-me breakfast attributes at OPH.
On a first trip, if you’ve got the time, order the Dutch Baby ($11.59), which your server will warn you takes 20 minutes (ours took less). The German classic showed up as it should, as a stadium-shaped puffy masterpiece, wafting of that yeasty sourdough starter. This breakfast cake was a hybrid souffle, which means you’ll be treated to dual textures of a spongy base and crisped edges. The dish came with lemon wedges, butter and powdered sugar, but I preferred mine with the house syrup.
A half-dozen buckwheat pancakes ($8.79) carried the unmistakable earthy pitch of buckwheat flour. Buckwheat haters don’t appreciate the flavor — I’ve heard some compare it to mushrooms — but I’ve always been a fan of buckwheat, which is a seed ground into flour and used in a wide range of baked goods and breakfast foods (or in noodles at your favorite Japanese restaurant).
I couldn’t resist the name or flavor combination of the Tahitian Maiden’s Dream ($9.29), an eggy, soft-textured crepe filled with a booze-laced sour-cream banana filling and topped with an apricot syrup.
On a return visit, I intend to make my way through the list of waffles. There are seven. That will take some time.
BUTTERED BISCUIT TOO
Buttered Biscuit: 1014 North St., Sumner; 253-826-6099, thebutteredbiscuit.net
Buttered Biscuit Too: 9801 219th Ave. Place E., Bonney Lake, 253-862-4441
Two things make Buttered Biscuit a solid choice for breakfast: big portions and big flavors.
Those are both signatures of Tami Haskins, who opened the original Buttered Biscuit in downtown Sumner in 2007. She opened Buttered Biscuit Too, her second restaurant, in Bonney Lake on Monday. She calls her style of cooking “gramma food.”
It’s a restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, but I think Haskins does breakfast best (but everyone should try her lunch masterpiece, the corned beef reuben)
Her new Bonney Lake restaurant has a tricky turn onto State route 410, but Haskins is no stranger to odd locations. Her original Sumner Buttered Biscuit is down an out-of-the-way road with an alley-facing entrance. Haskins isn’t bothered by either odd locale, and neither am I, but I suspect some diners will be put off by that tricky turn. Haskins made some nice improvements to the dining room, which is outfitted in muted earth tones and lovely family photos. The restaurant still is getting its sea legs, so keep that in mind.
The breakfast menu is a mix of sweet griddled breakfast dishes and more traditional fare, such as omelets, scrambles, eggs Benedicts and corned-beef hash.
Buttered Biscuit is a destination made for chicken-fried steak lovers. Find three versions here, ranging from huge, huger and hugest — all served with the Buttered Biscuit’s cakey corn bread topped with crunchy sugar and whipped sweet butter.
Several years ago, I tackled the “Don’t Be A Chicken” ($14.95) and lived to write about it. It’s a dish so big, it requires a core sample to identify the layers: split biscuits, double gravy, seasoned eggs, cheese and onions on top of a 12-ounce chicken-fried steak. It takes two diners to tangle with this dish.
The regularly named Chicken Fried Steak ($13.95) comes with SOS gravy (that’s hamburger gravy), eggs and potatoes, but my favorite version is the Chicken Little ($12.95), a 6-ounce chicken-fried steak coated in the hamburger SOS gravy with two eggs, a side of house fried potatoes with onions, and the outstanding house-made corned beef hash with a creamy smashed potato interior and griddled crunchy exterior.
If you order anything from the griddle cake selection, make it the cinnamon roll French toast ($9.25), an enormous house-made yeasty cinnamon roll that’s been dunked in an egg batter, griddled and covered in a puffy cloud of whipped cream. The walnut sweet cream French toast ($9.95) is worth the drive to either location.
Lunch tip: Something new at Buttered Biscuit Too is an entire page of po’ boy sandwiches — seven kinds. I’ll be back to try those.
Coming soon to Tacoma is breakfast at Shake Shake Shake, the retro burger diner in the Stadium neighborhood. Co-owner Steve Naccarato expects to begin serving this month. Find “Pig-Sicles,” which are sausage links that have been skewered, dunked in pancake batter and deep fried. Naccarato also has plans for egg dishes, Nueske’s bacon, and chicken and waffles on a skewer. Find Shake Shake Shake at 124 N. Tacoma Ave., Tacoma; 253-507-4060 or shakeshakeshake.me.
Also worth checking out is Sunday Beer Breakfast at the Red Hot, the craft beer and gourmet hot dog tavern on Sixth Avenue. Recent offerings include verde huevos and stuffed French toast. Find the Red Hot at 2914 Sixth Ave., Tacoma; 253-779-0229 or redhottacoma.com
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