The Breakfast Bunch

 

 Editor's note: This story from the May 2010 issue struck a responsive chord among readers. Be sure to note their suggestions following the main story, and feel free to add your own!

There are few things as comforting as a good breakfast served by capable hands in friendly surroundings. It’s a way to start the day off well—your belly is full and you’ve got hours and hours to burn it all off. But there’s a psychic reward as well. No matter what else happens during the day, no matter what challenges or disappointments may await, well, at least you’ve had a good breakfast.

There are scores of perfectly good breakfast spots in Connecticut, and you can find them in virtually every city and town. We all have a favorite or two, usually nearby, where the coffee is good, the eggs are done just right and the other diners like to nod “Good morning.” But some breakfast restaurants are worth traveling to, either for a special dish, above- average creative flair or just a special, wonderful “breakfasty” feel. Here, in no particular order, are 23 we think are worth checking out. And if you’ve got a favorite we haven’t mentioned here, please let us know.

Olde Blue Bird Inn
363 Black Rock Tpke., Easton, (203) 452-0697
Do you have recurring fantasies of a good country breakfast in a 1919 roadside diner complete with maple hutches and bustling crowds of locals? The Blue Bird’s homemade baked goods are exceptional, as are dishes like blueberry-peach pancakes and pumpkin-walnut pancakes with maple butter. Very good eggs Benedict, too.

Waiting Station
1048 Main St., Branford, (203) 488-5176
Here’s another classic sort of breakfast lover’s choice: the  popular little place on Main Street right near the middle of town. The Waiting Station specializes in homemade muffins and omelets, but also knows how to carry off special treats like sweet potato pancakes with spiced applesauce.

Chez Ben Diner
927 Center St., Manchester, (860) 649-4011
Then there’s the breakfast spot that offers something you can’t get anywhere else, that you’d either like to try for the first time or can’t live without. At Chez Ben, which specializes in Canadian cuisine, it’s poutine—french fries and fresh cheese curds covered with brown gravy. Mmmm . . . now that’s the way to start off the day!

The Shack Restaurant
324 Flanders Rd., East Lyme, (860) 739-8898 
Hungry? A local favorite at The Shack is “The Mess”—a plate of home fries topped with scrambled eggs, ham, peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, sausage and onions, all covered with Monterey Jack cheese and bacon, with grilled corn bread on the side. The extensive breakfast menu at this popular spot amply covers less bearlike hungers as well.

Sally & Bob’s Eatery
10 North Main St., West Hartford, (860) 236-5392
A friendly, modest spot amidst the rather glitzier offerings of West Hartford Center and Blue Back Square, Sally & Bob’s offers two eggs, bacon, toast and home fries for $5.75, a good buy these days. Specialties here include challah French toast, homemade corned beef and matzoh brei (fried matzoh).

Whistle Stop
108 Main St., Deep River, (860) 526-4122 
A tiny, charming spot with big-time creative fervor. Check out the Garden Lover’s Eggs Benedict served on grilled eggplant slices instead of an English muffin, with sautéed mushrooms, artichoke, fresh spinach and sun-dried tomatoes. Or Austin’s Wrangler omelet, made with homemade hash, roasted peppers and horseradish cheddar.

Billy D’s Full Belly Deli
58 Bridgeport Ave., Shelton, (203) 924-6600
The happy home of the good-deal breakfast sandwich. There’s virtually no seating here, just a counter where you place your order, then you pick it up and eat in your car or take it to work. The basic egg, bacon and cheese on a hard roll costs a very reasonable $3 and you can double all three ingredients for a mere 75 cents extra.

 

Dottie’s Diner
740 Main St., Woodbury, (203) 263-2545
Dottie’s serves the best doughnuts in Connecticut, so there’s that. The cinnamon is absolutely without peer, and the jelly and chocolate- frosted aren’t far behind. Beyond that, this is a good diner with fairly standard breakfast offerings nicely prepared and served in a pleasant setting by a professional staff. And did we mention the doughnuts?

When Pigs Fly Cafe
97 Rope Ferry Rd., Waterford, (860) 444-1110
Operated by the same owners of the very similar Somewhere in Time Café in Mystic, When Pigs Fly serves breakfast all day and is a popular spot for everything from the breakfast burrito—eggs, sausage, beans, salsa and cheddar in a tortilla served with home fries and sour cream—to the French toast made with blueberry cream cheese bread.

Ken’s Corner Breakfast & Lunch
30 Hebron Ave., Glastonbury, (860) 657-9811
Just the name alone makes you want to try this popular spot near the center of town and, sure enough, everyone seems to love Ken’s for its solid food and capable, friendly service. The breakfast menu touches on most of the basics but strays here and there to terrific treats like coconut French toast and banana-walnut pancakes. This is a true small-town gem.

City Limits Diner
135 Harvard Ave., Stamford, (203) 348-7000
This canny, updated version of a diner may beat with a corporate heart, but its offerings are excellent and in some cases not what you’ll find in a typical breakfast joint—Maryland Lump-Crab Lobster Cake Benedict, Chorizo Sausage & Egg Quesadilla, yummy Orange Lemon Waffles and even great housemade granola.

Patty’s Restaurant
499 Bantam Rd., Litchfield, (860) 567-3335
Go to Patty’s on a busy weekend morning and you get the sense of people not merely having breakfast, but greatly enjoying breakfast. This is understandable given the seasonal bill of fare—which might include raisin French toast, an omelet of apple, cheddar and sausage, and apple, walnut and cranberry pancakes.

O’Rourke’s Diner
728 Main St., Middletown, (860) 346-6101
The breakfast menu at this legendary spot is five pages long and full of wonderful surprises, but it’d probably be foolish to pass up something called The Dubliner at a place named O’Rourke’s. It is an omelet made with fresh corned beef hash and Irish cheddar accompanied by Irish bacon, fingerling potatoes and Irish soda bread topped with homemade jam.

Kitchen Little
135 Greenmanville Ave., Mystic, (860) 536-2122
This tiny, charming spot is justifiably proud of its many egg dishes. Try, for example, The Portuguese Fisherman, No. 11 on the menu, a spicy-hot scrambled egg dish made with chourico, linguica, peppers, onions and jalapeño cheese. Appropriately, it’s served with a Portuguese “English” muffin.

Johnny’s Restaurant
170 Post Rd., Fairfield, (203) 259-2509
The locals love Johnny’s, and it’s easy to understand how this straightforward place has found a spot in the sometimes complex world of Fairfield County restaurants. Breakfast is a no-nonsense affair, fast and friendly with waitresses who know how—and when—to refill a coffee cup. If you’re hungry, try the Farmer’s Omelet: three eggs, bacon, ham, sausage, onions, peppers, potatoes and American cheese. You’ll feel like tackling the south 40.

Pat’s Kountry Kitchen
70 Mill Rock Rd. E., Old Saybrook, (860) 388-4784
Breakfasts are always good at Pat’s, but the really special item on the menu is fresh clam hash, invented 30 years ago when owner Pat Brink grabbed an unclaimed batch of clams, chopped them with onions and potatoes, shaped them into griddle cakes and fried them. Result: a breakfast treat like no other.

 

The Wooden Spoon Family Restaurant
217 Pompey Hollow Rd., Ashford, (860) 429-3825
Maybe it’s the very reasonable prices that make this a favorite spot for UConn students, or maybe they secretly like being bossed around by the veteran staff here, but we suspect it’s the food that wins out in the end. Here you’ll find things like kielbasa and eggs, plate-sized pancakes, real maple syrup and specials such as the chili cheese omelet.            

Top O’ the Mornin’
2740 South Main St., Waterbury, (203) 754-3338 
Here’s breakfast with a slight Irish accent. Give the homemade corned-beef hash a try, for as the menu says, “None of that canned stuff here—cooked in our special blend of spices, it is what we are known for and most proud of.” There’s lots more, too, including Irish bangers and Irish bacon, or how about just two eggs, toast and homemade hash browns for $2.79?

Chip’s
321 Boston Post Rd., Orange, (203) 795-5065
If you’ve got a hankering for pancakes, Chip’s has you totally covered, with 29 varieties on the menu. These range from the relatively austere Buttermilk, Wheat and Sweet Potato to the middle-of-the-road Coconut Crunch, Cinnamon Raisin and Banana Nut all the way to over-the-top Choc-a-holic, Black Forest and Piña Colada.

Valencia Luncheria
172 Main St., Norwalk, (203) 846-8009
Get the day started with Venezuelan flair at this little place in Norwalk. We recommend the egg sandwich with bacon, avocado, cheese, lettuce and tomato, or the omelet containing plantain, ham and cheese. Or go all the way with the Baliadas, a thin tortilla wrap filled with black beans, egg and cheese. Perfect with the strong coffee served here.

Paul’s Restaurant
1127 Highland Ave., Cheshire, (203) 271-3663
This is another you can put into the “local favorite” category, with great staff, friendly vibe, good food and big crowds on weekend mornings. Beyond the popular eggs and pancakes, Paul’s has specialties such as fresh veggie hash or, for somewhat larger appetites, Apple Fritter French Toast.

Bella’s Cafe
896 Whalley Ave., New Haven, (203) 387-7107 
At Bella’s, the French toast is made with Italian bread (so is it still “French”?) and the eggs are very tasty and different when they’re served with a brioche and apple-smoked bacon. Keep an eye out for the Tuscan omelet, with yellow squash, fire-roasted peppers, caramelized onions, grilled eggplant and portobello mushrooms.

Olympia Diner
3413 Berlin Tpk., Berlin (860) 666-9948
This chrome-and-neon classic has stood alongside Berlin Turnpike since 1952, serving a good breakfast, at all hours, quickly. Slip into a booth and order the fresh-made hash and eggs, or indulge in a New England tradition with a slice of apple pie.

The Breakfast Bunch

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