Fiddleheads Cafe in Hartford is one of a kind. A windmill stands feet away from busy Farmington Avenue, and the wooden fence-enclosed patio is larger than the indoor dining area. Inside, customized skateboards are mounted on the walls, but not the wall covered by a mural of a farmscape with a cartoon pig holding a slice of bacon beneath a halo.
This breakfast-and-lunch spot is an amalgamation of Pepe Burby’s life, and may possibly only make logical sense when seen through that prism. Burby used to run Eightsixty Custom skate shop in Hartford — hence the boards on the wall — and espouses the importance of sustainable energy, ergo the windmill. The name he chose for the cafe is derived from a childhood memory. “My grandmother used to take me, in East Hartford on Old Main Street, to pick fiddleheads,” Burby says. A stonemason by trade, Burby opened Fiddleheads last May with fiancée Carly Tyrrell. His inspiration? “I didn’t want to lift stones anymore.”
Ironic, considering what the pair had to go through to open in the first place after the space had been vacant for years. “Everything in there, Pepe built by hand,” Tyrrell says. “Every single thing was inspected; there was something wrong with everything. So we had a lot of repairs. The patio, same thing, we built those tables together. Pepe put the stone in, we put up the fence together. We wanted to do what we thought was best for the West End, and what was needed there. That’s like our home.”
What they felt their neighborhood needed was a farm-to-table option, and they wanted to bring more healthy food into the community. And while you’ll find a veggie burger, salads, fresh fruit and yogurt, the South Whitney breakfast pizza ($11.50) — tater tots, scrambled eggs, cheese, bacon, spicy ranch aioli — looks too good to pass up. That is, until I see the special — barbecue pulled pork breakfast pizza ($14). I regret nothing.
The 9-inch pie cut into four slices is proportionally perfect, ingredients complementing instead of overpowering. The crust is flavorful and light, but easily supports the weight of the eggs, cheese and pork. Walking into Fiddleheads for the first time I had many questions. Walking out, I only had one: Why aren’t breakfast pizzas on every menu?
Another Fiddleheads creation is the womelet ($10.50-$12.50), which is an omelet made in the waffle iron. That’s on tap for a return trip.
Burby and Tyrrell’s commitment to the community goes beyond serving tasty food. The woman who took my order, I would later learn, is an intern at Fiddleheads Cafe through Billings Forge Community Works, a nonprofit in the city that offers culinary job training, among other social service causes.
533 Farmington Ave., Hartford
Hours: Wed.-Sat. 8 a.m.-2 p.m., Sun. 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Closed Mon. & Tue.