Sunday, July 01, 2012

Eating or cheating

For months (possibly a year) my wife and I had gone out to breakfast at a particular little restaurant. Typically at least two (sometimes three) weekends a month we'd go to this coffee shop, either Saturday or Sunday morning. Prior to that we'd sampled other places around town but not found any worthy of frequenting, but then I think she saw this one get good reviews on Yelp so we tried it. The food was pretty good, the prices reasonable, and the service very friendly. Part of what I liked was the pancakes, while not spectacular, were a consumable size, not behemoths that eclipsed the plate; I don't order pancakes with some implicit dare to the cook. The other dish I'd order was enchilada eggs (which, as it sounds, is scrambled eggs rolled in tortillas with a Spanish sauce). My wife often went for the Eggs Benedict. But from her perspective the best thing about the place was the coffee, which while waiting one could pour for oneself from a container up front.

As we became regulars all the servers recognized us, and it was the service that surpassed the food or the coffee as what drew us there. However, if we didn't get there early the wait could get pretty long—which was fine if we didn't mind a bit of time standing outside to chat, but if we were really hungry we'd often just figure it was better to fix breakfast at home.

The thing about the restaurant is it was about a ten-minute drive across town, in a residential neighborhood where finding street parking could be a little tricky. After driving hours and hours during the week, sometimes getting in the car again on the weekend was less than desirable. But we'd developed a relationship with the restaurant, so it was worth it.

Then a few weeks ago we were at home on a Sunday morning, and it was past the point of avoiding the lines at that restaurant. So my wife looked on Yelp and found a small number of positive reviews for a restaurant only a few blocks away. It was a location that had been a number of different restaurants over the years I'd lived nearby and none ever lasted, but now it was a secondary location to a restaurant across town (which we'd never visited). Still, being within walking distance made it worth a try.

We got there around 8:30 on a Sunday, and it was not even close to full. This seemed a bad sign; any breakfast place worth a damn should have a good crowd by that time on a weekend. Still, we were seated, and the server asked if it was our first time, which we admitted it was. She explained the specials and was very helpful with the menu. Later, from a short conversation with her, we learned this location had only been open about a month and a half, and it seemed people hadn't gotten into the habit of going there; many patrons of the first location kept going there. The place was just down the block from a church, and she noted after that got out, between 10 to 11, it got much busier.

The menu had many omelettes and egg dishes, and an 18-inch pancake (served on a pizza pan). But I noticed it included waffles, and me and waffles go way back. Ordering waffles is how I judge a breakfast place that has them; although it seems simple, a good waffle is harder to find than one might think. And as our regular place did not have that available, my selection was easy (and the waffles were only $2.75). My wife ordered the Eggs with hollandaise dish which came with potatoes.

I took some bites and… the waffle was really good. My wife's dish was good, too, particularly the potatoes. That was the one thing about the breakfast potatoes at our regular place: they were just… there. They probably were frozen, and sometimes they'd get a little burnt—not inedibly so, but more than just crunchy. The potatoes here clearly were fresh, and seasoned well. She took a bite of my waffle and liked it so much she wished she'd ordered it.

And before we finished we realized… we may have found a new regular breakfast spot. (In fact, we went back this most recent weekend as well.) And as silly as it sounds, it sort of felt like we were cheating on that previous restaurant. It's not that sampling another place was so bad, but once we grasped that we kind of liked the food better, and the prices were comparable (at worst only slightly higher), and the service was good, it was close enough to walk to, and it was not busy until later in the morning (so no waiting), it seemed like we were breaking up with the other place even though it had done nothing wrong, per se. We'd been very happy together for so long, but then we had a little dalliance… and now the old standby seemed not as good. And we felt a bit guilty about that, even though, intellectually, there's little reason we should.

We'll probably still eat at the old place when we will be running errands on that side of town, but I imagine it won't be quite the same.

It's said we eat with our eyes first, but before that we choose with our hearts.

1 comment:

  1. I'm a big believer in supporting local shops. The other place doesn't need your help to survive, they've got lines out the door. You are putting your dollars where they're needed most. Good for you!


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