If you're of the "breakfast is the most important meal of the day" school of thought -- and many, many of us are--one of your first online stops should be The Twin Cities Breakfast Club Blog. The family-led effort is largely powered by the sister-brother team of Alex and Amadeus, supplemented by Rachael (who is married to Amadeus) and Sarah (Alex's friend from college.)
The family-and-friends spirit of TCBCB give the site a unique voice, which is to say a veritable Greek chorus of commentary. For two years, the team has plugged away at the Twin Cities breakfast scene, posting detailed write-ups on a schedule that could generously be described as bi-weekly.
CITY PAGES: Why breakfast?
ALEX: Our family has been going to breakfast for a lot longer than the blog has been around. It began as an occasional get-together with Jimmy and Judy during that post-college wandering-around period for Sarah and me. After Amadeus moved back to town, he began to join us. We only started blogging about it because we realized that we'd eaten at most of the breakfast joints in town, and, since we're an opinionated lot, we already had our own unwritten reviews for many of them. We just decided to share our thoughts with the world. It was Amadeus's idea actually. He has secret plans to take over the world through our food reviews.
AMADEUS: Alex is right, I view the blog as the beginning of my plan for world domination. This interview is the next step in my plan. Seriously, we chose breakfast because that is our Saturday tradition and based on the crowds that we see every Saturday morning, we knew we weren't alone. It just made sense to utilize the interweb to help people make informed decisions about their weekend meals. No one wants to have his Saturday spoiled by a poor breakfast.
CP: What's the best trend in breakfast places over the past few years...? Likewise, the worst?
ALEX: As an early-morning person, I have bemoaned the trend of restaurants not opening until 10:00 or sometimes not opening at all on Saturdays. If I had a dollar for every time we've stood outside a restaurant waiting for it to open, I'd be able to reimburse Judy for the parking money I stole from her this morning.
The good trend has been a move towards organic and locally grown food. It's especially important with meat, eggs, and milk which are all breakfast staples.
AMADEUS: I agree with Alex about the organic and locally grown trend. It seems like more and more places are putting the location where they obtained the ingredients in the menu. That's a big plus for tree-hugging liberals like us.
As for an unfortunate trend, I think more places are expanding into breakfast service. Places that aren't necessarily designed for breakfast. You are seeing more coffee shops offering up breakfast options, like scrambled eggs using the espresso steamer. I believe that in order to serve breakfast, you must have a stove on the premises. Microwaves, pannini grills, and espresso steamers do NOT count.
CP: Expanding that question: Describe the most disappointing breakfast you've had in the Twin Cities and/or the most surprisingly delightful.
ALEX: As a breakfast connoisseur in the Twin Cities, I get recommendations to eat at Al's Breakfast about once a month. I ate there once. It was crowded and noisy and unfriendly and the food was unimpressive. I never wanted to review Al's because I don't think I like it, and I never saw the point of trashing a local institution, so I got around the problem of not wanting to eat at Al's by posting a review from a friend who ate there. Breakfast Club can never eat there anyway, because they can't seat six of us, so we'll never revisit that review. It's okay. I'd be happy never to eat at Al's again.
The Copper Dome was probably the worst meal we've shared as a family. I know people love that place, but if they can't even try hard enough to put real cream on the table, I don't feel like I have to say good things about them. I've always wondered what Barack Obama really felt about his meal there.
As for good things, I remember when Barbette started serving Roesti potatoes. I ordered them because I was still hungry after I ordered a too-light meal, and I wasn't sure what Rosti potatoes were. They arrived looking just like hash browns, and delighted me by having all of the right textures. They have a clean crispiness and their insides are really fluffy and light. Good food shouldn't be a surprise at Barbette, but at that point, we had been on the quest for perfect hash browns for a long time, and we didn't realize that we'd find them at an old favorite restaurant.
AMADEUS: We just had a delightful breakfast at Bank in the Westin Hotel in downtown Minneapolis. I was not expecting much from their hash browns. I was expecting previously frozen, prepackaged hash browns. The kind that never really crisp properly so you end up with this mass of potatoes that are browned but not crispy, with mush in the middle. No true potato consistency. Instead I received a phenomenal patty of hash browns with a perfect crisp on top and bottom and discernible shreds of potato in the middle, no mush at all. They were some of the best hash browns I've had in a while.
As for awful experiences, any time I order waffles or pancakes. No waffles or pancakes ever live up to my expectations. Someday I will publish my dad's recipe for pancake batter because something that good should not be kept a secret. Plus I am a syrup snob (among other things) and when you order real maple syrup for an extra charge they give you a tiny little thimble of syrup.
CP: Where would you send a visiting friend for breakfast on a Friday? On a Saturday? On a Sunday?
ALEX: On Friday, he should eat at the Colossal Cafe because it only has about ten seats and it would be too crowded on the weekend. I wish that this were the Twin Cities institution instead of Al's, because the people there are friendly and accommodating in the tight spaces, and the food is healthy and homemade.
I'm always recommending Barbette. He should go there on Saturday. He should have some form of the benedict. It comes with a salad so it's not too heavy, but he might have to order a side of potatoes.
For something different, he should head to Maria's for the corn pancake on Sunday. I don't usually like sweet breakfast, but the cheese adds a savory touch to the sweetness.
AMADEUS: I recommend the Day By Day Cafe in St. Paul on Friday. That place is big, but is usually unbearably crowed on Saturday and Sunday. It's a can't miss and if you go on Friday you probably won't have to wait long to be seated.
I agree with Alex for Saturday, Barbette is the choice. I've never had a bad experience at Barbette. The French fries with garlic aioli are criminally good.
For Sunday, I would try to do a brunch. I particularly enjoy La Chaya, their brunch menu is fairly limited but very good. It's usually not very crowed either which is a big deal for a group like ours.
CP: Tell me about the family dynamic--how does that shape the blog?
ALEX: We write individually, but we trade off the responsibility for producing a post after the meal. Sarah and Rachael each wrote twice, but usually it approximately alternates between Amadeus and me.
We have secret balloting on our grades. They get sent by text-message to the author of the next post. It gets kind of expensive when it's my turn to write, since I have to pay $.15 a text, but they refuse to pay attention to my whining.
One of the best things about having this family blog has been discovering my brother's skills as a writer. We may not take over the world, but I'm never surprised when a stranger wants to read what he's written, because he is such an engaging writer.
AMADEUS: Sometimes I think our blog is more about our family than food. There is a good chance a person will know more about our particular idiosyncrasies at the end of a review than what the meal was like. The problem often lies with figuring out what part of our conversation should not be included in our posts.
There are definite pluses and minuses when it comes to production. It is nice to have others to look to if you don't feel particularly inspired after a meal. Problems occur when no one feels inspired, then it becomes a battle of wills and there are arguments about whose "turn" it is to write. Alex is by far the most dedicated. When no one wants to write a post, she is the one who sucks it up and gets it done.
ALEX: Amadeus is just trying to convince me to get off my duff and write that Spoon River review.
Visit The Twin Cities Breakfast Club Blog at www.tcbcb.com