Top 10 breakfasts in the Twin Cities

Hell's Kitchen: Damn good breakfast food

Hell's Kitchen: Damn good breakfast food

Breakfast is such a vulnerable meal. Torn from the comforts of bed, pushed out into the cold world with a gurgling stomach and drooping eyelids, a person needs food and comfort. Nothing is worse than exposing a soft, hungry underbelly only to be served torpid, beige hash browns, eggs poached into golf balls, or worse, surly service. An early meal can render an entire day sulky and gray or sunny and optimistic. To save you the agony of an awkward start, we've compiled a list of the best places to start any day.


10. Hell's Kitchen Hell's Kitchen is not the place to go when you wake up on a Sunday morning and feel like, well, hell. With a tongue numbed by an evening of cigarettes and a head clouded with the after-effects of too much booze, one can't properly appreciate a breakfast menu that is a far cry from greasy hangover fare. Take the Mahnomin porridge, for example. Homegrown Minnesota wild rice layered with hazelnuts, cranberries, and blueberries and doused in a mixture of maple syrup and cream. Then there are the epic quarter-pound pecan-caramel rolls swimming in a rich glaze. The odd-ball bison sausage bread, so studded with nuts and sweet bits that it's hard to understand how it came into being, is tasty enough to induce late-night, sweaty cravings. Even something so simple as the special peanut butter shows why this daytime institution continues to be a favorite downtown Minneapolis destination. (80 S. Ninth St., Minneapolis; 612.332.4700)

9. Barbette While Barbette has had its share of chefs over the years, each adding a note of their own flavors to the mix, the basics remain solid: Trusty, comforting foods with a hint of French flair. The eggs Benedict are gently poached and arrive atop salty slices of Fischer Farms ham on delicate toasts, drizzled with a bright, buttery-rich hollandaise. Daily quiche specials appeal to both omnivores and vegetarians, packed either with seasonal veggies or hunks of meat, mixed with cheese and a healthy amount of cream, and served in a flaky crust. Yet a meal needn't be laden with butter and cream. Balance the decadent with the saintly: Mixed greens are served with most dishes. Perfectly dressed with just a tart touch of vinegar, a whisper of shallot, and a conservative bit of oil, each leaf is crunchy and refreshing. And you can't miss the skinny, crisp, award-winning fries served with a little tin of saffron aioli. Waffles are a sizable Belgian affair, thankfully topped with real maple syrup. Better still is the brilliant lemon curd, just barely sweet and pucker-up tart, dappled with berries. The staff is laid back and eclectic, full of Uptown eccentricities. Many of the employees have been at this neighborhood café for years. They honestly do care that you have a great start to your day. (1600 W. Lake St., Minneapolis; 612.827.5710)

​8. Mill City Cafe ​Sporting one of the best patios for early-in-the-day dining, Mill City Cafe is a destination even for those far from its Northeast neighborhood.  Area residents can pop in for a cup of strongly brewed coffee or linger over mimosas (served by both the glass and the pitcher.)  Dish highlights include the decadent biscones (that's what you get when a mommy scone and a daddy biscuit love each other very much) served under a wonderfully salty mushroom or sausage gravy and eggs any way.  Quiche arrives densely custardy and stuffed with seasonal ingredients.  The bacon is perfectly chewy-crisp with a hint of sweetness.  The room is a corner in a converted warehouse, with that cozy blend of brick and wood and walls dotted with local art.  Outside, the patio is tucked behind trellises covered with creeping vines, giving it a Secret Garden sort of mystique.  A beautiful place to run away with a special friend to linger through the day. (2205 California St. NE, Minneapolis; 612.788.6188)

. Wise Acre Eatery A garden store that opens up a restaurant? That sounds like an odd evolution, but anyone familiar with Tangletown Gardens knows that its approach to landscaping reaches far beyond the average mulch. With the addition of Wise Acres Eatery across the street, the farm-to-table food movement found itself an elegant coffee shop setting, full of delicious bakery options. A simple breakfast of the house-made granola, mixed with thick, creamy yogurt and sprinkled with fresh fruit, is a deceptively simple, deliciously elegant offering.  The sticky, sweet buns are sure to please any sweet tooth. The eggs served your way have obviously been very recently collected from happy chickens, their orange-hued yolks standing up tall and proud.  As the sun creeps across the bright, open room, casting shadows on the floral arrangements, friends can linger, sip, and savor the fleeting, golden morning. (5401 Nicollet Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.354.2577)

6. The Lowry--Uptown

A boho beauty

A boho beauty

The Blue Plate Company has been in the business of breakfast since its inception. The Highland Grill was its original neighborhood joint with the mismatched coffee cups, mammoth waffles, and hip/retro interior, and it continues to have lines that wrap around the block on weekends.  As good as the others are, though, we think Blue Plate has finally nailed it with the Lowry, its latest restaurant in the heart of Uptown.  It has sunny windows, a chic wood interior, and a menu full of satisfying, comforting meals, all sporting a little chefy-chef finish.  One of the best dishes, confoundingly enough, is the Continental breakfast: lush yogurt with bright, light fruit served with a side of Bare Honey (a contender for best-tasting local honey).  The shirred eggs are mushy, gushy, and opulent with truffle cream.  For a more robust dish, the chilaquiles are a spicy affair, full of chorizo and black beans and served with hash browns--impossible to walk away from without a little waddle in your step.  The mile-high waffles and funky vibe are here too, just done with that specifically Uptown flair. (2112 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis; 612.341.2112)

5. Hazel's Northeast The restaurant is a sweet little spot on a quiet corner in Northeast Minneapolis, run by a family who has been in the business for nearly 50 years. The dishes are a hearty mix of sweet and savory; wholly satisfying. The drunken banana French toast is a perfect example of too much is never enough.  Toasty cinnamon-swirled, custard-soaked bread is stuffed with bananas, spiked with rum-soaked raisins and drizzled with burned, buttery, sweet caramel sauce.  Even a simple eggs-and-bacon affair is perfectly cooked and wholly comforting. The black currant iced tea is a refreshing accompaniment to a sunny day, and like the bottomless cup of coffee, it's a glass you'll never find empty. All the dishes are served and watched over by a staff that genuinely cares about each dish and every diner. (2859 Johnson St. NE, Minneapolis; 612.788.4778)

4. Lucia's to Go All too often, breakfast comes down to a simple either/or prospect: Either do it up and spend a lot for an expensive brunch, or eat a mess of eggs and potatoes in a skillet. Both have their time and place, but it's nice to be able to break out of the box. At the simultaneously affordable and high-class Lucia's to Go, there is no compromise. Its croissants (chocolate, almond, and traditional) are flaky, buttery, many-layered things. The plain variety will complement any other breakfast choice, and the sweet ones are a light breakfast unto themselves when accompanied by a cup of coffee or Grand Keemun tea. Lightly iced and nutty Budapest and baby Budapest buns are a stylishly restrained twist on the usual fatty frosting-bomb that is the traditional American cinnamon roll. And the crepes...oh, Lord. They range from $4 to $5 and are either sweet (Nutella, berry butter, fresh preserves) or savory (onions, ham and cheese, or greens). But both species are light, bursting with flavor, and as elegant as George Clooney in a tux. While the space can get a bit crowded, even a quick morning visit yields a great early morning meal, even if it has to be taken to go. (1432 W. 31st St., Minneapolis; 612.825.1572)

3. Victory 44 Coffee Bar There's no shame in loving a pop tart, but a stale, square shadow of a pastry packed with sugar colored to look like it once came from a fruit might not live up to the childhood nostalgia.  Don't worry, Victory 44 Coffee Bar has you covered.  Its pastry chef has crafted a sugary delight that appears to be just an average, sprinkle-festooned Pop Tart, but the reality is a sweetie of a breakfast treat--not too sugary, a butter cookie crumb crust wrapped around actual fruit filling featuring such flavors as pomegranate and berries.  Too sweet? What about a slab of toffee topped with dark chocolate and bacon?  Want a little more? Dig into the eggs Benedict--ethereal, thick slices of crusty bread beneath a layer of perfectly salty, porky ham topped with a globe of egg, dressed in a lemony bright, butter-redolent sauce.  All of this, and it's only the weekday menu! The weekend brunch is full of even more rich, chef-style creations. Served with the sort of coffee that requires a few minutes of brewing, from Dogwood beans, it's a breakfast to satiate every appetite, from youngsters to insufferable food snobs--a seeming impossible feat accomplished with aplomb. (2203 44th Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.588.2228)

2. Colossal Cafe There are benefits to voluntarily entering a restaurant that, kitchen space and all, roughly approximates the size of your bedroom. First, you can be openly nosy without ever appearing ​so. No amount of eye contact with the hot dude at the next table will be awkward. Where else are you supposed to look? Plus, hello, eavesdropping! All everyone is talking about is the food. But that's okay, because once you've tasted Colossal Café's fare, it's all you'll be talking about, too. You'd think a place that has so much skill to flaunt would put something basic like pancakes on autopilot, to focus on, say, its delicate, to-die-for pastries, but no. Colossal Café's pancakes are so special they have their own flappers. Puffy, sweet, and thick, they have an extra savory-side funk from the yeast, and a pretty dusting of powdered sugar on top. They don't even need syrup, though we can't say we fully endorse going without--the real maple syrup they provide is so full of dark caramel, northern Minnesota forest flavors that it's worth it's weight in gold. And, if you find it hard to find a seat in the claustrophobia inducing original, just take yourself across the river and check their spacious new digs, with all the old hits, in St. Paul. (1839 E. 42nd St. Minneapolis; 612.729.2377. 2315 Como Ave. St Paul; 651.797.4027)

1. Sun Street Breads Stepping inside Sun Street Breads on a bright and cheerful morning has an Oz meets Wonka sort of irresistible cheer:  the bright mural, tempting pastries, and the exquisite list of menu items.  The problem with meals at this popular neighborhood bakery is deciding what to order.  Do you go with the tender buttermilk biscuits and gravy? But what about the sourdough tangy pancakes? There are the Downtowner rolls to be considered, too--all chock full of cinnamon and just the right dose of sugar.  Also, we're not above ordering cookies for breakfast, and that Crusher, packed with salty pretzels chips balanced with toasty, sweet brown sugar is great any time of day. Add in a cup of Dogwood coffee and all is right with the world.  It's just about impossible to harbor a bad mood when starting out your day inside this sweet little neighborhood spot. (4600 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis; 612.354.3414)

Previous coverage:

Top 10 dive bars in the Twin Cities

Top 10 late-night restaurants in the Twin Cities

Top 10 romantic restaurants in the Twin Cities

Top 10 bloody Marys in the Twin Cities

Top 10 margaritas in the Twin Cities

Top 10 macaroni & cheese dishes in the Twin Cities

Top 10 burgers in the Twin Cities

Top 10 sushi restaurants in the Twin Cities

The best of both biscuits and scones, all under a blanket of gravy

The best of both biscuits and scones, all under a blanket of gravy

Top 10 ice cream shops in the Twin Cities

Top 10 coffeehouses in the Twin Cities

Top 10 martinis in the Twin Cities

Top 5 gay bars in the Twin Cities

Top 10 hot dogs in the Twin Cities

Top 10 pizzerias in the Twin Cities

Top 5 brewpubs in the Twin Cities

Ethereal yogurt with homemade granola

Ethereal yogurt with homemade granola

All of these lists are available on City Pages' new Best of the Twin Cities app. Click here to see it in action.

Don't forget to vote in the 2012 Best of the Twin Cities Readers Poll! Click here to tell us your favorite restaurants, bars, bands, shopping, and more.