Buttermilk Bakery

1198 Orange AveWinter Park, FL 32789 • (321) 422-4015 • buttermilk-bakery.com
 

The Battle of the Brunch is over! No more must you endure the challenges of getting a table at The Briar Patch (albeit very worthy). There is finally another game in town with a pretty killer breakfast. But like Solla Sollew, it’s not entirely without its problems, so don’t get your hopes too, too high.

First of all, you’re gonna have to drive ( a few minutes) because it’s not on Park Avenue. Second, the menu for prepared food is VERY small. And worse still, they are militant about when they start to serve it, promptly at 11am. So, if you get there prior, grab a table and wait. Or you can feel free to gorge yourself on the plentiful baked goods that are readily available from the moment they open their doors.

Once the clock strikes eleven, this charming little place fills up like a clown car (hence why you want to get there beforehand to earmark a table), and for good reason, the food, for the most part, is quite good. The best of which are the cloud-like, fluffy apple pancakes. Best thing we had. Also decent is the veggie frittata, although it was a little over-salted if you ask me.

And as I mentioned, from the baked goods, we had the cinnamon donut holes, which were just okay, but to be fair I don’t think are truly representative of the other things in the case.

Kerby Lane Cafe

2606 Guadalupe StAustin, TX 78705 • (512) 477-5717 • kerbeylanecafe.com

Just steps away from the University of Texas campus, Kerby gets a ton of business from students who are either nursing a hangover or feeding the munchies. And as a result, the reviews on Yelp are insanely skewed if you ask moi.

The queso is not the second coming. It’s just okay and nowhere near as good as the hype makes it out to be. It’s way too watery and compared to Torchy’s, let’s just say it gets torched.

The pancakes are crap. Dry and flavorless. Don’t let that picture fool you. The Cinnamon Roll being only marginally better than the Lemon Poppy, but that’s not saying much. In fact, I think Kerby owes my stomach a formal apology for these discs of disappointment.

Also unworthy of my jaw muscles was the Cuban benedict, which sounds great on laminated paper, but is so overcooked you’d think they were try to kill the chicken who laid the eggs.

The only thing I can say was even mildly decent was the green chili mac & cheese with fried chicken. It’s good. But even that needed extra chili to give it enough kick. I did like how the fried chicken remained crispy even though it sat in a bowl of creamy mac though. What I did not like is that the mac and cheese is school cafeteria grade. And what I actually hate is when a typical diner gets inflated into a legend.

The Original Pancake House

22 E Bellevue Pl. Chicago, IL 60611 • (312) 642-7917originalpancakehouse.com

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Amidst the like likes of Prada, Ted Baker, Jil Sander and Armani you will find an oddly located, old-school pancake house smack dab in the middle of the Viagra Triangle (it gets its name from the fact that there are a lot of wealthy, older gentlemen partaking in high class escort services in the hotels that triangulate this area).

Hookers aside, there really is some great shopping to be had and if you want to hit the stores early, there are few places that are better to power up than The Original Pancake House (which technically isn’t the original, which opened in Oregon). But “early” is the key word here people, because not only does the early bird get the worm, it also gets a table without having to wait an hour.

Yes, this place packs ‘em in all these years later because they have a good thing going and they keep it that way. Been almost twenty years between the last time I visited and just now and they haven’t lost a step.

My strong recommendations are the pancakes, obviously, and specifically the pumpkin pancakes when in season (they are pretty famous for their apple pancakes as well). But the other call that might seem less obvious are the baked eggs. I’m not sure how they do it, but they bake their omelets instead of frying them and while you might think that would make them less flavorful, it’s quite the contrary. They are chock full and fluffier than a Pomeranian after losing a battle with a blow dryer. So pick whichever one tickles your fancy from veggie to western to spinach and feta- it doesn’t matter. It’s all good and probably the best thing you can buy in the neighborhood for under $100. That was intended to be a shopping joke, not about the escorts. Although I suppose it covers both.

5 teeth

The Commoner

458 Strawberry Way • Pittsburgh, PA 15219(412) 230-4800 • thecommonerpgh.com

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Located in the basement of the tastefully done Monaco Hotel, lies an equally tasteful restaurant with an industrial loft vibe about it, cool lighting fixtures and elephant-sized steel beams, showing off the pride of Pittsburgh.

Unfortunately the taste doesn’t go much beyond the décor however, serving up some of the worst pancakes I’ve ever had. I know they look cool, stacked high and thick with a huge knife stabbed through the center, but they taste doughy and sad. Equally disappointing is their Arnold palmer which gets too tricky for its own good, yielding floral notes and other hints while leaving behind the flavor of lemon and tea. So what’s the point?

On the plus side, the green juice is made fresh to order and you can really taste it. And I mean really. For better or worse, because if you’re one to like your juice with a little sweetness or chill, you won’t find it in this glass of celery.

But in The Commoner’s defense, they do serve up a few things that aren’t so common (or average). For example the Messi Benny is pretty darn tasti. Made with chorizo, potatoes, peppers, onions and stewed tomatoes, all topped with a pair of perfectly poached eggs. It’s a tad on the oily side, but way on the kickin’ side. Good heat, great flavor and by far the best thing on the menu.

Back on the missy side though, the French Onion Soup Burger does everything right but taste good. Topped as the name suggests with caramelized onions, gruyere and aioli, but then stacked on a brioche bun way too big for its britches, overthrowing the burger and causing you to abandon ship, going open face just to get the balance back in order.

And last but not least, the final nail in the coffin is the painfully slow service. There were only six tables seated in the entire restaurant at the time and yet it took over an hour to get our food. Which I blame mostly on the kitchen, but then again, our server did little more than apologize as opposed to compensate. So I will do little to compensate on their knife count and give them what they deserve, two.

2 teeth

EJ’s Luncheonette

1271 3rd Ave. New York, NY 10021(212) 472-0600ejsluncheonette.com

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At one time EJ’s was a solid go-to for diner food at locations all around the city. Sporting one of the better veggie burgers (topped with guac and sprouts) in town and a respectable brunch that had people enduring two hour waits. This is no longer that time. In fact, even back in its hay day I was truthfully unimpressed, baffled by those willing to stand in line for such mediocrity when truly great diner food was only a few blocks up at Googies (RIP). But to give a currently open reference for comparison, it’s on par with Jackson Hole Diners and Stardust. Maybe a quarter of a notch above a Denny’s. Harsh? Perhaps. But truth be truth and there are literally 1000 better places for breakfast/brunch in the city, about 2000 better options for lunch and given adequate time I will eventually have all of them reviewed and posted for your perusal. But in the meantime, please go on trust and do as the police say at a crime scene, which this sort of is, “Keep walking. Nothing to see here!”

If, however, you are a glutton for punishment and are too squeamish to take up cutting, then by all means, enjoy everything from bogus burgers to pedestrian pancakes and forgettable French toast. In fact, not even the veggie burger is what it used to be. Which will go perfectly with your new regimen of self torture.

2 teeth

Rue 57

60 W 57th St. New York, NY 10019 • (212) 307-5656 rue57.com

 

In midtown most of the options for a nice, sit-down breakfast/brunch are either crazy expensive or Ess-a-bagel. Fortunately, Rue fills this void rather nicely, otherwise you’d have to hop in cab to get your brunch on. Unless you consider Starbucks, Le Pain Quotidien or Paris Baguette as nice… or sit down.

I know a lot of people find the service to be rude and pretentious, but I’m just going to chalk that up to them being tourists. It is NYC after all. I have eaten here several times and don’t find the wait staff to be anything out of the norm for the city. And speaking of tourists, this place kinda begs for that clientele, being that it’s the size of most places that typically scream tourist trap, but even so, I personally find that they manage to keep the bistro vibe well in tact.

On the food front, while it is certainly nothing to run down 57th Street singing about, neither is Pastis (RIP) or Balthazar IMO. If you want transcendent morning grub try Norma’s, Clinton Street Baking Co., Cookshop or Upland. Rue, on the other hand, is solid, middle of the road eating. Same goes for lunch. Never been for dinner. So, if you are in the hood and can’t get in to some of the other brunch legends down the street, or simply don’t feel like paying over 50 bucks a person for breakfast, then Rue 57 is your place. The burger is nice and the fries are very good. The eggs dishes are all box checkers and so is the sweeter fare like pancakes and French Toast. The shocker of the menu, however, would be the sushi. Yes, this French named and styled bistro is actually Asian at its roots, so if you should happen to be craving a little raw fish in the wee hours, well, Rue has you covered there too.

3 teeth

Old Homestead

56 9th Ave. New York, NY 10011(212) 242-9040 theoldhomesteadsteakhouse.com

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This old school NY Steakhouse is so old, you’ll to feel like you hit a wormhole when you entered through the door. Suddenly it’s as though you’re back in the 1800’s from the decor, to the staff to portion control. And once you see the size of those portions, it’s kinda hard to focus on anything else- or perhaps see around your food to look at anything else. Yes, it’s THAT big. Guess no one told them gluttony is a sin.

I had a NY Strip that was about the size of my forearm, no exaggeration. A baked potato that was about the size of a newborn baby, slight exaggeration. But thing is, it wasn’t half bad. To be honest I found the food to be much better than Smith and Wollensky’s and The Palm, but that’s not saying much. And while Homestead isn’t what I would call “great,” portions withstanding, it’s definitely worth a visit for novelty sake. After all, it’s not often that a steakhouse serves portions only slightly smaller than the animal from whence they came. Almost reminds me of the Steakhouse version of an old NYC favorite of mine from long ago, the Royal Canadian Pancake House (RIP)- also insanely massive portions – pancakes the size of manhole covers, no exaggeration- but I digress.

3 teeth