I live somewhat of a strange existence for a person my age. Despite thriving in the coveted 25-34 demographic, I prefer to keep the hours of a 72 year old man. As you would imagine, this does wonders for my social life, but that’s OK. It’s time to admit publicly that I prefer breakfast counters over Court Avenue.
My 4 year old just hit a phase where she mimics everything I do, which is fine because she makes for a fine breakfast date. We take breakfast seriously, the two of us, embarking on a tour of sorts during the summer of 2013. We call it the Breakfast Club. It’s been something fun we’ve shared, discussing the next stop on our journey days in advance. Working on a rotation, we evaluate key attributes sought at an ideal breakfast counter.
Here is my criteria in order of importance :
1. Price. Anything over $5.99 for breakfast is pushing my limits of cheapness.
2. Scenery. It must be comfortable, close and thought provoking.
3. Conversation. Bring me the old people, they make fantastic company. I’d say a friendly server, but that’s a given for anyone willingly awake at 6:00 AM.
My kid’s criteria in order of importance:
1. Ability to spin 360 degrees on the swiveling chair. Once, we visited a place where the chair didn’t spin at all. Dealbreaker.
2. Limitless access to syrup. The kid must drown her pancakes or she won’t eat them.
3. Proximity to gum ball machine. Nothing says protein like a jawbreaker for breakfast.
Using the above as a rubric; allow me evaluate the top 3 breakfast joints visited during the Great Summer of 2013 Breakfast Club Tour.
3. Dahl’s Breakfast Counter
To the kid, Dahl’s Breakfast Counter is a slice of heaven inside of a grocery store. You can buy breakfast and groceries at the same place, a concept that according to her, “makes my mind blow.”
She’s even developed a little rapport with the staff there, which Dad gladly piggybacks off of, doing everything he can to minimize the tab (remember cheap). Each swiveling chair provides full range of motion. She’s able to make herself dizzy while Dad finishes cup of coffee number five. Once she’s taken three bites of her meal, the hyper focus shifts to the gum ball machine which rests conveniently by the exit.
A Dahl’s breakfast is slightly more expensive than other destinations. You do pay for fresh ingredients and the taste is high quality. The service is friendly and the retirees across the counter are comfortable yelling opinions at me, which I thoroughly enjoy. I walk out of there usually with a $12 tab and an hour of good conversation.
On that side of the river, a place that opens at 7:00 AM weekdays is Des Moines’ holy grail. Hunter S. Thompson wrote that breakfast is best served in excess, eaten outside by someone bathed in sunlight. Hunter would have loved Mullets.
This Saturday, I had the pleasure of inhaling their coveted breakfast burrito; complete with salsa, chorizo, bacon, egg, potato and cheese. How can you mess up a breakfast burrito? The answer is, you can’t.
However, the breakfast burrito can be made better. Just serve it outside, on a sunny patio, overlooking the ballpark nestled close to a glittering river. The breakfast scenery at Mullets is unmatched in Des Moines. The $5.95 price tag under budget, the chairs don’t swivel and there isn’t a gumball machine in sight. The later two being positives for Dad.
1. Cozy Cafe
There’s a special place in my heart for locally owned diners that win business through service. The Cozy Cafe works for me and my daughter. A perfect fit for both of our needs. Monday through Friday, the breakfast special (two eggs, toast, meat, hash browns) rounds off at $3.95! A steal for the quality of food provided by Cozy Cafe. They’re rarely busy, so my coffee remains topped off and the food is ready in minutes.
When the little one orders pancakes, they plop down the entire jug of tree sap, trusting her syrup regulation where they shouldn’t. The chairs, they only turn half way around, making it easier on Dad as he coaxes individual bites out of the reluctant eater.
Joining me at the breakfast counter on a typical weekday are three regulars:
Shirley, 77 years old, wants to adopt me. Billy, 70 years old, enjoys arguing baseball during the dog days and Jim, 68 years old, who shares tips about stocks I don’t own.
A true conglomerate of old and new at the breakfast counter. The way I like it.
I’m 31 going on 72 and these are my people.
To read more from Pete Myers visit www.petemyersrules.com