When I heard my old neighborhood restaurant was reopening yet again, I was a little apprehensive. It had been a lot of things in the past; a pizza place, a Mexican joint, even a Cuban restaurant, and it had never been wholly successful. The newest venture, The Breakfast Place, with short, off-hours (6:30 am-2:30pm), I was worried would become yet another doomed business.
Granted, its location is rough, the far side of a strip mall, sort of tucked behind Mizu, a popular sushi restaurant. But when a restaurant offers quality product with good service, word of mouth can sometimes be enough to keep doors open. I was hoping for the best but expecting the worst. What I got was somewhere in between.
The grand opening was last Saturday, the 19th, which had quite the turnout, even at nearly one in the afternoon. I was a bit disappointed to notice that there was no legitimate sign on the building, only a vinyl banner, but we were greeted by a warm, friendly, if somewhat awkward staff, seated and brought water right away. The open kitchen was full of bustling, smiling chefs and the plainer, more modern remodel of the building was surprisingly tasteful.
The menu is a mess; (too many) paper pages stapled together, a pixelated and often misspelled nightmare, full of confusing descriptions and broken English. Wait time for food was a little long and the coffee mediocre, but there was a payoff. The food. Their version of eggs benedict was divine; light fluffy English muffins with thick, crispy Canadian bacon, perfectly poached eggs and rich, delicious hollandaise, thick enough to coat but not a gloppy mess like others I’ve had. The hash brown potatoes were plentiful, crispy on the outside and soft inside, just how they should be.
Swedish pancakes were light and fluffy, accompanied by butter and strawberries in syrup. I would have preferred fresh fruit but the pancakes were tasty enough to barely require accoutrement.
The sleeper hit, however, were the chilaquiles, strips of corn tortillas fried until slightly crispy and coated in red chile sauce, served with fried eggs and refried beans. The sauce rivaled some of my favorite Mexican restaurants and the beans were not from a can, even though they were only offered in a few menu items. I could literally not stop eating it. The only thing negative I could really say about the food is that the savory items were all a little conservative with the salt. But that was easily remedied.
I left full, happy and excited about an affordable, close breakfast place that might just have what it takes to stick around. There were obviously a few things that needed tweaking but overall, it looked promising. That was, until the next day.
I came with a couple other people this time, to taste more that the extensive menu had to offer. The place had about half as many people in it than the day before, and the staff seemed lazy and uninterested. I saw one woman in uniform sitting with friends or family in a booth and another walking around on a cell phone. A boy who I doubted was old enough to legally work was refilling coffee wearing a t-shirt and jeans.
Our server, an older man who was friendly but didn’t speak English very well, took a long time to take our order (which was a little complicated but certainly not impossible), and apparently, had more trouble than we thought because when we received our food, more than half of the orders were wrong. This put us in an awkward position; upon explaining what was wrong, he didn’t seem to understand and made us feel like it was our mistake, not his (chocolate chip pancakes = short stack of pancakes?). After that, we were constantly receiving small plates of food to correct the wrongs in the order, most of us never having a complete dish at the same time (eating the eggs while waiting for the hash, etc).
But it wasn’t just the service that wasn’t up to snuff. The food wasn’t great either. The Joe’s omelet (ground beef, onion, spinach, mushrooms) was nearly inedible; a dense, chewy, tasteless blob reminiscent of a frozen tv dinner. The hollandaise and hash brown potatoes that impressed the day before were now greasy and bland. The bacon was undercooked, hash canned. And what was perhaps the most shocking, worst thing of all—the biscuits (which were light and obviously housemade) and gravy, which seemed flavored with bacon rather than sausage, had nearly no flavor whatsoever.
Not to say that everything was terrible. They do know how to cook the hell out of an egg—every style was perfectly executed. The waffles are also some of the best I’ve had outside of Mom’s kitchen, but there is much to be done about the rest. Consistency is important and with family run businesses, management can be difficult and inefficient.
I hope in the following months The Breakfast Place comes to realize its strengths and weaknesses and start making the necessary changes; otherwise I’m afraid to say I’m almost positive it will end up like its predecessors.
The Breakfast Place
3132 Williams Ave.
San Jose, CA 95117
More places for breakfast
Rose Donuts & Cafe
Bill of Fare
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