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Go ahead, ask me my favorite meal of the day. I’m not even going to say it depends on my mood. Nope, it’s the morning meal all the way.
Years ago, I would have gravitated mainly to sweet starts – pancakes, waffles and hot cereal with plenty of brown sugar. Then I got into making fried egg-and-bacon sandwiches, the runny yolk creating a silky sauce. Lord, are those good. These days, I’m an equal opportunity morning consumer – sweet or savory, maybe a little of both.
Our area has seen a mini growth spurt of new breakfast spots in the last year or so, with these five entries tackling the morning hungries to relative success, whichever breakfast route you follow.
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1. Canela Cafe
2621 N. DOWNER AVE. | 414-226-6749
When the death knell sounded for The Original Pancake House in early 2021, it was a colossal carb let-down. Locals had gotten used to the space – part of which was once the iconic Coffee Trader restaurant back in the day – being a breakfast joint. Sunrise-fuel relief set in when Canela took over the digs. Owners Ray and Dina Awadallah count the breakfast powerhouse Mad Rooster Café as part of their resto work history, and the menu seems to cover all the sweet and savory bases. There’s a respectable version of Moroccan shakshuka, a spiced tomato-onion stew topped with poached eggs and, here, crumbled feta and cilantro. It comes, in another twist on the original, with warm Indian naan bread. It works – as does the crispy fried chicken inside the Canela quesadilla. Also not traditional, but still tasty, is the chilaquiles verdes – fried corn tortillas in green salsa with pepper jack cheese, chicken chorizo, avocado and crema, the combo topped with your choice of egg (I like fried). On the carb-loading side, the fluffy cinnamon pancakes with banana, peanut butter and honey are pure gratification. $7-$21. Open daily 7 a.m.- 3 p.m.
2. The Lafayette Place
1978 N. FARWELL AVE. | 414-231-3030
This almost 6-month-old does a thoroughly plant-based – and delicious – take on breakfast (and lunch), which is fitting since it’s in the former Celesta vegan joint. While concurrently running another breakfast/lunch place on the South Side called The National, owners Angie Wierzbinski and Amy Calteux know how to deliver on the morning meal, plant-based or not. They veganized The National’s full English breakfast to feature tofu scramble, roasted Portobellos, baked beans, plant-based sausage, grilled tomato and house potatoes with chewy Rocket Baby sourdough toast. It’s satisfying without making you crash afterward. (Big breakfasts can make you very sleepy…) The chorizo burrito also shines, with a flavor bomb filling of house-made vegan chorizo, hash browns, beans, corn, shredded “cheese,” chipotle sauce and pico de gallo inside a flour tortilla. And leading the sandwich department is the combo of vegan sausage and cheese, hash-brown patty, guac and chipotle sauce on a toasted pretzel bun. $9-$13. Open Thurs-Sun 8:30 a.m.-2 p.m.
3. Golden Nest Pancakes & Café
MAYFAIR COLLECTION, 11250 W. BURLEIGH ST., WAUWATOSA | 414-935-2135
Under light fixtures shaped like golden bird’s nests, servers forge a path through the turquoise-and-gray dining room with trays of bloody marys and mimosa flights. The stiff drinks of daytime are popular here. This western nest hits the breakfast mark with several more elaborate forms of classics, including the New Orleans benedict topped with plentiful lump crab and mild-but-flavorful Cajun hollandaise. The omelets are light and airy, like souffles, and the Cheesehead version is a delicious homage to Wisconsin, packed with fried cheese curds and pork sausage. Crispy and not too greasy, the hash browns are better with a few sprinkles of salt and bottled hot sauce. Order them as the base for the biscuits and gravy skillet, layered with soft, flaky biscuits, peppery sausage gravy and choice of eggs. $6-$17. Open daily 7:30 a.m.-3 p.m.
4. Honey Butter Cafe
7221 S. 76TH ST., FRANKLIN | 414-367-2800
This modern-meets-retro strip mall eatery is where folks come to throw down s’mores French toast and take selfies on the ’70s-vibing rattan chairs. And I mean it on the s’mores French toast. Honey Butter runs true to its name. If you like a sweet start, this is the place for you. A meal begins with a half-dozen complimentary loukoumades – tiny cinnamon doughnuts drizzled with honey. Follow it with the decadent pancakes dolled up with berries and mascarpone cream, and if they’re not cloying enough for you, try the Queen Bee – French toast stuffed with peanut butter and topped with bananas and a brown sugar-butter topping reminiscent of bananas foster. Even the fried chicken and waffle leans sweet, the breaded chicken breast dusted with powdered sugar and the whole ensemble served with crystal honey sauce. Savory more your style? Spring for the chorizo egg skillet with roasted potatoes (better than the less-than-crispy hash browns), black beans and corn, queso fresco, pico de gallo and cilantro crème. $7-$17. Open daily 7 a.m.-3 p.m.
5. Milk Can Diner
5636 BROAD ST., GREENDALE | 608-729-6671
This friendly, modern diner with a curved counter is my one inclusion here that isn’t strictly a breakfast/lunch joint, but they lay down such a mean morning meal, with good thick, crisp-chewy bacon, flaky house-made buttermilk biscuits and fluffy cinnamon rolls smothered in creamy frosting. A menu best bet is the eggs benedict flight (great idea) that combines a trio – one with pulled ham on an English muffin, a cured salmon with chive cream cheese and bearnaise on toasted rye, and a Southern-laced production with fried chicken and remoulade on a jalapeno-cheddar biscuit. The Denver omelet is light and custardy, filled with pulled ham and Hook’s 5-year cheddar. And the stack of sourdough-buttermilk pancakes rises above pedestrian with a plump dollop of orange honey butter. $7-$18. Full breakfast menu Mon-Thurs 8 a.m.-3 p.m., Fri-Sun 7 a.m.-3 p.m.