Let’s make an even better breakfast for Elkhart County

Just how good is the breakfast scene in Elkhart County?
Posted on Oct. 17, 2011 at 1:00 a.m.

Marshall V. King

dining A La King

Last month, I was sitting at Blue Moon Diner in Charlottesville, Va., on a Sunday morning loving my breakfast.

Two weeks later, I was at Food Dance Cafe in Kalamazoo loving another breakfast.

And the reason I loved them is because they were fresh, vibrant and interesting.

The breakfast burrito I had for lunch a few weeks ago at Uptown Kitchen in Granger fell in the same category. It wasn’t an ordinary breakfast burrito. It was packed with good ingredients, a lot of flavor and not likely to be something I’d make at home.

All those meals made me want the same for Elkhart County. I wanted a place that I could go on a Sunday morning to get a breakfast dish I’d want to gaze into the face of for a while before I took a bite.

I wanted someone here to make the eggs Benedict with kielbasa and a jalapeno Hollandaise sauce that I ate in Charlottesville. Or the Mexican scramble I had at Food Dance that wasn’t just a pile of stuff, but had great Niman Ranch sausage, black beans from a local farm and a ranchero sauce that lit it all up.

Don’t get me wrong. We’ve got some good breakfast places in Elkhart County. Diners/cafes such as Bristol Street Cafe and The County Seat produce good breakfasts. So do pancake houses such as Golden Egg and Stacks. So do the family restaurants like Lux Cafe and Callahans. Go to Rachel’s Bread on a Saturday morning and you’ll find great baked goods, a handful of funky breakfast entrees — and a line to get them.

George Fotopoulos called last week to talk about a couple new specials, including pumpkin pancakes at Golden Egg, 3421 Plaza Court, Elkhart.

I tried them Friday morning, thinking perhaps I’d get pancakes with pumpkin in the batter. No such luck. It’s just with pumpkin spread on top. The pumpkin crepes have the pumpkin filling inside.

Both were good. And Golden Egg’s breakfast menu is big and full of good options. The pumpkin dishes are evidence of someone pushing the boundary a bit beyond the normal eggs/meat/pancake model that a lot of people are doing.

Kevin Crouch has added breakfast items to the mix at Charlie’s Butcher Block, 1900 Berry St., Elkhart. Quiche, breakfast casserole, biscuits and gravy and french toast are among the offerings in the case Tuesday through Saturday mornings or available for carry-out after that. It’s a great idea on his part.

But within the last week, I’ve had overly dry pancakes at a Dunlap pancake house and a watery egg casserole prepared by an Elkhart caterer. At home, when I add stuff to my scrambled eggs, they’re sometimes watery. But pancakes shouldn’t crumble and egg casserole shouldn’t leave a puddle on my plate.

Cam Snyder tried Sunday breakfast for a while at Chubby Trout. It didn’t go. I don’t know how big the breakfast market is in Elkhart County on a Sunday morning. We don’t have legions of unwashed eaters in baseball hats heading out for brunch, but we have some who would fall into that category.

I’d advocate being able to go to church (being part of a faith community is a huge part of my life) and being able to have a great Sunday breakfast, before or after church or Mass.

Fotopoulos told a story about a pancake house near Indianapolis that does a huge breakfast business where he paid $12 for an omelet.

It was good, he said. But it’s not something he’s going to sell.

“Who’s going to pay for a $12 omelet in Elkhart County?” he said. “It ain’t gonna happen in Elkhart County.”

I was talking with reader Rocky Enfield about breakfast last week, prompting him to tell of a sage fried chicken eggs benedict dish he had in Las Vegas with bacon, fresh biscuits, mashed potatoes, fresh spinach and tomatoes, grilled mozzarella and a chipotle cream sauce. He agreed that we have good breakfast options here, but they could be a lot more interesting.

Enfield emailed the next morning with a great idea, perhaps so he wouldn’t have to read a rant this morning.

“What I thought might work for your article is maybe for you to issue a challenge to our local restaurants to ‘kick it up a notch’ and see what interesting and innovative breakfast offerings they can develop,” he said.

I’m not a fan of the “kick it up a notch” phrase any more than I am of kitschy Halloween decorations, but I like how he’s thinking

Readers have already been asking about “the next quest.” Enfield suggested it could be Breakfast Quest six months from now after restaurants have had a time to improve their game.

I’m not committing to Breakfast Quest, but it’s a great idea.

So for starters, I’ll ask for two things:

* If you own a restaurant that serves breakfast, play with the ingredients and make something new. Find a new local ingredient, such as the chicken sausage Miller’s Amish Country Chicken is debuting, and put it at the center of a dish. Figure out a way to get as much flavor on the plate as you can. Try to do something not everyone else is. And think about having it available on Sunday morning.

* If you eat and like breakfast, tell me your favorite breakfast item you had on a trip. Or suggest a creation that you’d like to see offered at a local breakfast joint.

Tell me about them. I’ll print the submissions in a future column.

And who knows, maybe we can get better at breakfast. And maybe there will be a Breakfast Quest.

Quick Bites

* The Knights of Columbus from Our Lady of the Lake Church, 24832 U.S. 12 E., Edwardsburg, is having its second annual fish fry dinner with locally caught pan fish filets from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 28. The cost is $8.50 for adults, $5 for children age 5 to 12, free for children 4 and under. Info: 269-699-7700

* The effort to bring an Indian restaurant to Goshen hasn’t resulted in one yet, but there’s now a monthly curry meal at The Electric Brew, 136 S. Main St., Goshen. Thusan Hemachandra and Jill Stoltzfus have been cooking Sri Lankan and Indian food and more than 130 attended the last one in late September, according to Kate Stoltzfus in The Record, Goshen College’s newspaper.

The next one is Oct. 30.

* Blue Heron Farm is doing the area’s first meat CSA. You pay in advance for monthly deliveries of meat. The cost is $150 for three months, according to Tom Stinson, one of the owners of the Benton farm. The locally grown meat includes chicken, pork, lamb and beef, in various combinations to feed a family of four about six meals. Information: 574-642-5063

* After all the discussion with readers about German food, Rachel H. pointed out that Corndance Tavern on Grape Road in Mishawaka is having an Oktoberfest meal on Wednesday, Oct. 19. The cost is $85 per person. I got details too late to include here, but Miles Lab in Elkhart had an excellent Oktoberfest food, beer and wine menu on Oct. 1 as well. You may still be able to try some of the wine and beer Mike Miles gathered at his place for the event.

* Lakeshore Grill, 51330 S.R. 19, Elkhart, is doing a Steak N Tator special on Mondays. A flat iron steak and baked potato are $4.99, according to an email from owner Cam Snyder.

Marshall V. King is news/multimedia editor and food columnist for The Elkhart Truth/eTruth.com. You can reach him at mking@etruth.com, 574-296-5805, on Twitter @hungrymarshall or via Facebook at www.facebook.com/DiningALaKing.

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