Breakfast is divine. Not just because of its famous slogan of “Most important meal of the day”. No, it goes deeper than that. The word itself conjures up childhood memories of being encouraged to rise from the bed via the smell of my Mother’s biscuits or being snapped out of my morning grogginess with a spoonful of my Dad’s perfectly slow-cooked old fashioned grits. To this day, when I visit my parents I crave these Beacham Breakfast Classics. In adulthood, life can get hectic and breakfast can often be missed or taken on the run, even though it shouldn’t be, but that gives additional excitement for building up to the arrival of the weekend. If you are like me, which you are likely not in this regard, and you don’t go out and drink or party much, then a weekend highlight could be what Breakfast/Brunch option you partake in. I am constantly and passionately always on the hunt and alert for emerging or overlooked breakfast spots, particularly ones that have care for the vegetarians. Among the best I have found in recent years is Blackbird Café.
When Blackbird first opened I went there for dinner because of rumors of their excellent French Fries. It is no secret that I am quite the French Fry enthusiast. Their Fries brought forth significant happy feelings and so I returned for dinner on occasion, discovering a few other tasty delights along the way. However, I had never been during their Breakfast hours. One day in a staff meeting as we were discussing Pancakes…and trust me, these seemingly trivial topics are often discussed with a comparable vigor to our business decisions…we are passionate in all we do, perhaps to a fault…ha. Anyway, I am voicing my opinion that I generally do NOT order Pancakes at restaurants because I am of the belief that most people’s Pancakes are bland and uninteresting. I feel I make a far superior Pancake than most of these establishments, so when I crave such I thing then I make it myself. Part of the issue is that nearly every time someone is giving props to a Pancake it is accompanied with a reference to its circumference, “Yo, (insert diner name here) has the best pancakes! They are so big they hang off the side of the plate!!” Newsflash for all humans whose tastebuds are easily distracted by smoke-n-mirror tricks, big does NOT constitute tastier…this is fact. In fact, my experience has calculated that the opposite is most often true and that theory isn’t limited to Pancakes, but tends to be inclusive of all edibles. Anyway, point is that I’m strongly opinionated on this subject. Yet, I’m still always hoping for some restaurant to come along and prove me wrong, there have only been a few…very few. I don’t order them myself, but if someone at the table gets a Pancake I will generally, somewhat disparagingly, asks to try a portion. The result is usually expected disappointment. All this Pancake Elitism should lend to no surprise of my automatic challenging reaction when J Bird spoke the words that were something along the lines of, “Blackbird has amazing pancakes…” I instantly needed specifics to how such a claim could be made and ended that talk with a promise to partake in these praised pancakes over the weekend.
There I was at Blackbird Café, it was October 1st, 2011*, I was filled with doubt, but determined to be objective. The particular variation in question was their Sourdough Pancake and when they arrived I did a quick mentally cleansing to devote my attention to the ritual at hand. I decided that my first bite should be pre-syrup as to fully capture the essence of the Pancake itself. I think people are duped into liking the syrup more than the Pancake. Perhaps at home you are used to your Log Cabin or similar grocery store brand, so at a restaurant that pure maple can be very convincing or maybe you fall for the simple trick that diners play of heating up their garden-variety syrup in the microwave for gourmet illusion. Don’t be fooled by syrup good people, it does not and should not define the taste of a Pancake. Sorry, had to quickly rant. As for the task at hand, I took my fork and as I pressed down into the pancake the fork reached the bottom of the plate before completely breaking thru, as a result of its impressive fluffiness. As I placed that initial bite into my mouth my eyes slightly widened. I hadn’t even completed my first chew yet and I knew that this was easily among the best pancakes I could remember tasting. I was able to determine that just from the pleasure distributed to my brain from it sitting upon my tongue. Every since then, Blackbird is one of maybe two places where I actively order pancakes. I generally pair my Sourdough Pancake with the Tofu Scramble, which is also easily one of the better Tofu Scrambles I’ve ever had. The Tofu shares plate space with broccoli, spinach, garlic and their crispy on the outside, applause worthy, hashbrowns.
I generally go on the weekends, but every once in a while I make a stop during the week, like today. The breakfast menu is different during the week and neither of my weekend regular options are available, which is OK because it forces me to explore other options. My weekday meal option is the French Toast with a side of the pre-mentioned awesome Hashbrowns, this time off to the side on their own, but still appropriately crispy and delightful. French Toast is one of those things that is pretty difficult to do wrong. If you use all the base ingredients and cook till it’s golden brown you have virtually no possibility of doing it wrong…in theory. However, while cooking it right is nearly foolproof, enhancing it to a higher level is far less common and obviously more challenging. Blackbird delivers with some distinct tasty flavors, which are due in part to the excellent Apricot Chutney it is garnished with.
While enjoying this divine breakfast this morning I had a flashback to the first Sourdough Pancake experience and was a bit shocked that I had never wrote about it. Furthermore, I was reminded that it has been quite some time since I had done a food related article a la What's Next On The Menu, even with all the requests from people I’ve been getting while out and about. What better way to return than to share one my favorite breakfast spots in town.
CHECK OUT BLACKBIRD CAFE (3800 Nicollet Ave, MPLS)
Written By Kevin “Pancake Elitist” Beacham
*The reason I know the exact date is less dramatic than it may plainly appear. This was the day of Brother Ali’s Day Of Dignity. When I arrived on the scene I made about to find everyone in that staff meeting and admit my blatant wrongness, including apologizing to J-Bird for being dismissive of his Pancake rating, which I now recognized as accurate. This is a case where I was glad to be wrong and wanted to share in the discovery.