Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Like Buttah

Butter Bakery Cafe
3544 Grand Ave S

When you eat at a coffee shop, you resign yourself to certain things that you wouldn’t tolerate in a real restaurant. You might not be able to get a table big enough for six people, for example. You will most likely have to stand up and order at the counter. Food delivery will be slow and possibly uneven when you overwhelm them with a group of our size. Here at Twin Cities Breakfast Club, we grumble through these minor coffee-shop inconveniences, but there are certain things we demand from our coffee shop breakfasts:
  1. They must serve eggs, even though they are primarily a coffee shop. We don’t go out to eat in order to have pastries and coffee. I do. Alone. The club does not.
  2. They must have a stove. We don’t like eggs that have been steamed in an espresso maker and called “scrambled”.
  3. They must accompany their counter service with a warm friendly busy-ness that allows us to enjoy not being served. I enjoy being served a lot, it turns out (which is odd, since I’m usually so low-maintenance) but it’s easy for me to forget about it when I know there’s a lot going on behind the counter.
  4. And, of course, they must serve outstanding food that makes us want to come back and stand in line to order more of it.

We ate at Butter this weekend, and found it completely satisfactory as a coffee shop, but it doesn’t quite measure up as a breakfast joint. They fulfill the first three criteria, but fall slightly short on the last. The atmosphere at Butter is warm and clean and we were easily able to push two tables together to accommodate our crew. With sunlight streaming through the windows, it felt like spring at our table, and even the wall mural painted in ugly browns and blues seemed cheerful. (Of course this was Saturday, before Minnesota played the worst April Fools joke of all time by spitting six inches of slush on us on Monday. Happy spring break, everyone.)

Butter does have a complete breakfast menu it turns out, with several varieties of eggs (made on a stove which you can see from the counter) in addition to the best chocolate éclair in Minneapolis. This is a chocolate éclair that demands a plate and a utensil because it is full of delicious cream and covered in a dense layer of melt-on-your fingers chocolate. It is not good food to order with your morning coffee for your drive to work. Save your upholstery and get the scone for that purpose. Get the chocolate éclair for times when you have time to sit and savor the cream that you’ll have to lick off your fingers and, um, the plate if you are uncouth.

The happiest members of our club were those who expected nothing more than coffee shop food – and Fern, who had a much exclaimed-over BLT, because she secretly doesn’t even like breakfast. All of us shared one of the chocolate éclairs, and all of us enjoyed rolling up our sleeves for it. Judy had yogurt, fruit and a scone, and was content with her meal. Jill was the most unhappy member of the club and she got the most demanding breakfast-y meal. Pancakes. They arrived late, and they looked terrible. I’m not sure she ate even half of one of them. I got some sort of frittata thing that wasn't bad, but borrowed most of its flavor from the pile of Salsa Lisa on top. Unfortunately it came with a side of mealy, un-crispy potatoes, which is a bit of a death knell for a breakfast joint.

Our grades reflected the diversity of things we were able to order, which is impressive in itself for such a small coffee-shop kitchen.
Perley ~ Biscuits and gravy ~ A- (but with the caveat that his grade was for Butter as coffee shop, not as breakfast place)
Fern ~ delicious-looking BLT ~ A-
Judy ~ Yogurt, fruit, and scone ~ B+
Rachael ~ breakfast burrito ~ B
Jimmy ~ standard breakfast with enormous sausage patties ~ B
Jill ~ sad pile of late pancakes and good coffee ~ C+
Alex ~ Fritatta and icky potatoes and a chocolate éclair for the table ~ C+


nickel said...

I recently had a great hashbrown (shredded not potato chunks) experience at Emily's F&M Cafe. Not fancy but very satisfying. Unsure if their booths can seat 6 but they do have stools at the counter.

As another breakfast enjoyer, I appreciate your postings so that I can find new tasty places in the Twin Cities.

Alex said...

Thanks, Nickel. We'll add Emily's to our list. I like shredded hashbrowns. We're not looking for fancy potatoes. Not unless cripsy is fancy...