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American breakfast - the meal still stuck in diners?

We have so many more potential options for breakfast. Yet why do I only see a handful of the usual at hotels?

Breakfast resists change. And we adore our diners.

Actually, it is changing, whether we like it or not. Chorizo and salsa paved the way. And there are times when I do fantasize about more breakfast choices at a beautiful poolside setting.

Turkish yogurt, cucumbers, olives, tomatoes, cheese, hard-boiled eggs
Ripe juicy salted papaya
Kaya toast
A hot bowl of congee
Blini with sour cream, caviar or smoked fish
Nasi dagang

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  1. MAN, I wish I could go to Paris and get a thick stack of pancakes and a t-bone steak for breakfast.

    Oh wait, I can't.

    American eateries serve American-style breakfast. If you want pho in the morning, go to a Vietnamese restaurant. I loved staying over my Filipina friend's house where we'd eat fried rice with bacon for breakfast, but I know better than to expect it in a typical restaurant.

    9 Replies
    1. re: Covert Ops

      Why can't you have a thick stack of pancakes and a t-bone steak for breakfast in Paris?

      You can't, or you won't?

      1. re: grocerytrekker

        Most cafes/restaurants in Paris do not serve such meals for breakfast--at least not the times I've been there. It's difficult enough to get an iced coffee in Paris and other European cities and a FREE glass of water, constantly refilled, let alone an American breakfast, when I'm overseas.

        I agree with you that diversity can be wonderful, and that's one of the joys of living in NYC. But man, no matter where I am around the world, there has been at least one morning when my husband and I wake up, look at one another, and say, "We would love to have a good old-fashioned 'American' breakfast now."

        1. re: gloriousfood

          You are right about NYC. I loved it when I lived there. I miss it a lot, but I currently like California better. I do try to visit the big city as often as I can.

          I like what Anonimo said about Mexico. "You can also get eggs and bacon or hot cakes with syrup, next to the arrachera or chilaquiles on the menus in tourist-catering restaurants."

          There were enough such restaurants in Paris when I was there. There was one near Pont Marie and Rue de Rivoli, for instance.

          1. re: grocerytrekker

            "I like what Anonimo said about Mexico. "You can also get eggs and bacon or hot cakes with syrup, next to the arrachera or chilaquiles on the menus in tourist-catering restaurants."

            Oh you get those outside the touristy areas as well. Hot Cakes with thinned Cajeta (Goat Milk Caramel), Faux Maple Syrup, Piloncillo Syrup, Mango Puree, Honey, etc., are found in most small non-touristy cities around Mexico.

            1. re: grocerytrekker

              Café Parisien (15 Rue d'Assas just off Jardin du Luxembourg) serves excellent American and English breakfast.

          2. re: grocerytrekker

            To get a thick stack of pancakes in Paris, or a T-Bone steak, one would have to dine in an American restaurant.

            French people do not eat American breakfasts, even though eating cereal and milk is becoming more widespread for children. French people have a cafe au lait and a roll or croissant for breakfast.

            I love French food, and loved living in Paris for 12 years, and love it when I go back there. But I love my American breakfasts when I'm here.

            Nothing better than Corned Beef Hash and Eggs, a stack of Hotcakes and Bacon, or plain Bacon and Eggs with White Toast (butter on the side, if you please).

            It has become fashionable in "foodie" and "hound" circles to diss everything American, including Breakfast, in favor of 3rd world food.

            1. re: Fleur

              Tu a raison - (sorry, vous avez raison.)
              I know that very well. You do have to know where to go. That's why I mentioned the one near Pont Marie and Rue de Rivoli. "American Breakfast", perhaps?

              btw, I think the rigidity is part of the reason French food may not stay on top of the game. My all-time favorite restaurant used to be Taillevent. As for service, I don't think it can ever be beat. However, I'm afraid the time may have come for the French cuisine to bow out slowly, unless it participates in the "competition". I am shocked to hear myself say London has better fine dining places than Paris. And I am an admitted Francophile.

              Asia may become richer than anyone else in the not too distant future. If we are not careful, it's quite possible they'll call US 3rd world. What's happening in Shanghai is frightening. And you'd better not be calling Singapore 3rd world.

              I adore our American diners. I just don't like having the same thing over and over. I like a little variety.

              1. re: grocerytrekker

                "Breakfast in America" diner is on rue Mahler near the Saint-Paul metro, 4eme arrondissement.

                1. re: grocerytrekker

                  I ate at Breakfast in America 2 months before that was written, an dI am here to tell you, you'd have to be gone from the US a long time to find their breakfasts satisfying. Nowhere near what an American would hope for.

        2. Everybody knows that the true breakfast is cold pizza and warm beer.

          Actually, Covert Ops is right. Most places serve the typical "American breakfast" because that is what folks here want. I have no problem getting other things for breakfast, I just go to the appropriate ethnic restaurant.

          1. Because you're in America. If you want Chinese breakfast, go to a Chinese place. I wouldn't trust a place that had bacon and eggs, congee, pho, laksa and Turkish breakfast on the menu -- places that try to be everything end up being nothing.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Das Ubergeek

              Not everything all at once, of course!
              I was just listing examples. Theoretically, however much a chef can handle at dinner, he should be able to do the same for breakfast. I don't see why not. It would be an entirely different shift.

              1. re: grocerytrekker

                But I wouldn't expect decent pho or jerk chicken or sushi at a hotel restaurant for dinner either. Even a specialty place in a hotel that serves great dim sum (we have one in Toronto) isn't expected to also serve great vietnamese.
                I have to admit a liking for familiar breakfast, even in Asia I preferred the tourist food for that one meal. Often at home I eat the same breakfast for months/years at a time! I'm willing to try anything but nothing exotic sticks at breakfast. Unless a Jamaican beef pattie counts as exotic!

              2. re: Das Ubergeek

                Ubergeek, about fifteen years ago the Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza in Kowloon had a breakfast buffet with full American breakfast, British breakfast, European breakfast (of the muesli/fruit/yogurt kind), plus two kinds of congee and assorted dim sum. We were actually in town for the food, on a trip led by Martin Yan, but that buffet at 6:30 every morning started the day off right. Papa was paying for it, and he rolled his eyes and whimpered whenever he got the check, but he was right there chowing down with us. And it was all very good. To this day one of our favorite home breakfasts is steamed dumplings with dipping sauce and scrambled eggs.

              3. GT, I agree with you. Wouldn't it be nice to have a place that specialized in breakfast pizza? This past weekend I made fried chicken and waffels for breakfast. (A great combo.) And Pat Conroy's cookbook features shrimp with grits and bacon that has become a weekend staple as well. In Seattle we have a Greek restaurant that serves grilled octopus with crispy pork belly and egg which is quite tasty.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Leper

                  I had breakfast pizza for the first time in San Francisco at Rose's. Amazing.

                2. "That is what folks here want."

                  Well said. I believe it, too. But that's exactly what they used to say about dinners here, and that is my point. Once we created the demand, look at what developed.

                  Positively no, I don't want to drag myself to a dingy restaurant in the morning when I am lounging. That sounds like a compromise to me.

                  I love dingy restaurants, but I have to be in the right mood.

                  As I said, it is a fantasy, but sometimes fantasies do come true.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: grocerytrekker

                    Why do you equate "dingy" (whatever that means) with ethnic?

                    1. re: JMF

                      Name a non-"dingy" good pho or congee place.

                        1. re: Das Ubergeek

                          I knew you were going to say that. You have me there. But it's not quite the atmosphere I look for sometimes (you've seen the curse - a wonderful scenic spot at the hotel overlooking the lake, and no decent food). And I've so far found the congee at dim sum places, as a rule, not as satisfying compared to the rest of their offerings. So naturally I was thinking of those little hole-in-the-wall ("dingy", wouldn't you say?) places with far superior food.

                          1. re: grocerytrekker

                            yes i have to agree, the best ethnic food i've had is usually in a dingy place.

                        2. re: grocerytrekker

                          "Name a non-"dingy" good pho or congee place:"

                          Ngon Bistro, St. Paul MN--fantastic pho, bright and sunny and airy and not at all dingy. http://www.ngonbistro.com/



                    2. Hmm... I live in a country where breakfast is coffee and either a pastry, a churro, or toasted bread with olive oil and (maybe) some tomato. Not that I'm really complaining (I never eat before noon anyway), but American breakfast seems pretty varied and exciting by comparison.

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: butterfly

                        What country is it? Your dinner must be more varied. What do you normally have?

                        1. re: grocerytrekker

                          Five'll get you ten it's Spain. I miss the simple but protein-laced breakfasts -- a cafe tallat and a sandwich with a thin slice of pernil serrano and a bit of cheese, a breakfast of champions.

                          1. re: Das Ubergeek

                            Yes, I live in Madrid--a city of late risers (kids go to school at 9:30 here and have a little snack around 11:30). Barcelona has a bit more variety for breakfast (and they get up earlier, too). Lunch is the big meal of the day--at least three courses. Dinner is lighter. I've never been a breakfast person... well, that's not true, I was more of a 24 hour breakfast person--in other words, breakfast at 2pm or 2am. What I miss most are waffles.

                            1. re: butterfly

                              Barcelonins do get up earlier, and there's some more variety (closer to France, so more French-type breakfast?) but definitely no larger American- or English-style breakfasts, except in hotels catering to the zillions of British who flock down at the weekend on cheap Ryanair or easyJet flights.

                              In Sevilla, particularly when it was hot out (which is most of the time, I understand!) people would frequently make a light meal by going "de tapeo" and snacking on the tapas.

                              1. re: butterfly

                                And then there is the concept of brunch.

                                If you get up late and join a big lunch, is it breakfast or lunch? I like this idea. There's my solution!

                                1. re: grocerytrekker

                                  Brunch on the weekend is one of a handful of American food culture phenomena that I really miss.

                                  1. re: grocerytrekker

                                    The southern Germans have us all beat: they have a second breakfast in the 10-11AM time period. That's when weisswursts and breads get served et cet.

                          2. Ain't nuthin' gonna take away my Filipino breakfast when I'm visiting Mom! Three words: garlic fried rice.

                            3 Replies
                              1. re: SauceSupreme

                                Oh, don't Filipinos do sweet longaniza for breakfast? Mmm...

                                1. re: butterfly

                                  Hey, it depends. Some days it's that, some days it's bacon, some days it's tocino. Variety is the spice of something or other I forget.

                              2. Dosa. That's another one.
                                I am actually happy with crepes when I can get them. Mostly not up to discerning chowhound standard, though. But didn't I tell you the scene is starting to change?

                                1. My favorite meal of the day, and yes, I do love the American standard version. The best hotel effort we've had was in Hong Kong, where the breakfast buffet offered American, English, European and Asian stations, all very well prepared. From that experience Mrs. O developed her taste for congee, and we came home with a liking for Sunday breakfasts of bacon, scrambled eggs and steamed dumplings - gyoza, siu mai and har gao, mostly, since that's what we could find frozen. Lovely combination.

                                  I will say (as I have on several occasions) that my favorite phrase to see printed on a menu is "Breakfast served anytime".

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: Will Owen

                                    As Das Ubergeek mentioned, a buffet can be really tricky to pull off. Perhaps the "standard version" plus a couple of specialties of the chef that are truly special.

                                    We love thinking outside the box. Yet Christmas is sacred (I don't mind it), and so is breakfast (I said I didn't mind it). I don't mind it all - I just like the idea of having options.

                                    And how about some fine dining flair at breakfast? I could eat those amuse bouches any time of the day - even in bed.

                                    1. re: Will Owen

                                      Breakfast served anytime--I love those words, too. Mainly because I can't bring myself to eat the first few hours of the day, so that's the only way I'll be getting breakfast.

                                      I could be wrong, but I think the US is one of the only countries with the concept of 24-hour breakfast.

                                      1. re: butterfly

                                        CANADA!!! land of eternal breakfast and pancake & waffle houses! breakfast 24/7. Steak and eggs, steak and pancakes, steak and waffles, omlettes with endless topping choices! eggs cooked ten ways, bacon, sausage, ham, more eggs, five kinds of bread to choose from, hash brown cooked 3 ways, and lots more, all day, what could be better?

                                        1. re: RiJaAr

                                          Actually, Vancouver is my kind of city. I wouldn't mind living there.

                                          If breakfast was the only criterion, it would be Istanbul, New York, Kyoto, Hong Kong... (oh, no, I have to go on and include all the other worthy cities now, but I will stop.)

                                        2. re: butterfly

                                          Strangely enough, I sometimes crave cereal, omelette or cream cheese bagel for dinner. And I DO sometimes have cereal, omelette or cream cheese bagel for dinner. Why not? Why are we so rule-bound?

                                          1. re: butterfly

                                            Thank heaven for that---if only for the 3am diner run after a night of drinking! There's something wonderful about having pancakes. bacon, cheese fries and ice cream sundaes all on the same menu.

                                            (but in all honesty for real non-hangover breakfast, a bit of fruit with yogurt and granola will hit the spot)

                                        3. Breakfast "out" in central Michoacán, México, can be a bowl or tacos of birria, or menudo, consomé de cabeza; or corundas, tamales and atole. Yesterday, in Santa Clara de Cobre, we got a half kilo of carnitas, a stack of tortillas, a bag of pickled chiles, and snacked while we drank cafes Americanos purchased from a copper crafts store. (They had the espresso machine (clad in hammered copper, too), and the tables outside.

                                          You can also get eggs and bacon or hot cakes with syrup, next to the arrachera or chilaquiles on the menus in tourist-catering restaurants.

                                          1. I think my ideal breakfast would be a medium sized bowl of Pho, light on the noodles with rare steak, tripe and brisket. Top this off with a Vietnamese coffee and you are good to go.

                                            Now that is what i really would wish to have everywhere, Vietnamese style coffee. Between the potency and taste of the cofee and the condensed milk you truly have one of the world's greatest beverages. Oh man could i go for one of those right now.

                                            1. i get turned off when i see "variety" on a diner's menu. as others mentioned, that's a heads up it probably won't be very good.
                                              there is a place in my town that makes waffles, pancakes, biscuits, and hashbrowns, along with all the egg fixings. i would say that's a good selection for breakfast.
                                              it probably has something to do with lack of demand, there are a million and one chinese restaurants in any little town, if there was demand for breakfast they would be doing it. people don't go out for breakfast (outside of big cities) that much.

                                              1. Hotels with international business travelers often include Japanese breakfast items in their buffets. I've seen this at the Hilton on 6th Avenue in NYC, and the Savoy in London (years ago, may have changed).
                                                Also in NYC, check out Norma's in Le Parker Meridien hotel, where you can get unusual breakfast choices such as Foie Gras French Toast (I can't help but think of it as Foie Gras, Foie Gras, Foie Gras, Eggs and Foie Gras).

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: bill_in_dunn

                                                  Ryokan-style Japanese breakfast at any hotels?

                                                2. Changua, a Colombian breakfast, sounds fascinating. Has anyone had it?

                                                  1. If you want pho, go to a pho restaurant. If you want congee or dim sum, go to a chinese restaurant. If you want huevos rancheros, go to a Mexican restaurant. If you want nasi goreng, go to a SE asian restaurant. If you want pancakes and eggs and scrapple, go to an American diner.

                                                    Why is this so hard?

                                                    17 Replies
                                                    1. re: scrapple


                                                      The definition of "American Breakfast" = "pancakes and eggs and scrapple"...? Once upon a time, it might have been considered "Dutch"(?).

                                                      Let's just see how the scene changes years from now.

                                                      1. re: grocerytrekker

                                                        If you are thinking "Dutch" as in Pennsylvania Dutch, they were actually German or "Deutsch," and that was just a common mispronunciation/misspelling that has taken root. That area is where you generally find scrapple on breakfast menus.

                                                        1. re: MakingSense

                                                          Couple of thoughts:

                                                          1. The reason that French breakfasts are so light is because the typical French 'big' meal was at lunch, not dinner as in the U.S.

                                                          2. Not all people eat just rolls for breakfast--actually, the usual distinction at hotels and hostels is an "English Breakfast:" eggs, protien in the form of rashers (bacon) or bangers (sausage) and mash (potato) and a strange looking stewed tomato, plus coffee or tea and juice versus a "Continental Breakfast" which is cheaper and a selection of rolls, spreads, coffee or tea, juice and fruit, and perhaps some pastries.

                                                          3. Diners offer so many breakfast options because they are open all day and even non-eating out breakfast eaters may order eggs or pancakes. Ethnic restaurants tend to cater to late night eaters, even if they have eccentric closing hours (3am) their opening hours are often late.

                                                          4. Diners (with some notable exception of some) don't usually offer 'ethnic' food other than occasional Greek/Italian--they're pretty American creations.

                                                          5. Diners though can be dingy ;) Anyone who remembers 'The Tasty' in Boston knows what I'm talking about or who has been to a roadside dive.

                                                          1. re: veganish

                                                            There's an interesting article in this weekend's Financial Times on urban planning. For the first time in human history, more than half of the planet's population lives in cities and it is forecast that by 2050, 75% will.
                                                            Eating the main meal of the day at midday was common among agrarian societies and America was an agrarian society until the 20th century. It was only when large numbers began to work in factories and offices and live in cities that the evening meal became the largest of the three daily ones. Unfortunately, Americans didn't give up the huge "farm" breakfasts when they gave up the hard work that used up the calories and we've seen the concomitant increases in obesity.

                                                            Diners often served workers who labored at odd hours and were away from home at mealtimes. They opened early, stayed open late and many were open around the clock. They were often located near roads serving truck driver, near factories serving shift workers, places where service workers could grab quick meals. They aren't located in the neighborhoods of 9-5 management workers and the upper class.
                                                            They weren't necessarily "dingy" but they didn't need to be fancy by any means. Diners are utilitarian. They pre-dated fast food franchises and were the early equivalent. A quick meal that satisfied. Most patrons went to the same place day after day. They knew exactly what to expect and were never disappointed.

                                                            1. re: MakingSense

                                                              I cook breakfast, lunch and dinner at our restaurant and try to bring the same creative focus to breakfast that we do for dinner. While we also offer "just breakfast", I've found people really respond to variations within some regional themes (jambalaya w/poached eggs, butternut squash pancakes, seared ahi w/horseradish-edamame scramble, chorizo frittata to name a few) I think people are more picky about breakfast than any other meal for a variety of obvious reasons.Also, at least on the West Coast and in the mountains I think Huevos Rancheros, Chilaquiles, etc. have become as common as B-N-G or scrambled eggs;)

                                                          2. re: MakingSense

                                                            Scene: a smallish chateau in Burgundy, our first morning there. My wife wants to sleep in for a while, so I come down to see what's on for le petit dèjeuner, figuring on bread, butter, jam and coffee, which is in fact what's on the table. My wife's cousin Caroline appears with a plate of croissants. "Ah," she says, "you would like some breakfast? I believe Americans like eggs for breakfast. We have eggs." (I assumed as much, since the chicken pen is directly beneath our bedroom window.) "Would you like one or two?" I say I could manage two. She says, "How would you like them to be cooked?" I say, "Fried, that is, dans le poêle..." and she, wilfully ignoring me, says, "Boiled, I think. You shall have them boiled. I will tell Margot," and she goes back into the kitchen. Several minutes later she returns with two soft-boiled eggs scooped out into a bowl, and a spoon...and that is the only time, out of our three weeks in Paris, Burgundy, Nice and Florence, that I had eggs for breakfast. But they were very good eggs.

                                                        2. re: scrapple

                                                          Scrapple: Your handle reminds me that the best breakfast I have ever eaten was in a restaurant around Lancaster, PA. Eggs, scrapple (mmmm!!!) and crumb cake -- can't find that combination in nearly enough American cities!

                                                          On the West Coast, at least, scrapple in a restaurant is an extreme rarity.

                                                          1. re: Tony Miller

                                                            Bette's Ocean View Diner in Berkeley serves a pretty righteous plate of scrapple, with bacon, eggs, and of all things, a side of fried tomatoes. And real maple. And good coffee.

                                                            1. re: Tony Miller

                                                              Eggs, scrapple and crumb cake. Makes me so happy I live where I do--scrapple is on every breakfast menu.

                                                              1. re: gaffk

                                                                Eggs, scrapple and shoo-fly as a reward! (Ketchup or maple syrple?)

                                                                1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                  Ketchup. Maple syrup is for waffles, pancakes, french toast (bready breakfast foods).

                                                                  Never had shoo-fly for breakfast, but now that you mention it . . .

                                                                  1. re: gaffk

                                                                    Check out Wos Wit Pennsylvania Dutch foods, Wild Grouse Farm, Tamaqua Pa. Family.

                                                                    1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                      Is there any area of this country whose food you don't know? I am amazed.

                                                                      I've had their chow-chow and apple butter--nothing like good Amish ingredients prepared simply.

                                                                      1. re: gaffk

                                                                        Not too Shabby for a McAdoo (Rt. #309) boy.
                                                                        Give me a couple of Yacco's Hot Dogs W/ a side of pierogies for breakfast!
                                                                        Or a pork sandwich at Reading Station!

                                                                        1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                          A Philly girl who just recently relocated to the 309 corridor. The RTM is still the best "low" chowhounding. Thick sliced scrapple with ketchup and scrambled eggs is still the perfect breakfast.

                                                                          1. re: gaffk

                                                                            Ethnic breakfast hangover cures:
                                                                            Lengua tacos! When we visit our daughter in Austin, every morning!
                                                                            Korean pork backbone soup.
                                                                            Herring on rye
                                                                            Caldo de Cardon, Bolivan Bull Penis Soup
                                                                            'Nam, Pho

                                                                            1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                              Pepper & egg sandwich with good strong coffee

                                                          2. My experience is that even when a hotel serves a variety of breakfasts, the local one tastes best.

                                                            I've had American breakfasts in Taiwanese and Thai hotels, and they just don't taste right. I'd bet on the same for a Chinese breakfast in an American hotel. I had a decent western-ish breakfast in Japan, but the hotel breakfast was in the coffee shop next door.

                                                            Actually, if a restaurant in general had Chinese, Thai, American, British, French, Japanese, Vietnamese and Russian food on the menu, I'd assume that none of them were done particularly well.

                                                            But I do enjoy the different breakfasts I've had around the world, partly because the only time I'm hungry for breakfast is when jetlagged.

                                                            - Kimchi, rice and soup in Korea.

                                                            - Rice mixed with soy and raw egg, miso soup, pickles and freshly grilled fish in Japan, with tea.

                                                            - Steamed buns, rice porridge with oil sticks, and pickles in Taiwan, with hot soy milk.

                                                            - Breakfast sandwiches in Taiwan.

                                                            - Curry in Thailand.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                                                              Fabulous multicultural breakfasts at 5-star hotels in Singapore, Bangkok and HK. Western and Asian, with pork products clearly labeled as sucy. Congee, dumplings, omelets, pastries, just stunning. Lots more. I am told this still is the case. American breakfasts in such settings don't "taste right" the way McDonald's burgers don't "taste right". Who knows if it's the ingredients or the cooks? But I can get those at home, either in my kitchen or at restaurants. It's the exotica that excites me.

                                                            2. New Mexico, the most popular breakfast may be the breakfast burrito, followed by huevos rancheros, menudo, breakfast enchiladas and eggs and chorizo sausage w/ flour tortillas and a side of refried beans.