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Aug 29, 2009 02:14 PM

The demise of american breakfast (and chicken fried steak.)

I just had an extremely lackluster breakfast at Ole's in Alameda. The place itself is great, you can't beat Alameda for the throwback. The sunnyside up eggs were overcooked on the bottom with runny whites on top. The hash browns looked good, but tasted overwhelmingly of coconut oil from the cheap shortening used on the griddle. The chicken fried steak was not even slightly crispy or crusty and sat on top of library paste, or gravy, it was hard to tell.

This sad state of affairs seems to have become the norm. I haven't had decent homefries in years and I gave up on ham with my eggs since Mel's on Fruitvale closed. Just an aside, but does anyone else miss Anne's Cafe?

Does anyone have a breakfast place, hopefully in the East Bay, that nails all of the elements of a simple american breakfast? At this point, I find Denny's to do a better job with hash browns than any of the specialized breakfast places.

A relate question regards chicken fried steak. Having grown up eating it and watching my mom make it, I realize that it's not really a cooking method that works in a restaurant. That said, does anyone have recent experience with a good restaurant version?

Thanks for the help and feel free to theorize on the reasons behind the death of good eggs/hash browns/homefries.

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    1. re: wolfe

      Amen, on missing Anne's - good food, BIG food and of course, Fran and the amazing atmosophere that she created there.

      1. You may have to travel to the amazing-looking breakfast joints on the "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives" episode.

        5 Replies
        1. re: Wiley

          Did he profile East Bay diners? I caught the episode when he went to Bubbas in San Anselmo, which does serve a good American diner style breakfast.

          I do like the food at 900 Grayson for breakfast.

          1. re: Shane Greenwood

            900 Grayson's breakfast is quite good, but I'm looking for more traditional diner/greasy spoon breakfast. I'm not even against frozen hash browns, as long as they're cooked right.

            1. re: calny

              Try Rudy Can't Fail Cafe in Emeryville. A bit of a neo-punk/post 80s vibe but the food is cleaned up greasy spoon but still in that vein. Nothing great and unusual but things are cooked right for the most part. They also serve (or use to) a CFS on a daily rotating menu, although I haven't had it.

              1. re: ML8000

                Rudy's is generally good, but their hash browns are a weird thick cake that is often not crisped up enough. It was on my breakfast list, but the hash browns knocked it off.

                1. re: calny

                  Hash browns in the Bay Area are for some reason something that not many places do right. Even places I like, like Tennessee Grill...the hash browns suck but I just never get them...but I only get breakfast on occasion. Any way, a lot of people like Rick and Ann's near the Claremont. I haven't been in a long, long time but it's a pleasant place...but it gets busy, long waits.

        2. I liked the CFS at Aunt Mary's, but it is not traditional. It was a real chunk of steak, not pounded to death, and cooked medium. Very tasty, definitely CFS, but possibly not what you crave.

          Aunt Mary's Cafe
          4307 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

          3 Replies
          1. re: lexdevil

            Tried a few bites of my wife's CFS at Aunt Mary's tonight and thought it wasn't bad. The meat could have been seasoned a tad more, but the batter was nice and crisp (not soggy), and the beer gravy was tasty.

            For dinner (Thurs-Sat) it's served with a side of mashed potatoes and mixed veggies. These were just OK.

            1. re: lexdevil

              When I tried Aunt Mary's CFS, it was made with a hanger or flat iron steak (memory fails me) and not pounded. . . definitely not traditional CFS

              1. re: Stephanie Wong

                Yes, I believe it was a flat iron steak. Not traditional, but decent nevertheless.

            2. I like chicken fried steak at Jim's Coffee Shop, around the corner from Ole's. Hasbrowns are frozen but usually crisp. They do a decent job for breakfasts, and there is still bit of small-town charm to the place, even though they do a brisk business and have a surprisingly large dining room.

              1 Reply
              1. re: chezchristine

                One of my girlfriends and her husband used to live down the road from Jim's and would eat there all the time -- breakfast, lunch, dinner. Their french dip sandwich was good.

                Jim's Coffee Shop
                2333 Lincoln Ave, Alameda, CA 94501

              2. I did not grow up on diner food, so forgive me if you've been and hate it, but I like St. Francis Fountain in the Mission in San Francisco.

                And this isn't going to help you, but I noticed when I visited Seattle that traditional American diner breakfasts seem to be thriving there in a way that they aren't here. Even somewhere like St. Francis, you'll see a lot of "California influenced" omelets or pancakes with fancy organic whole grains (all for over $10). There, you see $3 biscuits and gravy and the fanciest pancake is one with fruit jam on it instead of syrup. And the coffee is always good.