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Jan 4, 2010 09:42 AM

Going out for breakfast -- Never again!

I got dragged out to breakfast yesterday by my in-laws, and sometime between our arrival at the restaurant we originally intended to go to (which turned out to be closed) and getting served maybe an hour later at another restaurant, I remembered something I should have thought of earlier: I hate going out for breakfast.

It always takes longer than you think it will, especially on weekends.

The food is rarely worth it. Most breakfast menus don't include anything that I couldn't make better and faster at home. I like home fries when they're done well, but they usually aren't.

Portions seem to be particularly gigantic, and by the time I get my food I'm so hungry that I start wolfing it down, eat more than I really want, and feel logy for hours.

If you order coffee, they bring it to you long before the food arrives. I find it hard not to drink it, even though I know that drinking coffee on an empty stomach isn't good for either my stomach or my mood.

Most of the things on a breakfast menu are not foods I want to eat for breakfast. Not a big fan of pancakes, waffles, or anything sweet (except fruit) for breakfast. Don't like eggs any way except scrambled or in an omelet. Don't trust oatmeal in restaurants, because it's usually gloopy and overcooked (and if you ask "is your oatmeal gloopy and overcooked?" you usually don't get an honest answer).

My New Year's Resolution: Don't get suckered into going out for breakfast!

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  1. I agree with you. I know many people are "breakfast" people but I can't get enthused about typical breakfast foods. I especially don't understand waiting two hours to get into some of the popular brunch places, especially to get foods like eggs and waffles. Waste of time, in my opinion.

    2 Replies
    1. re: PegS

      Going out for breakfast is great IF it means getting something good that we don't do at home -- menudo, pozole, dim sum, fried chicken and waffles with real maple syrup, chicken fried steak with cream gravy, abelskivers with ligonberry preserves.

    2. Poor you :( Breakfast is our favorite meal to eat out! Different strokes. 100% of the time we split a meal which is the perfect amount. 99% of the time we don't get coffee as we've already had the obligatory one cup at home. I'm VERY specific when I order, i.e., well done toast or muffin, extra crispy potatoes, if scrambled eggs I'll say "soft" which usually turns out to be just about right. Like you I like none of the pancake, waffle, etc. And I've never understood ordering oatmeal when going out for something special. It's not on my long list of favorite foods. We're also usually at breakfast well before 9am so no wait. I hadn't thought about it til you posted, but I guess we've developed a recipe for success. Again, poor you.

      30 Replies
      1. re: c oliver

        Far be it for me to diminish your pleasure in going out for breakfast, but I don't see the point in going out for a meal like toast and eggs I can cook at home in less time than it takes to go to the restaurant (especially if I'm already in the kitchen making coffee). IMHO the only reason to go out for breakfast is for something special I wouldn't make at home: dim sum, chilaquiles, fancy brunch food, etc. But then, that's probably why I don't go out for breakfast/brunch very often (less than ten times a year).

        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          Going out to breakfast is almost always part of going out for other things. If I have only bacon in my house, I can get sausage or ham or ??? at the resto. I can get an English muffin rather my usual sourdough. And potatoes are something I never fix for breakfast. So that is "special" for me. As I mentioned below, I don't "do" brunch --- to me that's the biggest waste of my day. But I'd hate it if we all liked the same things. And imagine how long the lines would be then :)

          1. re: c oliver

            Around my parts....I can get two eggs. home fries, toast with jelly and coffee for $3 or less. Breakfast meat is an additional buck extra, if desired......and I don't have to wash the dishes, the fry pan, and I save on the cost of dish detergent, cost of gas and a trip to the market to purchase......sometimes it's a covenience.

            I prefer though, to make breakfast at home for myself on the weekends to avoid the crowds.

            1. re: fourunder

              I'm one of the minority who will never, ever clean my kitchen at night. So especially after a dinner party, the kitchen is destroyed and I just walk out the door and let someone else do the cooking. It will always be waiting for me (have YET to get the dogs or the cat trained to do anything, much less clean the kitchen).

              1. re: c oliver

                I'm guilty of the same when it comes to dinner parties.
                This is exactly why we need anthropomorphic robots.

              2. re: fourunder

                4Under -- Those prices are surreal! Where ever do you find a deal like that? At the senior center? At the workplace cafeteria? Around here, order a regular spread along with coffee and the bill is pushing $10.

                1. re: Sharuf

                  I see deals like that around Denver.

                  1. re: Sharuf


                    Actually, there are more than a few places that charge $1.99-2.49 for the plate, but will up the breakfast meat to $ it works out to be the same if you want meat. These type of places will give you 2-3 medium sized eggs for the egg portion...the standard egg size for all the luncheonettes. This deal is know as the Breakfast Special and is served from 6-11AM Monday-Friday.

                    I live in Northern New Jersey, home of the many small Greek owned luncheonettes/diners. A luncheonette around here is a small storefront with a counter that seats 12-15 people and a few booths or tables. The grill is behind the counter in full view, where the short order cook prepares almost everything and the counter waitress may or may not serve you.

                    In the larger diners, the price point would be more similar to the $10 you mention. On Sunday, when I go to the local driving range to practice, sometimes I have to wait for a stall to open up, so I will go to the diner in town. My standard
                    Ham & Cheese Omelet....$8.95
                    with sausage.........3.00
                    a toasted corn muffin......1.75
                    and coffee......1.75

                    is $15.75 +1.08 tax + 3.00 tip...a double saw buck.

                    With that said, arguably, the best quality breakfast to be had for $3.00 or less in Bergen County .... is a fresh baked croissant, hash brown potatoes, one scramble egg with two chicken sausage links or Swedish Pancakes with a hard boiled egg for $ IKEA. I have never been, but in the past, I had heard the same big breakfast was only $2. Maybe there was an increase for 2010. Now they are now serving a mini DIM SUM of sorts for the Vegetarian Folks......I will have to give it a try to see for myself.


                    1. re: fourunder

                      RE: IKEA link.......if you want dim sum you have to go to Singapore for the Dim Sum....Sorry I goofed.....but there is still the small and big breakfast available"

                      .99 for scrambles eggs, bacon and potatoes.


                    2. re: Sharuf

                      Central PA has prices like that.

                    3. re: fourunder

                      Haven't seen prices like that since the 1980's - I just ate in philly at one of the cheapest places, two pancakes, 1 sausage link and a hot tea was $ 5.25. And I thought that was a mega deal.

                      In LA a local chain that is running a 2+2+2 deal 2 eggs, 2 pancakes or slices of toast and 2 bacon or sausge for $2.99, coffee puts you back another $ 1.79 for $4.78 plus tax. And this place has lines out the door for this deal.

                      As another poster said surreal, I get excited if my bill is under $8.

                      1. re: RetiredChef


                        I think if I were to hit a breakfast stop in would have to be for Huevos Rancheros or a Breakfast Burrito. In Philly, I'm surprised the breakfast didn't come with a pretzel.

                        1. re: RetiredChef

                          Here in Toronto, if you're not eating at a hotel, many local greasy spoons offer a breakfast special of two eggs, bacon, ham, or sausage, home fries, toast, and coffee for $3.99-$4.99. Place right around the corner from me is $5.25, but that's for 3 eggs.

                          Don't understand the OP's aversion to breakfast out. For me, it's nice to have someone else do the cooking while I read the paper and enjoy my coffee. When the food arrives, it's piping hot, and has things I don't usually have at home - ham or sausage, and I rarely have leftover boiled spuds to make real home fries. I only have whole wheat bread at home; a loaf of rye would go moldy before I could finish it. But it's nice to order rye toast when I'm out. Dollar for dollar, I'd say I get the most enjoyment out of a good breakfast out.

                    4. re: Ruth Lafler

                      I sort of see your point here, and a lot of people seem to feel this way. But, it's not a position I can really appreciate. Thomas Keller still goes out to eat, doesn't he? Honestly, unless I'm going to a Michelin starred sort of place, or for food from a cuisine I'm not familiar with, chances are I can make everything on the menu myself, just about as well as they can.
                      Sure, some meals will take me half a day (or more) to make, so it's way easier to go out for those. But for me, that would be half a day well spent. Maybe it's because I'm not a morning person, but killing an hour in the morning on cooking and cleaning up from cooking just isn't enjoyable. I could have spent that hour sitting in a diner booth, reading the paper or in conversation with my wife.

                      1. re: danieljdwyer

                        Actually, I realized one day when I was tired and hungry and contemplating going out or ordering Chinese, that for everyday meals, it's more hassle to go out than to cook, so I rarely do unless I'm going out for a specific reason or for a cuisine I'm not comfortable cooking. I can have a hot meal on the table 20 minutes after I walk in the door, which is quicker than any restaurant or even pizza delivery.

                        But my thinking was that breakfast foods are easy and use basic foods that most people who do any kind of cooking have in the house -- no special equipment, no trips to the market involved. Toast? How much effort and clean-up is involved in making toast? Ditto on the scrambled eggs. Pancakes are a tiny bit more involved, but the ingredients are pretty basic. I can scramble eggs, eat them, clean out the pan and put the dishes in the dishwasher in less time that it takes to go to a restaurant, order, and get my food.

                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                          Fair enough. I think a lot of it just comes down to wanting to go out.
                          Also, I'd never order just toast and eggs at a diner. That's not even really an option in this neck of the woods, as eggs automatically come with home fries. Just eggs, toast, and home fries requires some prep: washing potatoes (or peeling if that's your thing), and cutting up potatoes and onions. Add in frying pans, and that leaves me with knife, cutting board, two frying pans, two plates to wash, and silverware (no dishwasher here). That's assuming my wife and I want to eat the same thing. Not too much work, but that would be a $10 meal at a regular diner, with two coffees and tip. If she wants pancakes instead, a little more prep time, a mixing bowl and a wisk to wash (I'll save a little time and do the eggs in the same pan as the pancakes), and the same $10. I actually probably want corned beef hash or an omelette, and maybe my wife wants bacon with her pancakes, so add in some more prep time, another cutting board and frying pan to wash, and bump the check up to $15. Or maybe she wants french toast instead of pancakes. Then I've got to go buy challah or something similar, and then we've got 2/3 of a loaf of challah leftover that neither of us wants. Now one of us wants potato pancakes, or maybe eggs benedict, or one of the other dozens of option on the menu instead, potentially further complicating things, and really, chances are I don't have the ingredients on hand.
                          So yes, I totally appreciate that if you just want scrambled eggs and toast, cooking at home is your best option. But a more complicated breakfast and I know I at least can't get it ready and clean up as fast as I can get to a diner, eat, and get home. But it's not really even about the ease. It's about wanting to go out, be served, have a whole menu to pick from, and yes, also the ease. And that totally requires really liking the foods involved. If that's not your thing, I wouldn't suggest it should be. But I love breakfast, and I love to eat out, and a diner breakfast is way, way cheaper than any other kind of dining out I can think of. For me, that makes it a real pleasure to do from time to time.

                          1. re: danieljdwyer

                            I think you're right that a lot of it has to do with wanting (or not wanting) to go out. For some reason, I just don't like to go to restaurants in the morning -- it feels like more effort than staying at home.

                            P.S. Day or two old challah makes excellent bread pudding. I make a savory bread pudding that takes about 10 minutes to put together and is the definition of comfort food.

                      2. re: Ruth Lafler

                        Do you have the same feeling about going out to dinner? In know you are a good cook. I KNOW IT. Do you only go to places that offer things you do not or cannot make at home?

                        1. re: Sal Vanilla

                          Actually, for the most part, yeah. I usually only go out for "ethnic" food (they make it better and cheaper than I can), or more high-end food that's a special occasion or a restaurant I specifically want to try. But if I'm just hungry, it's so much easier and cheaper to throw something together at home than to go out.

                      3. re: c oliver

                        Well, it wasn't a tragedy. :-) You're right that it would have been a lot better if we'd gone early, but we were wrangling two little girls and a household of people with a variety of sleep habits.

                        I was spending the weekend with my husband's family, and I had already used up my quota of anti-social introverted behavior for the weekend, so if I hadn't gone it would have been rude. I should probably just have eaten something when I got up, and then ordered something nominal at the restaurant.

                        1. re: jlafler

                          Ah yes. Children. A friend recently spent a couple of nights with us. The second morning the two teen girls didn't get up til something 1030 or 1100. I wound up MWing some leftover risotto. We were in SF so got to have great Chinese food for lunch to make up. And I SO know about the quota thing. I've used that with my MIL more than a time or two.

                          1. re: jlafler

                            Next time you'll know to make breakfast for everyone when you get up -- annoying, but not as annoying as dealing with the going-out-to-breakfast hassle, especially if you're prepared to do that from the start. At least you know you'll never have to cook breakfast for me -- I should have noted that another reason I don't go out for breakfast very often is that I rarely eat a cooked breakfast at all, even on the weekends. I'm perfectly happy with a carton of yogurt (or a pastry, when I'm being self-indulgent) to get me to lunch.

                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                              I think light breakfasts are in the Lafler DNA, as well as being a family custom.

                              1. re: jlafler

                                Hey -- you two Laflers must be related?

                                1. re: Sharuf

                                  Sisters. It's not a common name, so chances are any Lafler you see is a relative of ours!

                                  1. re: Sharuf

                                    I thought all the chowhound regulars knew we were sisters -- it's more obvious than the fact that susancinsf and janetofreno are not only sisters but twins!

                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                      it shows up in writing styles. have to admit for quite a while i didn't even see the difference in the two lafler names....shame shame shame

                                      1. re: KaimukiMan

                                        I guess I shouldn't be surprised by the writing style being distinctive, since we also have very similar voices, speech patterns, and inflections. We don't look all that much alike, but we're often told that we sound alike.

                            2. re: c oliver

                              I agree. I LOVE going out for breakfast and lingering over the newspaper. It really doesn't have to be costly either if you are careful. We have been getting the early bird special which runs $2.99 for each of us. It's a luxury that we enjoy on the weekends.

                            3. There's a good deal of truth in what you say. However, I'm always happy to go out for breakfast burritos or biscuits and gravy. Those may be my favorite breakfast foods and I know of places that know how to do them right.

                              1. Most of the things on a breakfast menu are not foods I want to eat for breakfast.

                                What exactly do you want to eat for breakfast?

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: fourunder

                                  At home I usually have fruit, toast, tea, and cottage cheese or sometimes a scrambled egg. If I have more time, sometimes I'll make rice pudding or oatmeal. This is not frugality or a diet, it's just what I prefer to eat in the morning. You can get this kind of thing in a restaurant, either by ordering a "diet plate" or a la carte, but it seems kind of silly.

                                  1. re: jlafler

                                    I don't think it is silly to get what you want for breakfast; if everyone else wants to go out and get what they want, why shouldn't you?

                                2. There are two kinds of breakfasts "out:"

                                  - a meal taken at a busy diner with superb food and fast service; the kind most people who eat out during the week enjoy, and

                                  - the brunch/weekend breakfast that involves schlepping the family to an upscale restaurant that serves brunch or a glorified diner where the waiting time for a table approaches two hours.

                                  The former is a delightful way to start one's day. I grew up in New York City, but there are diner denizens all over the country who delight in having breakfast served to them. During the week. I feel bad that the OP hasn't had the opportunity to enjoy a great meal in a diner that cooks fresh, attractive, relatively greaseless food.

                                  I know it's tough going somewhere for food you can make better and far cheaper at home. When I'm traveling and I get a really nasty breakfast, it angers me as much as you were angered by your recent breakfast out.

                                  The kind of breakfast you were subjected to: waiting lines, un-appealing brunch combinations, horribly-cooked food; it's what they serve up at all too many places these days, for much too much money.

                                  There's a restaurant in our area that became famous for its brunch many years ago. Every Sunday, the line's at least 10 deep for a table. The cost is $35 per person, if you're having a drink with brunch. Well, the last time I went (4 years ago) the poached eggs were hard, the "signature" red flannel hash had been incinerated, and even the toasted brioche was burnt. And they served this blackened mess to me. I was eating at the bar, and looked at the bartender and he looked at me and said "I know you want to send that back, but that's how *everyone's* entree looks." I didn't bother sending it back, and didn't eat it. Now you know why my last visit was years ago.

                                  Restaurant personnel, particularly in dinner-only places that open up on Sundays at 1:00 for brunch, *hate* to serve brunch. Their table $$ is low compared to dinner-time orders, so they make less money. And they're probably hung over from the night before (I know, not our problem -- theirs). There are all sorts of reasons why owners want to serve brunch, but I can assure you that staff isn't going to be okay with it, but will go along, begrudgingly, if given no alternative.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: shaogo

                                    That's interesting about the economics of serving brunch. Presumably the tips are lower at brunch because there's usually less (or no) alcohol adding to the tab. I knew a restaurant-owner here in the Bay Area who said that brunch was her big money-maker, but I guess that's the difference between the owner's bottom line and the staff.

                                    It's not that I've never had a good breakfast out, but it's probably where I've had the most disappointments.

                                    1. re: jlafler

                                      Re your last sentence, I think that's the definite potential. It's one of those meals where everything needs to come out at the same time, properly cooked and hot. It's not a job I've ever aspired to - breakfast cook.

                                      1. re: jlafler

                                        Perhaps the restaurateur you mention in the Bay Area sells a lot of high-profit (egg) dishes at brunch. Even when you give away a drink with brunch, it's worth it, because then the customer orders another more often than not.

                                        Servers make less on lower ticket prices, of course. But in a brunch situation, there are servers who're automatons whose customers go about eating in hushed tones; and there are servers who, without being intrusive, create a party atmosphere. Serving champagne or attractively-garnished drinks with a flourish often impels other tables to purchase the same things. Servers who fail to sell product suffer financially.

                                        I agree with you, jlafler. Breakfast is often screwed up by places that serve it every day and nearly always screwed up by brunch places that do it only once a week. Little wonder you've been so disappointed by your breakfast experiences in restaurants.

                                        1. re: jlafler

                                          for me, alcohol of some sort is the attraction of brunch...mimosa. kir royale,bloody mary, etc.