Lenna F. Cooper wrote in a 1917 issue of Good Health magazine that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day, because it is the meal that gets the day started,” The first part of this statement caught on for the rest of the 20th C. and persists to this day. Ms. Cooper wrote for the self-proclaimed “oldest health magazine in the world” at the time edited by none other than Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, the co-inventor of flaked cereal. So the untested statement sold cereal.
Dietitians don’t universally agree about breakfast today, but I do contend that breakfast is one of MY favorite meals of the day regardless of the time. I hate to miss breakfast even when I probably should. As a resident of Midtown Memphis, I do my best to find the best breakfast and brunch options available in my neighborhood. Breakfast comes in all shapes and sizes, so I’ve tried to highlight some of the best options available.
Before I run down the list of my breakfast and brunch faves, I must pause for a moment of silence to commemorate a few closed breakfast hangouts. I miss weekend visits to Tart on Cooper Street when Chef Sleepy Johnson presided there. I savored a leisurely breakfast of Croque Madam or the Tartines du jour with a French pressed coffee and maybe a croissant. Johnson has moved on to open the Grub food truck which I’m anxious to try.
I’m still reeling from the recents losses of Danver’s and Donald’s Donuts on Union Avenue. Danver’s sold the best fluffy biscuits in Midtown and served a decent full breakfast before the family-owned business sold the property to the Cookout. The best biscuits in Midtown shall remain in blessed memory.
The Loeb family evicted Donald’s Donuts on Union Avenue around the first of the year – the only local and minority owned donut shop in Midtown. Danver’s and Donald’s served Community Coffee which makes the hurt even deeper.
But let’s move on and talk about what we have to be thankful for. Each of my favorites borders or falls within the Parkways of Midtown (North, East and South) and no further west than the Medical Center.
Best Light Breakfast
If you’re looking for a strong cup of coffee or espresso drink with a light breakfast, Otherlands Coffee Bar is the place for you. Enjoy toasted cinnamon bread, muffins, nut bread, or a Dave’s bagel. A toasted everything bagel with the cheddar olive cream cheese spread makes me smile in the morning. The hipster hangout also serves cold and hot cereals and other items you might enjoy for breakfast, including the Bagel Sandwich Thing, the egg and olive sandwich or one of many vegan soups. People watching with a canine companion on the back deck is recommended.
Best Baked Good Breakfast
If you like a sweet breakfast, Muddy’s Bake Shop and Coffee on Cooper at Vinton serves coffee and espresso drinks and fresh baked scones, muffins breads and cupcakes. They usually serve a few savory baked goods if sweet treats aren’t your thing. The patio is dog friendly, but go around back with your pup. Carry your dog through the place on your way to the patio and you’ll receive death glares from the staff.
Best Early Breakfast
Sunrise Memphis offers a variety of house prepared artisan meats and opens at
5 AM every day! (Sunrise changed their opening time to 6 AM). A hot breakfast from Sunrise makes an early start to work more tolerable. Their best big breakfasts, Tres Amigos Tacos, Bi Bim Breakfast and The Best Omelette stand out from the rest of the menu. Sunrise bakes square tasty biscuits but with pastry layers that crumble more easily than fluffy biscuits found elsewhere. Their biscuit sandwiches place among the best in town. The P Love with smoked bologna, fried egg and American cheese paired well against a similar bologna biscuit at Bryant’s (see earlier review). The Rooster with fried chicken thigh, pickle and Tabasco honey (add a fried egg for a mother and child reunion) will give you the strength to swear off the bigot chicken sold at Chik-Fil-A. Take advantage of the full bar for brunch on the weekend.
Best 24/7 Breakfast
Many of my closest friends shake their heads at my love for CK’s Coffee Shop. The local chain once claimed locations all over the city but their imprint on the map is much smaller after investors bought and sold off many of the restaurant locations. The remaining locations open 365 days a year (even holidays) and never close.
I come for the fluffy omelettes at CK’s. There’s something about their curved omelette pans that create a decadent soufflé-textured fold of eggs for ham, cheese, or ham and cheese. Their hash brown cakes come crisp from the griddle. Split an order of the corned beef hash with a friend. The friendly ladies behind the counter will be glad to welcome you to the Midtown CK’s at 1698 Poplar Avenue.
Best Quick Biscuit Sandwich
The doors of City Market In Cooper Young at Evelyn open at 6:30 AM on weekdays, but don’t arrive that early looking for a biscuit sandwich. The kitchen places biscuits with sausage, egg and cheese; sausage; egg and cheese; bacon, egg, and cheese; and fried chicken and cheese in a warm oven by the front door around 7 AM. Enjoy with a cup of Ugly Mug coffee. The kitchen brings out breakfast burritos after the biscuits are ready.
Best Full Breakfast
The Barksdale Restaurant at Cooper and Peabody offers a quintessential Southern breakfast experience.
Eggs to order, omelettes, pancakes, biscuits, gravy, bacon, sausage, city and country ham, grits, and hash browns. The price point is just right and the staff remember their customers even when they live as far away as Hong Kong (my brother and nephew). Opens at 7 AM.
Best Saturday Brunch
That few restaurants offer a Saturday brunch is simply baffling to me. With two days in a weekend, why should anyone have to wait until Sunday for an elegant brunch? The only option available in Midtown happens to be excellent. Ecco on Overton Park offers a great selection of cocktails and wines to wet your whistle. Try one of their delicate crepes, salmon dishes, the chorizo hash or seasonal frittatas for an Italian inspired brunch.
Thanks to the Loeb’s eviction of Donald’s Donuts on Union a Midtowner’s only choice for a full-fledged donut shop is Dunkin Donuts – hardly a best choice but great if you don’t mind patronizing a national corporate chain.
In addition to a full breakfast menu, Cafe Eclectic on McLean offers a variety of baked goods including a limited selection of donuts for those desiring to keep it local. But place your order to go. Slow table service earned them the name Cafe Neglected.
Best Sunday Brunch
The Beauty Shop in Cooper-Young offers the best comprehensive brunch in Midtown. Let us count the ways that Karen Carrier draws us in:
- Great cocktail and sparkling wine list
- The sesame pecan chicken & sambal honey biscuit (order as an appetizer and split with your sweetheart)
- A huge variety of Eggs Benedict, breakfast hashes, shrimp and grits, and other dishes that make choosing an entrée nearly impossible. My new favorite is the Israeli Breakfast: an herb omelet, israeli salad, ajvar, country bread, labna with fig preserves, tahini, feta, and olive oil