Matthew Lickona 11:49 p.m., Dec. 10
This Hillcrest staple is celebrating thirty years in business this year. Because of that, my expectation was that the food there would be a little dated, that the restaurant had operated on institutional credibility more than an ability to stay relevant. It's not like that isn't a valid strategy that appeals to a certain demographic, but I found the Crest Cafe has kept up with the times well.
Truth be told, there was a slightly retro vibe going on inside, but it was subdued and managed to tread the fine line between hip and kitschy. Also, despite the rainbow-clad restaurants appeal to the Hillcrest gay scene, the dining room had a pretty diverse crowd during breakfast. Basically, my expectations were all way off, which I liked. It's not that I found the scenario preferable to what I'd envisioned. I just like to be surprised within the confines of an industry that tends towards predictability.
The breakfast menu had a lot of interesting variations on classic breakfasts. I was tempted by power pancakes ($9.25) that had cottage cheese, blackberries, and almonds somehow worked into whole wheat pancakes. Likewise, the bacon pancakes topped with eggs ($9.25) appealed strongly to my penchant for artful use of bacon. In the end, I opted for an artichoke and ham strata ($9.95). The dish was really a savory bread pudding. Artichoke hearts and ham had been bound together with sourdough cubes and a light custard. The portion was reasonable and the mountain of fresh fruit that served as a side dish made things seem healthier. Often, we eat terrible breakfasts, as I just read in a Men's Health online article, and finding something a little more reserved than a massive stack of pancakes and sausage can really change the way we approach the day. I felt like the "strata" gave me a little indulgence and a little temperance at the same time.
Price was the main sticking point for the Crest Cafe's breakfast. Since all the items were pushing (or exceeding) the ten dollar margin, it would be difficult to make the place a regular breakfast spot. Still, it felt justifiable as an occasional step-up from typical coffee shop fare.
425 Robinson Avenue
Open daily 7AM-Midnight