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Breakfast and Chinese and Thai, Oh My! 

The Breakfast Club & Café has three menus, an odd atmosphere and delicious food

Roadside café meets modern diner meets Thai kitchen. Result? Interesting.

The Breakfast Club & Café is not your normal neighborhood diner. The quirky little eatery, located on Miracle Mile just off I-10, has sort of a split personality that comes together in interesting ways. Although not quite as distinguishable as say the two sides of Frank's/Francisco's, the Breakfast Club brings together several cuisines. And while we enjoyed the food from "both sides," the two visits can best be described by what was playing on the big screen TVs.

On one visit, the televised fare was the Food Network; on the second, Fox News was on the tube.

Unlike most diners that feature standards like big breakfasts and chicken fried steak, here there are three menus—one American, one Chinese and one Thai.

The American menu offers plenty of diner staples but with a nod to the offbeat with such items as a breakfast pizza ($9) and an Italian sausage burger ($8). Under the "Nibbler" section there's the Club Cage Onion Loaf ($8 for a full loaf; $5 for a half) and fried Asiago cheese ($6).

The Asian menus are small but also intriguing. Most of the entrées on both of them come with your choice of chicken, pork, tofu, beef or veggie (shrimp being $1 more).

We went basic at breakfast: a Belgian waffle ($6) and the house-made corned beef hash—and by that I mean the corned beef is made in house—with two eggs, hash brown potatoes and toast ($8).

You would've thought that our server was wearing roller skates by the way she moved swiftly and smoothly between the few tables that were occupied. But she had time to drop off a soufflé cup of the house chili sauce which she explained is meant more as a topping than anything else. It had a kick and would probably taste good on some eggs or a burger.

She also suggested that I should have her brush melted butter on my waffle as it added more flavor.

Often Belgian waffles are overblown bites of "fluff," more pleasing to the eye than to the palate. Not so here. Not that the waffle wasn't pretty with its crispy edges and golden tone, but there was more to it than that. There was a sweetness to the waffle, (enhanced by all the maple syrup I poured over it) but not so much that your teeth hurt. The crisp and sweet countered the fluffy-but-substantial inside, plus the melted butter that the server had brushed on was a great addition.

The other breakfast meal we had was the house-made corned beef hash with eggs and toast. The eggs were cooked perfectly and the potatoes were crispy and tasty, but it was the hash that stood out. Crispy on the outside and almost creamy on the inside, the seasonings were in perfect balance. Salt was at a minimum.

Don't be fooled by website photos, the two rooms have an industrial look—black ceilings, exposed pipes, air-brushed 1940s pin-up girls on the cinder block walls, a garage door leading to the beach-like patio out front—it works nicely at breakfast but turns kind of dark and ominous at dinner.

Our friendly and enthusiastic evening server tucked us into a table toward the back where he flipped on the light that hung over the table. I had a perfect view of Karl Rove on the tube. ("Ignore the man on the screen, Dorothy.") We were the only people in the place aside from the small staff and a man sitting at the counter who seemed to be management of some kind. It was a little uncomfortable.

As weird as all that was, dinner offered some great choices. We decided to order from the Thai menu.

We started with two appetizers: the spring rolls ($4) and the house specialty, the Chicken Bomb ($5).

The two spring rolls were huge rice paper rolls jammed with bean thread noodles, cilantro, carrots (maybe celery) and tiny squares of golden fried tofu. The rolls were crispy and cool but the tofu was still warm so every now and then there was a neat little rush of warm. The 'special sweet sauce' served on the side had red pepper flakes and crushed peanuts and added a nice kick to veggie based rolls.

The six wing pieces were so hot from the oven that we had to wait a second or two before digging in. As we did we could hear the crunch from well-fried skin. The wings had been bathed in a spicy sauce that stuck to the hot chicken. I had wings prepared in a similar manner at a more upscale, downtown spot a few days earlier and while the upscale wings were fab, these wings could give them a run for their money in texture and taste and most certainly would beat them in size and in price. Had I thought about it, I should've ordered them with the Belgian waffle at breakfast to create my own chicken and waffles.

We were given the choice of how hot and spicy we wanted our entrées prepared: mild, mild hot, hot and Thai spicy. The last Thai meal I had was prepared Thai hot and I spent the night tossing and turning so we went mild hot.

The server did place a carrier with items to kick up the heat: a dark brown oil with the finest circles of red and green Thai chiles; a kicked-up red chile sauce; dried red chiles and a full ration of chopped peanuts.

One entrée was the Thai cashew stir fry ($9). The portion was Goldilocks size. In other words, not too big, not to small; it was "just right." Bite-sized pieces of pork, pretty red and green peppers, onions and water chestnuts were tossed in a savory dark sauce that worked well with the crunchy vegetables.

The pad Thai with shrimp ($9 plus $1 for shrimp) weren't the best I've had but as the heat of the noodles cooked the egg (an essential ingredient to this dish) each bite got better. I added some peanuts and a bit of the dark sauce for good measure.

Apparently you can join the "club" part of the place and get all sorts of good deals and if you get there early enough—before 8 a.m.—there's a basic two-egg breakfast for $2.

I think I'll go back to the Breakfast Club and Café but probably for breakfast or lunch. I want to fuse those chicken wings with a nice Belgian waffle.

The Breakfast Club & Cafe

1423 W. Miracle Mile

882-4212;

breakfastclubaz.com

Open: Daily 6 a.m. – 8 p.m.

Pros: Plenty of the food is made in house

Minuses: Traffic exiting the freeway at a record clip can make it hard to get in and out

More by Rita Connelly

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