READERS' PICK: The chefs at The Cup, located in the Hotel Congress, make a virtue out of simplicity, using fresh ingredients and combinations to whip up some lovely breakfast treats. Just about everyone who wanders into the place remarks on the heady smell of the roasted new potatoes, cooked in a bath of garlic and basil, that are the cafe's hallmark. Other highlights are the "eggs in hell," served with chorizo and fiery hot salsa; buckwheat hotcakes studded with fresh blueberries; and the "boom-boom," a hearty meal of potatoes and eggs served up on a toasted baguette. The Cup serves every meal of the day, including award-winning desserts (see page 54), and some of the best coffee in town, hot or iced. Just like the clientele it serves, The Cup has a little bit of everything: Mexican, Italian, Indian, French, Asian and American.
READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP: Coffee Etc., 2830 N. Campbell Ave.; 6091 N. Oracle Road (see Best Desserts, page 54; and Best Coffee page 75).
MORE MANIA: Epic Café, 745 N. Fourth Ave. It's hard to believe that such a tiny kitchen could produce such a cornucopia of savory soups, delectable sandwiches, cold pastas, desserts and salads, but Epic keeps the oven warm 'round the clock to replenish the variety of fresh-baked goods in its deli case. Morning, noon or night, you'll find something healthy and wonderful here. We love the slivered almonds in the albacore tuna salad, served with a sharp slice of cheddar on focaccia bread thick with rosemary. We're devoted to the cinnamon-spiced breakfast couscous, which regularly features either apricots and almonds, or cranberries and pecans. The bagels are fresh, and perfect with a side of juicy Roma tomatoes and a fluffy hummus spread. Don't even get us started on the triple-chocolate brownies dusted with powdered sugar; the layered torte or cheesecake of the day; and the irresistible (and vegan!) seed cookies (they also have THE BEST chocolate-chip and peanut butter cookies). The scones, in some dozen combinations from a simple lemon or vanilla almond to a supercharged chocolate espresso walnut, are...well, epic.