Morning Glorious

The Bread & Butter And Coffee Pot Cafés Are A Couple Of Good Eggs.

By Rebecca Cook

BREAKFAST IS BIG business. Sure, we like our chimichangas and our enchiladas and we absolutely cherish our host of four-star eateries. But when the urge to dine out takes hold, nothing tops the day's opening repast. Fortunately, we have a wide array of choices in Tucson for deciding where to indulge a craving for eggs over easy.

If you're having trouble finding a satisfactory breakfast locale, run through this quick checklist:

  • Is the parking lot mostly full? If there's a police car or two in the mix, all the better.

  • Is there a pervasive aroma of coffee and bacon, and at least one table of six or more regular customers (identifiable by their first-name-basis repartee with the waitresses)?

  • Is there a pie case?

  • Is there a wipe-clean specials board in sight?

  • Can you spot a waitress with a name tag introducing the wearer as Flo, Betty or Sal?

If you can answer "yes" to the majority of these questions, take a seat. You've found the breakfast equivalent of the Promised Land.

Chow Both the Bread & Butter and the Coffee Pot cafés passed our test with flying colors. If there's an emerging who's-who on the local breakfast scene, these two deserve a place on the register. Each manages to sustain the tradition of serving good, old-fashioned food at reasonable prices, and each specializes in fast and friendly service. Take your pick; you won't be disappointed.

The Bread & Butter Café, located in the El Grande Shopping Center at 22nd Street and Columbus Boulevard, is a gem of a joint. It operates at full-tilt boogie throughout most of its working day, which begins at 5 a.m. Monday through Saturday. If you've not yet enjoyed the cozy confines of the Bread & Butter, it's high time you mosey on by.

Novelty is not the point here. People prefer their food uncomplicated and tasty, and the Bread & Butter delivers on both counts.

Breakfast is basic: lots of eggs combined with bacon, ham, sausage and toast, French toast, pancakes (including baby cakes, bacon, blueberry, apple and banana) and a variety of omelets. Taunt the fates with their big, fluffy biscuits smothered in sausage gravy, or a large, gooey cinnamon roll. You'll also find down-home huevos rancheros, and a Mexican platter served with a wicked chorizo and scrambled egg mix. Daily specials are displayed on the requisite dry-erase board behind the counter. These offer tempting alternatives to the usual fare at bargain prices, and should not be overlooked.

While it's true you won't find anything audacious or surprising on the Bread & Butter's menu, the little things (like the use of fresh eggs) contribute to the overall impression of a delicious and pleasing experience. To be honest, there's nothing on this breakfast menu you couldn't make just as well at home. But isn't that the point? Home cooking without ever turning on your stove sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

Lunch is a hoot, especially if you like the notion of blue-plate specials and vast mountains of mashed potatoes capped with golden gravy.

You can opt for a burger or cold sandwich, but who in their right mind would turn down meatloaf, liver and onions, chicken-fried steak, pork chops or batter-fried cod? Each big dish is accompanied by smashed spuds, a steamed vegetable and a white roll. It's impossible to walk away hungry from a platter like that.

But the real story at the Bread & Butter is neither breakfast nor lunch: It's the pies, with a capital P. These generous wedges of pastry come in a dazzling array of daily specials, including chocolate cream, rhubarb, peach cobbler, blackberry, coconut cream and peanut butter cream. These are among the best money can buy: The crust is flaky and golden, the fillings top-notch, and the serving sizes suitably immense. If nothing else, you owe yourself the treat of stopping by some day just for a cup of coffee and a slice of this incredible pie. These are the kind of delicacies that used to snag the blue ribbons at state fairs.

THE COFFEE POT Café, located on North Swan Road near Speedway, has been around for most of the last two decades. Legions of fans have made the tiny café a regular morning destination. In fact, so many of the folks inside seem to know each other, it's easy to think you're the only stranger in the place. No need to worry, however: With only six booths and a handful of counter stools, the Coffee Pot is an intimate space, perfect for encouraging the kind of friendly intermingling that leads to rampant familiarity.

Like the Bread & Butter, there's nothing radical going on with the morning meal at the Coffee Pot. Nonetheless, it's refreshing to enter a place where the notion of nouvelle is completely nonexistent. Solid, home-style cooking is the order of the day, making any dish the café serves a satisfying indulgence. Egg dishes are featured prominently here, and in addition to their more familiar preparations, they can also be accompanied by a gravy-topped slice of chicken-fried steak, stuffed inside a breakfast burro, sandwiched, or scrambled masterfully with a garden variety of vegetables.

Pancakes, French toast, and biscuits and gravy show up here as well, along with a few burger and sandwich offerings for the lunchtime crowd. Daily specials are always featured (and rotated) on a board at the end of the counter.

The food at the Coffee Pot is roundly delicious, with nary a faltering step. Toasted slices of homemade bread (wheat or white) and home fries are both tasty additions to almost every platter. They elevate the fare far beyond the strictly commercial.

Regrettably, the Coffee Pot has not branched out into the fresh pastries or sweet breads.

So, keep the faith and make plans to enjoy a morning meal at either the Bread & Butter or the Coffee Pot cafés. It won't set you back much, and will assuredly get your day off to a grand start. And don't forget the pie! Good grief, what are you waiting for?

Bread & Butter Café. 4209 E. 22nd St. 327-0004. Open 5 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday. No liquor. Cash or checks. Menu items: $.95-$6.95.

The Coffee Pot Café. 1070 N. Swan Road. 881-9178. Open 6:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, 6:30 to 11:30 a.m. on Saturday. Closed Sundays. No liquor. Cash or checks. Menu items: $1.25-$5.95. TW

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