Breakfast Club

Two of the Valley's premier places for morning munching

I adore Japanese food, really I do, but I feel I'd be just as happy to never again see such a salty sunrise of fermented fish. Instead, I'm suddenly smitten with that most American of breakfast foods, biscuits and gravy. Four of Grandma's fluffy bread cubes are drenched in creamy thick glorious goo, spiked with bits of crumbled sausage that laps the edges of scrambled eggs, crisp bacon and cubed grilled potatoes. This is cozy, set among dozens of pictures of Grandma's family and customers, a baby-blue-topped counter, and white tile-topped tables adorned with ceramic figurines of toast, eggs and measuring cups. The only thing I need now for the perfect welcome home is a nap.

A few days later, my body rested and my appetite still raging, I trek over to Harlow's Café. Harlow's isn't new -- it's been around since 1976, and under the direction of the same family since 1980. I actually hadn't been inside the compact coffee shop on the edge of ASU in probably five years, a sad oversight. But as I'd stared at my sister's breakfast tee shirt when we sat on that tatami-mat floor in our Japanese restaurant, I found myself thinking back to the homemade muffins I'd enjoyed there once -- giant gems of blueberry, banana nut, or peach cream. I craved Harlow's chipped beef on toast, its French toast sprinkled with powdered sugar, its Belgian sandwich of three strips of bacon or sausage links and an egg on a pillowy Belgian waffle.

I pretty much decided I was willing to knock over old ladies and kick crippled children to get my guts stuffed with Harlow's old time steak and eggs, the 8-ounce New York strip paired with eggs, hand-cut hashed browns, biscuits, toast or muffin. I positively had to have a "Tom Mix" plate, loaded with corned beef hash and all the trimmings, or a glorious eggs Benedict bringing English muffins groaning with Canadian bacon, eggs poached to a runny yolk and Harlow's hollandaise recipe made tangy with lots of lemon.

Morning in America: Grandma's Kitchen makes it good to be home.
Jackie Mercandetti
Morning in America: Grandma's Kitchen makes it good to be home.

Details

Grandma's Kitchen

114 South Alma School, Mesa

Cinnamon roll: $2.25
Pancakes, eggs and sausage: $4.95
Green chile-bacon quiche$5.99
Biscuits and gravy, bacon, eggs and potatoes: $5.50

480-969-7219. Hours: Breakfast and lunch, Monday through Saturday, 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Harlow's Café

1021 West University, Tempe

Homemade muffin: $1.60
Eggs Enedict: $7.85
Huevos rancheros: $6.85
Eggs Maximillian

480-829-9444. Hours: Breakfast and lunch, daily, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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What pleasure to find that everything is as good as I remembered, served fresh and fast, with endless refills of strong java (I'm still dazed over finding out that when I managed to track down coffee at my Japanese breakfasts, it commanded $4.50 for a single tea cup). My companion, who's never been deprived of his morning omelet, is pleased as can be with his simple Spanish model, capped virtually naked in fresh salsa. Me, I'm gorging on the most un-Asian thing I can find: huevos rancheros swimming in thick green chile beef, puddled with soupy refried beans under lots of Cheddar, hash browns, and flour tortillas for scooping every last morsel. Yes, he's laughing at my ravenous feasting, reminding me that breakfast here, too, is an all-day affair, and I can order more food at another time.

I'll wait until Elisabeth returns home to sweep the rest of the menu, I tell him, but that's a lie. She'll be continuing her journey through Japan until the end of summer, and it takes me only a day to return for another monstrous morning meal of eggs Maximillian, a flour tortilla topped with hash browns, diced green chile, chopped onions, three whipped and pan-fried eggs, sour cream and salsa. I tell myself I'm saluting her as I work though a fried egg and ham sandwich, slathered with mayonnaise.

My mom is fretting about Elisabeth, wandering the big city streets of Tokyo all on her own. She's fine, I assure her. She'll be completely safe, in one of the friendliest countries in the world. As long as she doesn't wear that Champions shirt in front of any pancake-starved Americans like me.

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