Each week, we review a different breakfast spot in town, highlighting culinary offerings, brunchability, and the overall vibe as you sip your morning joe. Whether the restaurant in question is grab-and-go or stay-and-play, each offers a unique breakfast buzz that might be just what you need for the most important meal of the day.
The Spot: Tom's Thumb Fresh Market
9393 East Bell Road, Scottsdale
The Scene: Stopping at a gas station isn't pleasant. The main thing on your mind, other than gas, is how you can get out of there as fast as you can. You think vaguely of botched robberies, flammability, oil and the Middle East, and the scuzzy nature of where you are. Your typical gas station may have a lukewarm breakfast burrito and sad, sallow eggs. Not the best option for the day's most important meal.
Unless you're at Tom's Thumb, a place that subverts what a gas station is.
On a roomy lot with the McDowell Mountains in the distance, this clean, spacious gas station serves barbecue, baked goods, and breakfast. It plays rock 'n' roll, and not just radio-station classics, but fresher tunes like Bob Dylan's "Masters of War" and a live version of "Sympathy for the Devil."
An indoor dining area has ample seating. Outside, string lights hang above a tucked-away patio. They give you a lift in the morning, burning in the dusk and mountains, with the good tunes filling the sky.
The Goods: There's nothing like the smell of barbecue in the morning. Tom's Thumb incorporates meat smoked on the property into a variety of breakfast dishes, most notably a brisket hash and "pigs and grits."
Pigs and grits is probable the best breakfast dish on the Breakfast Beat so far. Eggs over-easy coat the top of a cast iron dish loaded with pulled pork and grits. The grits are creamy and nicely peppered. When egg leaks onto them and you get bites with long shreds pulled pork, especially pork with crisp flecks of bark, holy shit, man, the breakfast stars align. Luckily, this is one of many items on the menu all day.
Tom's Thumb has an onsite bakery that makes pastries from scratch. Blueberry muffins, morning glory muffins, and banana bread are decent. What you really want to get, though, is a cinnamon roll or two, tightly coiled and drowned in frosting. A cherry-almond coffee cake also looks promising.
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Generally, the sit-down breakfast menu is skewed toward savory options. There are a few options on the sweet side, like pancakes made from batter using a century-old sourdough starter.
The Bottom Line: This north Scottsdale gas station serves one of the most unexpectedly satisfying breakfasts in the Valley. The "pig and grits" has hacked, solved, and conquered morning feasting.
Special Something: This place takes care of the details. Water is free. On the side of its dispenser, you'll find sliced lemons. They have a cover (to prevent drying out) and rest in a tankard of cold water (to keep the slices chilled). This speaks to the lemon water, yes, but also to a general level of thought and care.
Hours: Monday to Thursday 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Coffee Options: Basic
Juice: Tom's Thumb is more of a coffee and iced tea kind of spot.