I've seen the future of breakfast in Phoenix, and it is called Scramble.
I say that not because the menu is so cutting-edge — it's heavy on classics like biscuits and gravy, pancakes, and steak and eggs. But honestly, if the selection here got a few tweaks and additions for a broader appeal, I could see Scramble becoming as ubiquitous as pre-recession Starbucks. The restaurant feels destined to become a chain, and the way I see it, that wouldn't be a bad thing. IHOP could use some competition.
Scramble opened in February, taking over the former Le Peep location at Seventh Street and Mountain View in north Phoenix. The space has been completely renovated to create a bright, contemporary atmosphere, which lends a sense of slick efficiency to the fast-casual setup.
9832 North Seventh Street
Hours: Daily, 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Eggs Benedict: $8
Mushroom and bacon omelet: $9
Chorizo and pepper brizza: $8
Breakfast burrito: $7
As soon as you're in the door, you can peruse an oversized menu along the wall while you wait in line to order at the counter. From there, fill up your coffee cup, grab some silverware, and find a table in the dining room or out on the patio. You'll get an order number to display, and someone will deliver your food when it's ready. For the most part, service is prompt, and employees are in the habit of stopping back to check on you.
Scramble's a fine place to refuel when you just need a quick pit stop, but it's also a pleasant enough place to hang out, decorated in upbeat green, orange, and white, with pale bamboo flooring, shiny aluminum chairs, and several flat-screen TVs. Toward the back of the room, you can get a view right into the kitchen from a banquette along the opposite wall. And there's often a pile of newspapers next to the cashier, in case you didn't bring your own.
As for the food, it's all breakfast, all the time, with a few sandwiches and salads added after 11 a.m. Before the restaurant opened, chef Germann Sega came on board here, making the leap from fine-dining kitchens at places like Luc's and Sea Saw. But he didn't write this menu; it was created by Jeff Hulscher, executive chef of Half Moon Sports Grill (partly a sister restaurant to Scramble).
Santa Fe eggs Benedict is one of the highlights, a zesty alternative to the traditional version (although they serve that, too). Instead of English muffins, they use thick slices of jalapeño corn bread as the foundation. Mine arrived at the table piping hot, topped with delicate poached eggs, blackened ham, and velvety chipotle Hollandaise sauce that had some real kick.
"French French Toast" was another tasty choice — hefty cuts of baguette dipped in vanilla custard and sizzled until lightly golden, with a dose of maple syrup. On the side, there was a blob of sweet, cinnamon-tinged "Scramble butter."
Fresh cinnamon rolls slathered in vanilla icing also appealed to my sweet tooth, while generous three-egg omelets provided a welcome protein fix. My mushroom and bacon omelet was well prepared, accented with thyme and gooey Jack cheese.
Fluffy buttermilk pancakes hit the spot, although the multigrain version seemed kind of chewy. Jazzed up with one of five different add-ons, like caramelized banana or peanut butter chip, the texture played second fiddle to the flavor, although I wouldn't crave them plain. Another decent option was pigs in a blanket, with pancakes wrapped around plump links of sausage.
Brizzas — that is, breakfast pizzas — are Scramble's signature dish, clearly created with a monster appetite in mind. Two people could share one of these and still not be able to finish it — they're that big. But believe me, I tried my best to polish one off. The crust was sort of a plain, crusty flatbread (not very pizza-like, actually) supporting a thick layer of omelet. My chorizo and pepper version was topped with a spiral of jalapeño cream cheese, which added some welcome spice but made the dish far too rich.
I felt the same way about the Southwest breakfast burrito, loaded with so much melted cheddar cheese and jalapeño cream cheese that I had a hard time tasting the egg, avocado, and chorizo that were supposedly buried in the creamy contents. It was overkill.
That's my main criticism of Scramble — it's over the top even though you may just want something simple. Plain butter would've served me just fine with peanut butter chip pancakes. Simple hash browns also would've been a nice accompaniment to some of the decadent dishes, yet Scramble only serves them with cheddar and bacon mixed in. (They were flavorful, but I could imagine not always being in the mood for them.) And somebody in the kitchen is having a field day with that jalapeño cream cheese.
How about some more light options? Scramble's Web site features a photo of a good-looking, skinny girl dressed in white yoga pants — and I guarantee there's no way she'd look like that for long if she came here regularly, unless she limited herself to the glass of orange juice she's holding.
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Sure, Scramble had yogurt, oatmeal, cottage cheese, and even a berry-and-granola breakfast parfait, but little in the way of savory stuff that wasn't laden with bacon, sausage, or ham. For "healthy choice" menu items, they only had a veggie omelet and a garlic, spinach, thyme and mushroom brizza. I appreciate a gut-busting breakfast, but I have to be in the mood for it.
And surprisingly, they didn't have any special scrambled egg dishes. You could get plain scrambled eggs with toast and a side dish (juicy turkey sausage patties were excellent), but that was it — nothing with add-ins like peppers or cheese. I'd love to see Scramble really live up to its name in that way.
For this neighborhood, Scramble is definitely a welcome new spot for an all-American breakfast. And if you don't happen to live nearby, well, don't worry.
I'm betting that Scramble will soon come to you.