Downtown Phoenix

Breakfast Bitch in Downtown Phoenix: Frankly, Not That Bitchy

Bitch is brewing.
Bitch is brewing. R. L. Pela

click to enlarge Bitch is brewing. - R. L. PELA
Bitch is brewing.
R. L. Pela
“Come with me to Breakfast Bitch,” I texted my friend Carolyn. “We’ll eat eggs and get insulted by the waitstaff!”

But Carolyn had already eaten and had morning errands to run.

It was Carolyn who’d first told me about Breakfast Bitch, at Third and Portland Streets. She’d heard their gimmick was that the servers were surly and rude, and said snotty things to you if they didn’t like what you ordered. Or if they did.

I couldn’t wait to go.

As I drove up and down Portland looking for a parking spot, I guessed at how things might go. I imagined my waitress popping her gum and glaring at me. Maybe she’d point to my hair and say, “Melissa Manchester just called, she wants her wig back.” Probably she’d roll her eyes.

I deliberately started off on the wrong foot by entering the Breakfast Bitch patio through the exit and asking the first waitress I saw if I could just sit anywhere.

“Of course!” she replied with a big grin. “Anywhere at all, and I’ll be right with you.”

I sat in a wide patch of shade under a huge umbrella, and after a while, another waitress came by. She asked if I wanted coffee and placed a table tent in front of me. “This is our menu,” she explained, even though it wasn’t a menu at all, it was a flyer with a QR code printed on it. I was supposed to scan it with my iPhone and then look at the menu there, she explained. I figured this was such an incredibly stupid idea that it had to be a ploy to get me to argue with her.

“I already read the menu online before I left the house,” I replied in my poutiest voice. “I’ll have the Fruity Bitch. Because I am one.”

She laughed. “You’re so funny! Now, do you mean the Fruity Bitch cocktail or the Fruity Bitch fruit bowl?”

“It’s 8 o’clock in the morning!” I answered.

“I know, right?” she chirped, then laughed again. “I’ll be right back with your fruit bowl. By the way, I love your shirt!”

At the next table, a waiter chatted warmly with a pair of drag queens while he adjusted their umbrella to give them more shade. Afterward, he stopped at my table and asked if someone had taken my order.

“Yes. And I thought you guys were supposed to be mean and nasty. Where’s the mean nastiness?”

He shrugged.

“I could say something nasty. But this isn’t my station.” He raised an eyebrow. “Bitch.”

This was more like it.

Just then a different server arrived with a fruit bowl as big as my car. “Can I get you anything else?” she squeaked, smiling wide.

“Yes,” I replied. “Say something rude to me.”

Instead, she chuckled. “It’s much too early in the morning for that.”

I told her I’d read that the waitstaff here used profanity and insulted the customers. “You know, for entertainment. To be different.”

She thought about this for a moment. “Well, we do call customers bitches. But it’s more about the empowerment of the word ‘bitch’.” She smiled again and left.

The fruit bowl was delightful: raspberries, blueberries, pineapple, and two different kinds of melon, glazed with a strawberry coulee and sprinkled with toasted coconut.

I noticed my friend Michele sitting two tables away and got up to say hello.

“Is the staff abusing you?” I asked her.

She looked confused. “Why would they do that?”

I told her how I’d read an article that said the waitstaff was sassy and used a lot of swear words, which seemed like fun and was kind of their thing here.

Michele said she ate at Breakfast Bitch all the time, and no one ever swore at her or laughed at what she was wearing. She leaned in closer. “I did hear the owner was busted for wire fraud and identity theft,” she stage-whispered.

I said I’d read about that, too, but I was more interested in being told I looked fat in these jeans than in whether the owner was a crook. Instead, everyone here was so friendly.

Michele was working her way through a Feisty Bitch Quesadilla, which she called “a piece of cheesy heaven,” and an order of Bitch in a Blanket, which she said was chicken sausage dipped in pancake batter and deep-fried. She insisted I try one, and they were delicious and tasted exactly like what they were. Because I wanted nothing more than to eat the rest of them, which would have been rude, I excused myself and went back to my table.

A woman with aquamarine nail polish was waiting for me. She wore what looked like 8-inch-long false eyelashes and a button on her shirt that read “A bitch gotta eat.” Her weave was fierce.

“Hey, bitch,” she said. “I’m Victoria. How’s your breakfast?”

I told her it was great, and I was thinking about an order of those little sausage thingies, and then I asked if people came to Breakfast Bitch expecting to be insulted.

“Sometimes,” she answered. “But that’s not what we’re about. All the food is put together with good vibes, and if the customers want sass, we give them sass. But the thing around here is we’re all bitches, you, me, everybody. It’s about using a word to make us all closer to equal. You know what I mean?”

I told her I sort of did. But I was distracted by the people at the next table, who’d brought along their mastiff which kept barking at anyone who walked by. Based on the low-hangers on this pooch, he was no bitch.

Eventually, the people with the dog left without ordering, and Victoria watched them go. I wanted her to run after them, maybe call them motherfuckers and throw a table tent at their dog. Instead, she turned back to me and smiled.

“More coffee, bitch?”
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Robrt L. Pela has been a weekly contributor to Phoenix New Times since 1991, primarily as a cultural critic. His radio essays air on National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ's Morning Edition.
Contact: Robrt L. Pela