This week's topic: Matt's Big Breakfast.
Lauren: A few weeks ago, I was sharing a perfectly enjoyable breakfast at one of downtown's favorite spots, Matt's Big Breakfast, when I had a sort of epiphany. You see, I realized the thing about going out to eat breakfast -- even at the greatest eateries -- is that spending $10 on eggs and bacon and toast seems like a waste, when I could use that money for a more unique eating experience.
I can scramble eggs all day, every day -- and I always make them exactly the way I like, a little on the wet side. I can fry up a hearty serving of bacon. And I can definitely toast some bread. And when I cook all that goodness at home, I get to enjoy it in my comfy sleeping clothes, and I can sit cross-legged at the table and I don't even have to leave a tip. So why was I sitting at a tiny corner table maneuvering plates around cups around my dining companion's hands, when I could be at home sprawled out all over my kitchen table? Breakfast is supposed to be a cozy meal. The kind of meal you share with close family and friends around a kitchen table while you all chug down coffee and wipe the sleepies from your eyes.
Ando: Clearly, you're one of those accursed "morning people" who pop out of bed every morning ready to kick ass and take names. I congratulate you on your horrifying deviance.
I am not a morning person. I spend at least five minutes every morning sitting on the side of my bed trying to remember why I'm sitting on the side of my bed instead of sleeping in my bed. Sometimes, I decide it's actually the weekend and I pass out until noon -- sometimes I'm even right in doing so.
So as you can imagine, I'm not fantastically functional at 6 a.m. The scenario in which I can quickly cook a world-class breakfast for myself does not exist. If it's the morning, I desperately want someone else to do all those things for me. I want to pay someone to go find fantastic bread, fresh eggs, fresh vegetables, and delicious meat. I want that person to make me some perfect toast, some perfect over-easy eggs and some perfect pan-fried potatoes. For the price, it certainly seems like a reasonable trade of goods for services. Now if we were to talking about Denny's, I would have to agree with you. Waiting for generic greasy breakfast has always made me rage against the gods themselves.
Lauren: Yeah, speaking of waiting . . . I don't really care how good your hash browns are. I refuse to wait 30 minutes to sit at a tiny table in a tiny restaurant to eat a meal I could whip together in half that time at home. And in my pajamas, no less.
I'm looking at you, Matt's.
Is it quaint? Sure. Is the food delicious? Helllllllls yeah. And the last time I dropped by, I stopped in and was sat immediately. It was epic. Truly. But the bottom line is that nine times out of ten, I refuse to bake outside in the hot sun for any significant amount of time before enjoying my first meal of the day.
Ando: Look, the wait is the wait. If you go anywhere besides Denny's for breakfast, you're going to wait. If you're going to Matt's, you're going there because you don't just want to shovel some slop into your cake hole. You want to eat one of the best damn breakfasts anywhere, let alone the Valley. Granted, I admit that I'm a sucker for the ordinary-foods-prepared-extraordinarily school of cooking.
So here's the thing. I'm willing to pay a cook to make me a steak. I can grill a fine steak at home but I recognize that I'm limited to whatever meat Sprouts happens to have on sale that week. I'm willing to pay a chef, not just to cook a steak perfectly, but also to use their knowledge and connections to procure the best goddamn steak they can find and season it with sea salt from the left slope of Kilimanjaro and so on. I'm even willing to pay a premium for the service, perhaps two to three times the cost of an equivalent cut of the Safeway special.
I'm willing to do the same thing for Matt's because it's clear to me that they take as much care in selecting their ingredients as they do preparing them. Look at their "Hog & Chick." This meal is caveman-simple. Two eggs, thick cut bacon, and their usual sides. That bacon is going to be, basically, perfect bacon. It's going to hit your plate like a roofing tile but crunch in your mouth like only perfectly cooked bacon can. The bacon is going to be the perfect foil to the richness of the eggs that come with it.
For the record, you're an unwashed heathen for ordering scrambled eggs.
The point is that Matt is doing something I can do only if I plan for one breakfast a week ahead of time, scam every farmers market for the right ingredients and probably screw up because I crack an egg yolk or forget to pull the toast out at the right time. All told, including gas, I'm probably going to end up paying more to make my perfect breakfast than I would if I drove my ass down to Matt's and paid someone else to do all that for me.
Lauren: Ahh, yes, the perfect bacon. I do love that bacon. And I get that some people see Matt's an an eating "event," but to me, eggs and hash just doesn't translate into an epic memory. Maybe some incredible French toast or fancy eggs Benedict, but an omelet? No. The most memorable part about eating an omelet at Matt's is probably going to be how long you had to wait or how you pretty much ate it with the strangers sitting
on top of next to you.
I guess the problem is that if I wanted to assemble my "perfect breakfast," it would involve a lot more than finding good bacon and fresh eggs. If I wanted to wait and pay for a breakfast experience, I want it to be something I really couldn't in any way shape or form do at home. Something crazy! Something more complicated than toast. Because really, Ando? Over-toasting toast is a problem for you? Really?
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Ando: I mean Matt's isn't exactly doing rocket brain surgery in there: Good ingredients + perfect preparation + rational prices = Worth my time and money.
Here's the thing, though: I look at the price point and equivalent service here. Breakfast at Matt's will run you around $10. Sure, you have to shank someone to get seated, but the food is excellent and won't choke your wallet to death. If you'd gone to Denny's or, gods help you, Coco's, you'd probably be paying more and getting greasy crap at that.
The other point is that dining out is a luxury. By definition, that indicates some level of luxuriousness. If I am going to be eating breakfast outside the confines of my tiny apartment, it might as well be at a place like Matt's.