Breakfast Beat

Breakfast Beat: This Might Be the Best Breakfast Menu in Town

An Oaxacan tamale from the breakfast menu.
An Oaxacan tamale from the breakfast menu. Chris Malloy
click to enlarge An Oaxacan tamale from the breakfast menu. - CHRIS MALLOY
An Oaxacan tamale from the breakfast menu.
Chris Malloy
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: Otro Cafe
6035 North Seventh Street; 602-266-0831

The Scene:
Without a doubt, Otro Cafe has one of the best breakfasts in town. The interior of the restaurant is vibrant, buzzing and open, touched with warm design elements and color. On a Sunday morning, you might walk in to low-key live music. The morning vibe is a good one.

The food is good, too. Gallo Blanco regulars will notice an overlap with Doug Robson's restaurant in Garfield, the one he runs in addition to Otro. The overlap is apparent as soon as you see the menu design, the bottles of salsa verde, and the strong list of local purveyors.

click to enlarge Otro Cafe in uptown Phoenix has a good morning vibe. - JACOB TYLER DUNN
Otro Cafe in uptown Phoenix has a good morning vibe.
Jacob Tyler Dunn
This place feels refreshingly devoid of the 20th-century breakfast restaurant vibe. You know what I'm talking about – the particular feeling of pancake houses, of places that offer 12 omelets, of spots that use only one supplier who delivers everything in a single truck. Otro is more in tune with eating today, and in a way that doesn't feel smug at all. Service is good. Drinks are fresh. Food is thoughtful.

Otro even offers a brunch menu every day of the week.

click to enlarge A half salad order. - CHRIS MALLOY
A half salad order.
Chris Malloy
The Goods: A Mexican influence runs through breakfast dishes like a cool chile heat. There are two kinds of tamales: Oaxacan (in a banana leaf) and standard corn, the corn coming with two fried eggs. A frittata unites the foolproof combo of mushrooms, spinach, goat cheese, and caramelized onion, the slight south-of-the-border nod coming from pico de gallo. A BLT uses chewy telera bread.

Chilaquiles can be ordered red, green, or Christmas-style. The tortillas are baked and come in a lasagna-like stack that rises above the sauce (rather than swimming in it). Deeply browned discs of cooked cheese can be found in the stack. Light these up with some of that luscious salsa verde, or the roasty, hotter red salsa. Whatever your approach, this is a chilaquiles order that will make you happy.

Or you can pull the trigger on a full-on Mexican plate breakfast. Doing so will bring two eggs, chorizo, tortillas, chorizo, and beans to your table.

click to enlarge Muesli made from quinoa, faro, and oats - CHRIS MALLOY
Muesli made from quinoa, faro, and oats
Chris Malloy
There are hidden gems on this menu. One of them is, surprisingly, muesli that uses quinoa, faro, and oats for the base. Who would order such a seemingly bland dish with so many other options present? A gambler, and one about to cash in. The bowl's flavors are rich and wheaty, with a robust cereal-milk-like flavor coming through just sweetly enough. The quality of the muesli shows the menu's range.

The best way to attack this menu, given how many intriguing breakfast options there are, may be to order a few things and split them with your co-eaters. This is an uncommon approach to breakfast, one nicely suited to an uncommonly good breakfast restaurant.

The Bottom Line: Otro Cafe has one of the most thoughtful and satisfying breakfasts in town.
Special Something: Kids under 10 eat for free.
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday and Monday 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Price: $$
Juice: Forget juice. Get a seasonal aquafresca. They come in flavors like watermelon and pistachio. They push back against the heat outside and the heat of spicy food.
Booze: Bloody Mary is just the beginning.
Coffee Options: Hot, iced, French press. Otro uses Presta beans.

Our last five Breakfast Beat stories:
Grotto Cafe
Comedor Guadalajara
Chloe's Corner
The Canal Club
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Chris Malloy, former food editor and current food critic at Phoenix New Times, has written for various local and national outlets. He has scrubbed pots in a restaurant kitchen, earned graduate credit for a class about cheese, harvested garlic in Le Marche, and rolled pastas like cappellacci stuffed with chicken liver. He writes reviews but also narrative stories on the food world's margins.
Contact: Chris Malloy