Breakfast Beat

Breakfast Beat: Bianco Does a Hearty Breakfast

The interior of Roland's, coffee bar up front.
The interior of Roland's, coffee bar up front. 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: Roland's Cafe Market Bar
1505 East Van Buren Street; 602-441-4749

The Scene:
Chris Bianco and the Tacos Chiwas team, Nadia Holguin and Armando Hernandez, opened their new restaurant in the old Roland's Market building about a month ago. The building is a century old. You feel this powerfully but at the same time feel newness: sleek bar, high-end oven, polished kitchen.

The result is a space that feels like nowhere else in town. A space you want to be. And it is a space, open and lofty and almost more food hall than restaurant. The feeling of space is strongest in the early hours, when its mottled stone tables are only sparsely filled.

This is the time and place to meet spouses, siblings, colleagues, friends, and enemies. In the morning, Roland's is prime for conversation. The otherness and coolness of the space gives a speed to your thoughts and chatter, and so does the easy ambition of the food.

click to enlarge A breakfast plate featuring thin pork chops. - CHRIS MALLOY
A breakfast plate featuring thin pork chops.
Chris Malloy
The Goods: You won't find huevos rancheros in this tortilla emporium. Roland's has a unique menu, one that, as with the interior, seamlessly merges old and new.

Menu items range from savory to sweet: French toast and pastries (such as bear claws and cookies made from specialty flours) on the one end, and eggs, meats, and potatoes on the other.

The menu offers plenty of novelty. Breakfast sandwiches don't come torta-style, as one might expect from the Tacos Chiwas squad, but on fresh-baked focaccia. One eye-catching quesadilla isn't topped with carne asada or carnitas, but mortadella, the Italian cured pork ground until smooth and sliced thin, rounds flecked with blocks of fat. The cross-pollination of food traditions is restrained, unusual, beautiful.

click to enlarge CHRIS MALLOY
Chris Malloy
Hearty plates anchor the breakfast menu. These are savory, fork-and-knife meals with several components that, together, will fill you up solidly through the morning. One straightforward plate contains fried eggs, Niman Ranch pork chops, thin potato rounds, and a warm, fragrant tortilla.

Menudo is offered daily. It's a light version, one from which the cooks skim grease that rises to the surface. The product is a more buoyant menudo, one with plenty of sunken treasure in the form of tripe and hominy on the bottom. Lime cuts the heat nicely. This one doesn't get you bursting full. And it comes with salted flatbread rather than a tortilla.

The Bottom Line: Roland's has one of town's most intriguing breakfast menus. The number and variation of dishes is unique, just like the setting. This is a great place for any kind of breakfast.

click to enlarge A breakfast burrito from Roland's - CHRIS MALLOY
A breakfast burrito from Roland's
Chris Malloy
Special Something: The coffee and pastry bar is on the way in. If you're hungry and short on time, call ahead and grab your breakfast to-go. If you can't call ahead, that's cool, too. During the week, ready-to-eat breakfast burritos will be hanging out in this area, awaiting your arrival.
Hours: Breakfast is served until 11 a.m. daily.
Price: $$
Juice: Roland's will soon have freshly squeezed juices based on what's looking food from local providers.
Booze: You can only order beer and wine until a bartender gets in (8 a.m. weekdays, 10 a.m. weekends). Then, you can order from the full drink menu. Potable breakfast highlights include a michelada and a Bloody Maria, the latter blended from Bianco DiNapoli tomatoes and Cutino Sauce Co. hot sauce.
Coffee Options: ROC2 roasts from some of the best farms of the coffee-producing world, taking warm liquid shape as drip, espresso, cappuccino, and so on.

Our last five Breakfast Beat stories:
Phoenix Burrito House
Tom's Thumb Fresh Market
Luana's Coffee Yard
Tea and Toast
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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