Battle of the Dishes

The Normal Diner vs. Essence Bakery: Clash of the Quiches

Like the holy trinity, the triple threat or the trifecta, all good things come in three. For the simple quiche, this rule holds true. When you mix together eggs, cream and cheese, nothing can go wrong. Here at Chow Bella, we fully support that breakfast for lunch life, and find that quiches are especially effective at allowing us to continue our breakfast food cravings right into midday.

Two local Tempe restaurants are only fueling our breakfast affliction with one serving up an all-American quiche and the other offering a classic French quiche Lorraine. Let the battle commence.

In This Corner: The Normal Diner

The Setting: Serves at The Normal Diner will actually tuck your receipt between the pages of an old Western paperback book at the end of your meal. It is little quirks like this that give this diner its retro feel. But it's the warm wait staff and the generous coffee refills, that give this place its welcoming, genuine feel. The diner is located inside the Graduate Hotel, just south of Arizona State University. A visit feels nostalgic, even for those born after the 1950s era the eating establishment evokes.

The Good: The ingredients in the Market Quiche at The Normal Diner changes daily, but on this particular day the egg filling was dressed up with bacon, cheddar cheese, green bell peppers and onions. Though most egg dishes usually feature a lighter, more airy texture, a good quiche has a dense, almost custardy filling. This quiche was exceptionally dense with very few air pockets, most likely because it was given enough time to set and was served at room temperature. Flavor wise, the savory bacon was a good pairing to the sweet sautéed peppers and onions. For brunch or lunch, the portion size will leave you feeling comfortably satisfied with enough room to try one of The Normal Diner's delicious hand pies, most definitely a la mode.

The Bad: The crust did not have that flaky, buttery element we would have liked. Instead it was thin and flat and just lacked body in comparison to the dense filling. We expected the cheddar cheese flavor to come through more than it did.

In This Corner: Essence Bakery

The Setting: Located about a mile north of The Normal Diner (with a newer location in Arcadia), Essence Bakery is a French bistro made popular by the classically French-trained Chef Eugenia Theodospoulos, who makes pastries with the power to transport diners back to days spent in Paris. The bakery's small, round tables are tightly packed, coaxing diners to lean in to hold their hushed conversations.

The Good: The Quiche Lorraine at Essence Bakery is filled with bacon, organic spinach, green onions and Gruyere cheese. Rather than being served as a slice of a larger quiche, Essence makes theirs individual sized rounds, which makes the proportion of crust to filling perfect. The crust itself is very good and flaky, as to be expected from a bakery. As for the filling, the flavor is light and has a pleasantly salty flavor from the Gruyere cheese. The texture is moist and light, but it does not cause the crust to become soggy. Much to our enjoyment, this quiche is served slightly warmed through, which allows for the flavors to be more pronounced.

The Bad: Beside the Gruyere cheese, the rest of the fillings failed to come through. Perhaps this is to be expected with French cuisine and its more delicate flavor profile, but we wouldn't complain if something with a bit more punch were added.

The Winner: While they may be known for waving the white flag, the French did not back down this time around. The quiche at Essence Bakery managed to snag the victory because of its equally delicious filling and crust. The Normal Diner's Market Quiche held its own filling wise, but its seemingly more premade crust could not be overlooked.

Follow Chow Bella on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Kristy Westgard
Contact: Kristy Westgard