Breakfast Spots With Local Flavor

From Texas to Maryland, these weekend breakfasts let you know exactly where you
are in the South.
Dana Adkins Campbell

Finally, you've nabbed an out-of-town Saturday morning to yourself, a weekend escape from laundry, yard work, and soccer games. Today, there will be breakfast, a real breakfast, a slow breakfast. Someone else will cook it for you, serve it, keep your coffee cup full, and do the dishes. It needn't be too fancy or expensive, but it should be special--as these casual picks across the South are.

Each offers more than the usual bacon, eggs, and pancakes, giving a real sense of place on the plate. In San Antonio, it's Mexican fare. In South Carolina's Lowcountry, it's shrimp and grits. On Maryland's Chesapeake Bay, crabmeat omelets welcome you to the waterfront. And whether it's your first or 15th trip to the French Quarter in New Orleans, you should linger over its original beignets and café au lait. So pack your bags, sleepyhead, and lazily greet the day all over the South with local morning flavor.

Angler's Restaurant & Marina
Grasonville, Maryland
The sprawling Chesapeake Bay Bridge eases you far from D.C. or Baltimore to quiet Eastern Shore small towns. If you're bound for popular St. Michael's or Easton, stop on the way for breakfast at Angler's, just a few miles after the bridge. (No rush--they dish up the morning menu till 11:30.) Sunshine, glimpses of the water, and hungry folks fill an unpretentious dining room.

To my relief, waitress Dawn Pierce poured coffee as soon as I sat down and kept it coming. A few news pages later, a crab omelet--tall, puffy, and perfect--appeared before me, delivering nuggets of luscious crabmeat throughout. There were choices to make: type of cheese; white, wheat, or rye toast; and yes or no on the cocktail sauce. That last item seemed odd until I tried it--a spry kick to the otherwise gentle dish. Home fries were potatoes and onions cooked until soft and nearly sweet. I left a mess of butter, jelly, and creamer packets, but my plate was clean. And hunger didn't surface again until sundown. Exit 41 off State 50, south side of Kent Narrows Bridge; (410) 827-6717. Crab-cheese omelet plate: $8.70.

Note: This article has been updated on October 31, 2005. At this time, we are unable to reach this business (or homeowner) after Hurricane Katrina. Please contact us if you have any information regarding its status.

Café Du Monde
New Orleans, Louisiana
Yes, it's touristy and predictable, but it's still good. I love that it began in 1862 and is still here. For me, their new locations lack the history and magic of the French Quarter spot, a quintessential Big Easy landmark. It's open 24 hours daily, and you'll be amused here by street musicians and entertainers. Less than $3 gets you a comforting mug of rich, steamy café au lait (half milk, half coffee) and a trio of hot, light, fried rectangular doughnuts buried in pristine powdered sugar. 800 Decatur Street; (504) 525-4544. Beignets and café au lait: $2.75.

Note: If you prefer adventure, head out of the Quarter to Elizabeth's. Get directions; it's off the tourist path. Go for the huge Loula May Breakfast Po boy: crusty, chewy French bread cradling andouille sausage, scrambled eggs, and cheese--all dressed with lettuce, tomato, and mayo. If you don't polish it off, young, spunky Elizabeth will chastise you with a smile. 601 Gallier Street; (504) 944-9272. Loula May Breakfast Po boy: $4. Closed Sunday and Monday.

Paloma Blanca
San Antonio, Texas
While many restaurants on the River Walk beckon, this true Mexican spot in Alamo Heights rewards the detour. We first recommended it as a lunch or dinner spot, but on Saturday mornings only, they serve a worthy breakfast from 8 to 11 a.m. Don't let the mundane shopping center location dissuade you; it's colorful and cozy inside. Here, scrambled eggs come with satiating combos of fried corn tortilla strips, fresh tomatoes and peppers, salsa, cheese, and dried beef. Oatmeal gets a lift from vanilla and cinnamon and a side of grilled toast. 5148 Broadway in Stewart Center; (210) 822-6151. Breakfast plates: $3.25-$5.25.

Ken's Barbecue
Birmingham, Alabama
No, we won't have you gnawing on ribs and coleslaw at the crack of dawn. But beginning at 6 a.m., you can get nicely charred, fat smoked sausage with your eggs. Not those teensy-weensy breakfast links, but something ample that has obviously visited the pit. You can also get big hunks of pork tenderloin alongside your eggs. (While I enjoyed the meat's flavor, the morning I visited it was chewier than I'd have liked.) I adore the biscuits here and absorbed two puffy clouds of them before I even realized it.

Pickup trucks, SUVs, and a few boring sedans fill the parking lot outside this joint, about 15 minutes north of I-20. Fluorescent lights, a big Coke machine, and paneling with wildlife scenes set the dining room's decor, and a waitress is likely to call you "honey." Enjoy it. 4817 Pinson Valley Parkway (State 79); (205) 853-6488. Smoked sausage-and-egg plate: $4.

Sea Biscuit Cafe
Isle of Palms, South Carolina
This beach town on the Atlantic sits a quick 20 minutes from downtown Charleston. And as we Southerners know, summer weather usually hangs on here for most of September. Trade your slippers for flip-flops, and join the yawning-and-stretching crowd at this snug yellow house with a screened dining porch. Go for Lowcountry shrimp and gravy with grits, eggs, and a biscuit. This isn't thick, goopy gravy, but rather a rich veneer of reddish-brown sauce with a nudging fiery finish, tamed by the plump shrimp and creamy grits. Biscuits come soft, large, and cakey, having begun their trek from flour bin to plate long before the sun came up--while you were still sweetly dreaming. 21 J. C. Long Blvd.; (843) 886-4079. Shrimp-and-gravy plate: $8. Closed Monday.

This article is from the September 2002 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.