The South's Best Breakfast Spots
Big Bad Breakfast
College students can scarf down food, and around Ole Miss, they know the a.m. place to be is Big Bad Breakfast (BBB). Many order the Breakfast “Crumble”—a crushed buttermilk biscuit with poached eggs, bacon, and grits, all smothered in tomato gravy. They also go for BBB’s popular sizzling egg skillets with names like Low Country (with peppers, andouille, onions, tomatoes, and Cheddar) and Yard Work (with veggies, sweet potato hash, and cheeses). The Big Bad Breakfast Plate (their best seller) gives you a nice sampling of it all: a choice of house-made meats (such as Tabasco Brown Sugar Bacon or patty sausage); two eggs; and your pick of grits, home fries, or a sweet potato hash—along with a biscuit or toast to sop it all up. Founder and owner John Currence is originally from New Orleans, and diners can taste that Mardi Gras passion in signature dishes like the Pain Perdue, a brandy-spiked French toast topped with powdered sugar, whipped cream, and seasonal berries.
BJ’s Market Café
North Little Rock, AR
It must be the spirit of the Arkansas Razorback—that beloved University of Arkansas mascot—that makes locals here think every breakfast is better with the addition of ham or sausage. For 12 years, BJ’s Market Café (just off I-40) has been the place where hungry workers go to dig into plates of salt meat (old-timey salt belly, fried like bacon), eggs cooked any way, biscuits heaped with gravy, fried pork chops, chicken-fried steaks, Texas rib-eye steaks, crispy hash browns, and perhaps a filling stack of pancakes—BJ’s own special recipe—or French toast. A good bet for starving diners is the Big Boy, which includes two eggs cooked your way, two buttermilk pancakes, and your choice of hickory-smoked bacon or pork sausage patties. After breakfast, stroll next door to BJ’s year-round produce market to see what is in season this month.
New Orleans, LA
For 72 years, Brennan’s has been the place for breakfast any time of day. Bananas Foster and Eggs Hussarde owe their beginnings to this restaurant. The great-grandfather of artist Edgar Degas constructed the building in 1795. Now, five years into ownership by Ralph Brennan and Terry White as well as under the culinary direction of James Beard Award nominee Slade Rushing, things are changing. An $18 million restoration opened windows onto Royal Street to create new vistas. While bowing to tradition, the menu also has a contemporary leaning. The Eggs Sardou now flaunts crispy artichokes with rich Parmesan creamed spinach and flavorful Choron sauce with hints of tomato. Ham is sourced from a small farm. Chef Rushing has introduced Spanish, Vietnamese, and Italian influences, but if you’re an old-school fan of Brennan’s, the Caribbean Milk Punch and the Cajun Bloody Mary await you just as before. So do the grapefruit brûlée and the Seafood Filé Gumbo, breakfast style. And it’s never too early for the tableside Foster flambé of bananas, brown sugar, cinnamon, and rum
Brick & Spoon
Orange Beach, AL
“Breakfast before beach”—that’s our rule, especially when the offerings at Brick & Spoon include a Killer Creole Omelet combining Gulf shrimp, tasso (Cajun cured ham), Cheddar-Jack cheese, sautéed red and green peppers, and a hollandaise made in-house. If you want something sweet, it’s hard to beat the Bananas Foster French Toast with a rich caramelized banana sauce, pecan pieces, whipped cream, and powdered sugar. Before heading for the beach, be sure to hit the Build Your Own Bloody Mary station, where you can choose from 12 vodkas enhanced by any combination of 17 veggies, 7 herbs and seasonings, and 9 meats and cheeses.
Bright Morning Inn
Breakfast at the rustic, cozy Bright Morning Inn might be your only indoor activity in Davis. This region is known for hiking in nearby Blackwater Falls State Park, foraging for mushrooms, fishing in the Monongahela National Forest, birding, and exploring Smoke Hole or Seneca Caverns. So fortify yourself with a three-pancake stack, Huevos Rancheros (spicy with tomato sauce, fried eggs, and cheese), or a Lumberjack omelet (pepper Jack cheese, sausage, mushrooms, and onion under salsa and sour cream). On the weekends, order an ABC: Apples, Bacon, and Cheese omelet or the Banana Dream French Toast (just picture a sublime meeting of potato bread with cinnamon batter, a touch of banana liqueur, and oats). There’s always the Bright Morning Platter, the inn’s best seller, with two eggs your way and three pancakes, plus bacon or sausage. While some fellow diners will be staying at the inn, the doors open bright and early to any hungry breakfast seeker.
Virginia Beach, VA
Doc Taylor’s, named for the real physician who once lived and practiced in this 1940s house just a block away from the beach, has some fun carrying the medical theme through many of its menu items. For example, Dr. White’s Virginian Omelet features the state’s famous country ham. The Doc Taylor brings together a fried egg, bacon, grilled Parmesan tomatoes, and cheese on an onion roll, and it’s served with grilled potatoes. Dr. Diane’s Healthy Fix serves up two organic eggs, a couple of granola pancakes, and a side of fruit. (All of those “doctor” plates are also under $10.) Revisit a time when we didn’t think about medical opinions as we made our menu selections, and order Grandma Ellen’s Creamed Chipped Beef. That brings us to The Flatliner: two eggs scrambled with sausage, tomatoes, green peppers, onions, hash browns, and hot sauce. (Don’t think too much about it; just eat.) One last item might be just what the doctor ordered (if he’s feeling flush with cash): The Cadillac comes with a bottle of iced Dom Pérignon and two Beach Bums (a pair of eggs, toast, and bacon). The price for this swank meal is a cool $199.
The name of this place is basically what people have been saying with gratitude ever since the restaurant—which originally opened in 1925 but closed in 2005—recently reappeared in Tampa’s Hyde Park Village. Goody, too, that it’s now under the umbrella of the Columbia Restaurant Group and fourth-generation co-owner and president Richard Gonzmart. The breakfast menu features Cuban Toast from La Segunda Bakery (founded in 1915) and coffee beans from Naviera Coffee Mills (established in 1921). Everyone here eats a slice of pie for breakfast, because that’s what Goody Goody fans have always done. The sweet potato, banana, and buttermilk pancakes are made 12 inches wide since Gonzmart doesn’t like them stack style. This restaurant is burger minded at lunch and dinner, but you can start early with the Goody Goody Slinger, a two-patty creation layered with a pair of over-easy eggs, Cheddar, home fries, and jalapeños. Or opt for The Hangover, a biscuit stuffed with sausage gravy, home fries, Cheddar, green onions, and eggs.
Juan in a Million
Like your breakfast with a side of competition? The Don Juan El Taco Grande isn’t just a menu item—it’s a challenge. To win, you’ll have to eat just one more of these potato, egg, bacon, and cheese tacos than the standing champion. At this writing, you’re aiming for 10. (Caution: Contenders report that one Don Juan El Taco Grande can feed a family of four.) Another ritual is shaking owner Juan Meza’s hand—he has been greeting customers that way for 38 years. Mostly, you want to come to this cozy legend for the Con Queso Breakfast (two eggs, queso, potatoes, refried beans, and meat slowly cooked with gravy) or the Chorizo Con Huevo (a pair of eggs scrambled with chorizo, plus refried beans, potatoes, and two flour tortillas). Order migas to enjoy scrambled eggs with tomatoes, onions, tortilla chips, and the ever-present refried beans. Or get the Rib Steak Breakfast if you have a Texas-size appetite. Juan and his wife, Myrna, will no doubt be on hand when you go; so will Juan Jr. and a gaggle of Meza grandchildren. It’s an East Austin tradition.
Keeneland Track Kitchen
The good news at Keeneland Track Kitchen is that you can eat far more than the jockeys (who dine here too). The fare is Southern and rib sticking—grits, cinnamon apples, biscuits with white gravy, breakfast burritos, juices, and oatmeal—along with eggs, bacon, and sausage. The idea is to show up early—the kitchen is open from 5 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.—and stroll the stable area, watch horses get their morning baths, and be part of the everyday routine. At breakfast, you can sit before the wide windows framing the horses, trainers, and jockeys as they prepare for upcoming races. If you’re a planner, be sure to mark your calendar: The 2019 Spring Meet is an annual April affair held from the first Friday through the last Friday of the month (featuring 8 to 11 races per day). Click on the “Racing” tab at keeneland.com to buy tickets ($10 for reserved seats Sunday through Friday, $20 for reserved seats on Saturday, and $5 for general admission). Sign up for a walking tour of the grounds too.
Eating food that's organic and made from scratch makes you feel noble. At Living Kitchen, where there’s not a fryer to be found, you feel satisfied in that “I ate just the right thing” kind of way. The inventive plant-based cuisine features vibrant flavors like the You’re Kale’in Me smoothie, which blends spinach, cucumber, pineapple, cilantro, and kale lemonade. The creamy Incan Warrior smoothie starts with house-made hemp milk and has banana, maca, and cinnamon. Try the Biblical Breakfast: artisanal bread with peanut, almond, and coconut butter, topped off with fig preserves, maple syrup, and fruit. A take on tapioca, the Vanilla Chia Bowl has chia seeds soaked in cashew milk, laced with vanilla bean and orange zest, and garnished with seasonal fruit. The Living Bagel is baked with almonds, flax, zucchini, and rosemary and finished with cashew sour cream, tomato, onion, avocado, micro cilantro, and sprouts. Stop by Living Kitchen locations in Charlotte’s SouthPark and South End and also in Raleigh.
Miss Shirley’s Cafe
You expect—and you get—crab in Maryland. The Soft Shell Crab & Succotash Eggs Benedict fills up your plate with cornmeal-encrusted crab, Chesapeake chicken sausage, black-eyed pea succotash, and poached eggs on a jumbo English muffin, served with bacon-onion jam, chowchow, and comeback sauce made with mayo and chili sauce. The Crab Cake & Fried Green Tomato Eggs Benedict tastes just as Southern as it sounds. You also don’t want to miss the Benne Seed Chicken ’N Waffles—Cheddar-and-green onion waffles topped with fried boneless chicken pieces and served with honey mustard aïoli and Peppadew-jalapeño butter. Your sweet tooth will swoon over the Coconut Cream Stuffed French Toast with diced strawberries and bananas. All three of the locations—two in Baltimore (near the Inner Harbor and in the Roland Park neighborhood) and one in Annapolis—serve breakfast throughout the afternoon.
New York has arrived in Music City. At Proper Bagel, with its black-and-white subway tile, geography is a technicality every single bagel-making step is done by the book, as though you were in a bustling borough. Don’t miss the Avocado & Egg sandwich—avocado, arugula, egg, cream cheese (plain), and house-made tomato jam on a bialy (a slightly lighter bagel cousin from the Polish side of the family). Another must-try menu item is the Rosemary Garlic Cream Cheese & Egg sandwich with applewood bacon, egg, and roasted garlic-and-rosemary cream cheese served on a boiled bagel. Or you can design your own. Cream cheese options, usually up to 14 that change seasonally, can include scallion-dill, fresh veggie, cookie dough, lavender-honey, Nutella-peanut butter, walnut-raisin, bacon-jalapeño, birthday cake, strawberry shortcake, and so on. Ooh la la to the salmon that is flown in from Acme Smoked Fish in Brooklyn and to the cinnamon and-honey latte, which says fall with every sip. According to the map, this bagel shop is located in the Belmont/Hillsboro area, but it sure tastes like New York.
Seasons at the Four Seasons Hotel
Georgetown, Washington, D.C.
If you can, sit facing the door to see a who’s who of politics stopping by for their power breakfasts and pre-meeting discussions. As you delight in lemon-ricotta pancakes or international faves like shakshuka, you might notice politicians dining nearby on layered yogurt parfaits or bowls of oatmeal. (Translation: They need to focus on the issues—no time for cutting food.) You, however, can leisurely cut all you like, especially the Belgian waffles with mixed berries or the 10-ounce wagyu flat iron steak with peppercorn-sauce fries. Be super healthy with the Mediterranean Egg White Omelette stuffed with feta and roasted tomatoes, or you can choose the Golden Goddess Smoothie with mango, turmeric, and coconut milk. The power brokers usually drift in around 7 a.m. and are already gone by 8, so plan accordingly if you want to see the action. As they rush off to handle affairs of state, you can sit back and sip a green apple, honeydew, or watermelon juice or enjoy a day-starting caffè latte.
Sun in My Belly
Softly scrambled eggs with creamy Boursin cheese, honey-glazed bacon, and a lavender biscuit—the approach to food at Sun in My Belly is as soothing as Mama’s gentle wake-up nudge. She would approve of the healthy approach, too, like the weekends-only Belly Benedict (with sweet potato, honey-glazed bacon hash, and garlic-spinach sauté) and the vanilla yogurt parfait (with organic cashews, dried-fruit granola, and whatever fruit is freshest). We also appreciate the idea of two French toast choices: a sweet one featuring challah that’s filled with honey-laced ricotta and served with fresh fruit and maple syrup, as well as a savory version with spinach, Parmesan, and a mushroom béchamel cream topped with eggs served sunny-side up. The restaurant itself, on College Avenue, is rustic with a welcoming European coffee shop vibe. At the next table, you might see an actor from The Walking Dead (the film industry has discovered this place), but you’ll be walking away from Sun in My Belly happy.
Tommy’s Country Ham House
If you're running for POTUS—or almost any other high- or low-perched post—you stop by Tommy’s Country Ham House, first to stump and then to eat. The staples are all on the menu—eggs cooked to your liking, bacon, sausage, grits, and biscuits. But Tommy’s adds its own special touches that take a down-home Southern breakfast to a whole new level. The restaurant’s wide-open format, seating 325, lends itself to seeing and being seen—and to breakfast. You’ll periodically find pineapple pancakes, strawberry waffles, and sausage that owner Tommy Stevenson arrives at 3 a.m. to make. In fact, he cuts all the meats here, from country ham to cube steak, as he has for 33 years. He recommends ordering the 2-2-2 (two sweet potato pancakes, two eggs, and two sausages). Also, any two-egg plate runs $5.35 with a long list of add ons such as Polish sausage or boneless pork chops (both cost extra). No matter which side of the political aisle you might favor, you’ll leave this popular Greenville spot satisfied.
New Orleans, LA
Despite the city’s reverence for culinary traditions, New Orleans still embraces spots that don’t play exactly by “Cajun-Creole only” rules—restaurants like Willa Jean. Order the Smoked Salmon Toast with cream cheese, cucumbers, capers, and red onion on rye, or the healthy Grain Bowl of farro, quinoa, avocados, tomatoes, white beans, greens, cashews, and poached eggs. BBQ Shrimp Toast uses grilled sourdough, Burrata, Gulf shrimp, and an amazing New Orleans-style barbecue sauce (where hot sauce and Worcestershire meet lemon, garlic, and butter). Since chef/partner Kelly Fields is first a pastry chef, there’s a whole section of the morning menu called The Biscuit Situation. You’ll love them with butter and jam; with fried chicken and Tabasco honey; or with a fried egg, pimiento cheese, and sausage. If you’re a New Orleans purist, you’ll relish the Gulf shrimp and grits with étouffée sauce. Just looking for a morning snack? Try the Willa Jean Cornbread (which is served with Poirier’s Pure Cane Syrup) or Pimento Cheese with country ham, pickles, and crackers.