Cheap Eats: The Breakfast House By Brian Ries , Herald-Tribune/ Wednesday, February 17, 2016
The Breakfast House's eclectic interior makes it feel like a breakfast nook in an especially comfy kitchen. (STAFF PHOTO/BRIAN RIES)
THE BREAKFAST HOUSE
1817 Fruitville Road, Sarasota; 941-366-6860
Open 7:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Mon.-Sat., 8 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Sun.
The Breakfast House started a revolution in downtown Sarasota when it opened around six years ago. Before that, the area north of Fruitville Road around Osprey Avenue was generally a mishmash of old, low-rent houses and ramshackle buildings, as if the downtown business scene couldn't see the benefit of crossing the road to get to the other side. Then a single business, serving breakfast and lunch, seeded the area, bringing in other folks interested in a downtown spot with character but without downtown prices. Now, the neighborhood has a name - Historic Downtown Village .
Besides merely blazing a trail into the previously non-commercial area, The Breakfast House also showed people how to do it right. Owner and designer Wendy Lee Goldberg took the former ramshackle home and turned it into an oasis that just exudes quaint comfort, transforming the inside into a clean, welcoming space that's full of homey touches.
The padded wooden chairs are different from table to table, each with its own color scheme that matches the painted wood, upholstered seats and carefully folded napkins. The dining room is painted a creamy butter yellow, with clean white trim and glossy wood floors, and decorated with a simple collection of knick-knacks and unobtrusive art. Salt and pepper shakers vary from table to table - from ceramic hamburger shapes to dancing cows - with creamers and other tableware to match. Or, more accurately, deliberately not match in a wonderful way.
The back yard was transformed into a simple garden dining area, with brick pavers and tables topped by thatched folding umbrellas, all surrounded by a white lattice fence. This time of year, that back area is packed on weekends with families out for a morning meal.
Early in the morning on a weekday, however, the dining room is populated by a variety of men stopping by for pre-work breakfast, ranging from a blue collar dude in denim shirt to a few in ties and button-downs. The Breakfast House's comfy kitchen nook feel draws all types.
The food, ever since it opened, is also a draw. There's the usual array of omelets and breakfast standards, but the spot also stretches its culinary muscles with some regular menu options and specials. On a recent visit, specials included an omelet laced with with brie and berries, as well French toast stuffed with blueberry goat cheese. That French toast is crisp and sweet on the outside, the gooey cheese on the inside providing a tart and fruity counterpoint. Although this dish doesn't need it, The Breakfast House also uses real maple syrup, which works well with the excellent thick-and-fluffy pancakes. The house specialty pancake is packed with pineapple, if you're fan of that sweet-tart flavor.
Sausage gravy here is a treat, the rich white gravy full of sage and spice from the sausage as well as a bite of black pepper, a perfect match for fresh biscuits that are some of the best in the area, flaky insides with crisp bits from some time on the griddle. The Breakfast House also makes its own corned beef hash, which is "steeped in Guinness". A hint of that malty darkness comes through in the moist ground pile of hash that's more meat than potato. Add a couple of over-easy eggs on top - which you should - so the yolk drips down and through the beefy mess for a seriously decadent and filling start to the day.
There are also crepes and a variety of Benedicts ranging from standard to elegant, with everything from fresh roast turkey and spinach to the usual ham and hollandaise, all featuring perfectly poached eggs.
Breakfast house also serves lunch, with sandwiches made with meat roasted in-house and a range of salads, often made with a fruit component. Fruit, in fact, is a theme across the menu, which fits The Breakfast House's tropical, Key West-style vibe.
Perhaps the best part, however, is that - with few exceptions - almost everything on the menu checks in at under $10. Start adding in extras - you'll be tempted to - and you can quickly blow past cheap and enter merely reasonable territory, but you don't have to.
The Breakfast House has to be one of the most welcoming and relaxing spots around where you can fill up in the morning without breaking the bank.