There's something so appealing about dining out for breakfast, whether it's a quick weekday nosh or a more leisurely weekend repast. This trio of eateries in Berkeley, Concord and Castro Valley offers a variety of approaches: French fare, Korean flair and all-American retro appeal.
Address: 2109 Cedar St., Berkeley
Hours: Open daily 7 a.m.-9 p.m.; breakfast served until 11 a.m.
The brunch tab: $27.60 for breakfast for two
Grégoire Jacquet's adorable French takeout cafe is known for its artisanal pique-nique fare. Its crispy potato puffs have a cult following, and the ever-changing menu ranges from sauteed bavette steaks to fried buttermilk chicken sandwiches.
Last month, Jacquet added breakfasty goodness to the Berkeley lineup, with a menu that includes Quiche Lorraine ($9.75), omelets ($9.25), pastries ($5.85 for an assortment) and English muffin egg sandwiches ($9.95) that bear no resemblance whatsoever to those things at McDonald's.
Did we mention that Jacquet spent his teen years apprenticing in two- and four-star restaurants in France? That he was the executive sous chef for the Ritz-Carlton and ran the kitchens for their hotels in San Francisco and Boston? So the English muffins are house-made, the eggs hail from Glaum Egg Ranch, and the cheese is smoked Gouda, and that's Bicycle Coffee dark roast in your cup. It's that kind of delicious place.
A recent Saturday morning found the two of us perched at the tiny three-seat counter, sipping coffee and trying to decide who had the more perfect breakfast. The grilled lavash roll ($9.75) filled with fried eggs, grilled bacon and delicate asparagus was a definite contender, especially with those roasted fingerling potatoes on the side. But I'm going to have to give the win to the salmon tartine ($10.75) because a week later, I am still craving that toasted baguette topped with fluffy chive-flecked cream cheese and house-made smoked salmon.
Meanwhile, other happy brunchers relaxed at the two picnic tables outside, while a steady stream of customers popped by to pick up their to-go orders, tucked inside checkerboard paper-lined picnic boxes. For what could be more chic than a breakfast picnic?
-- J. Burrell
Address: 20871 Redwood Road, Castro Valley
Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays; 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays
The brunch tab: $25.28 for breakfast for two
We stumbled upon this unpretentious diner on Redwood Road after a bad experience at a coffee shop down the way left our tummies still rumbling. Tucked into the corner of a Lucky shopping center, Doug's Place is a wood-paneled, three-room greasy spoon with sizzling bacon, silver-dollar country potatoes and hot buttered pancakes served in massive portions.
Gaggles of seniors and families with too many kids fill the tables. Images of American movie icons, such as Marilyn Monroe and James Dean, cover the walls. And we'll bet that man dressed in full cowboy garb has dined at Doug's every morning for the past three decades.
With our free-flowing hot coffees we enjoyed the Doug's Omelette ($12), one of a half-dozen three-egg house specialties stuffed with enough meat and veggies to keep you satisfied until dinner. This one was filled with diced bacon, grilled onions, avocado and tomato chunks (the latter were too big and overwhelmed the omelet a bit). It was hot, and the eggs were cooked right -- just like the onion-topped potatoes and toasted English muffin.
The Waffles (Belgian or Crisp, $6) were also warm and well-made on our visit, though we wish we'd dined there on a weekend, when the accompanying strawberries are fresh, not frozen. We also skipped the whipped "topping" and plastic packets of maple syrup (really, can't you serve Aunt Jemima in a bottle?) though we fully embraced the processed, Velveeta-like cheese in the omelet. Man, that stuff melts well.
Yelpers recommend the Chicken Fried Steak and Corned Beef Hash, though they swear the hollandaise sauce and ham steak are canned. Maybe it's best to stay away from the eggs Benedict, too.
As one Yelper, Kate B. of San Ramon, summed up Doug's: "If you are a cheese, meat, and big portion lover, this is your place. For a more delicate palate, look elsewhere."
-- J. Yadegaran
Address: 1035 Detroit Ave., Suite 300, Concord
Contact: 925-689-0420, http://gangnamcafe.net
Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily
The brunch tab: $27.19 for breakfast for two
Hidden inside an industrial park off Monument Boulevard, this Concord diner serves the best Dungeness crab Benedict in town and the freshest fruit for an establishment of its kind.
Gangnam, open eight months under new ownership, lacks the appearance of a place that sources local, fresh or organic ingredients. The grape-colored vinyl chairs are uncomfortable, and the carpet needs a deep cleaning. But some dishes are really super, and the orange juice is fresh-squeezed.
I have a feeling the Korean owners who took over this former hamburger joint go to the farmers market like the rest of us and source the cleanest fruits and vegetables they can afford. Their service is fast, friendly and efficient.
Yelpers go particularly gaga over Gangnam's eggs Benedict dishes, and it's easy to see why. The Crab Benedict ($12.50) was heavenly, made with fresh, moist, sweet Dungeness crab, perfectly ripe avocados, warm English muffins and homemade hollandaise sauce. I've heard the Smoked Salmon ($10.95) and Blackstone ($9.50), a tower of bacon, spinach and tomato, are also winners.
So was the Good Morning Scramble ($8.95), a mountain of fresh mushrooms, slivered green onions, thick, crunchy bacon and diced tomatoes with three eggs, freshly grated hash browns and toast of your choice. Yum.
There are five more scrambles ($8.95-$9.75), eight omelets ($8.95-$11.50), and a "light eater's" menu ($5-$7) with egg sandwiches, oatmeal, biscuits and gravy, and Greek yogurt with granola and berries. Next time, we'll bring the little one to try the Mickey Mouse ($5.95), a pancake with Mickey's face made out of fruit, plus an egg and choice of sausage or bacon. We'll also try the Korean lunch items, including Bulgogi ($9.95) a marinated beef sandwich and the Bibimbap rice bowl special on Thursdays.
Oppa Gangnam style!
-- J. Yadegaran