Restaurants taking breakfast fare to next level
When Cheryl Sher decided to start offering a breakfast menu on the weekends, she promised herself she wasn’t going to imitate anyone – particularly the chains.
The menu at Sher-Bliss, her chocolate and wine shop in the Gahanna area, now features such homemade items as doughnuts infused with wine, cornmeal blintzes with chevre and hot pepper jelly, and soy chorizo frittate.
To sweeten the deal, she offers a pot of French-press coffee with the purchase of two entrees.
With her individual fig pierogi pot pies, figs macerated in port wine are stuffed into a cream-cheese pastry topped with brown butter and port-poached honeydew.
“It’s what I like to eat,” she said, “and there’s nowhere to eat around here that has this kind of food.”
The menu is constantly changing. It was a challenge to keep things interesting while holding down the price, Sher said. Breakfast entrees are in the $7 to $9 range.
“I wanted to be in line with other places that offer brunch and give people a good amount of food,” she said.
Those who dig around a little will find some intriguing, less-traditional breakfast fare across central Ohio.
At the out-of-the way Tasi Cafe in the Short North, chef Milton Espinoza from Bolivia is putting his individual touch on several dishes, such as the huevos rancheros, which has two eggs poached in a tomato sauce, with quesadillas stuffed with queso fresco and black beans served on the side.
In another dish, poached eggs are paired with a black-bean cake and drizzled with a jalapeno butter sauce. Biscuits and gravy uses homemade biscuits and real sausage gravy.
“We really like things that are fresh, seasonal and local,” said Rachel Kaufman, assistant manager. “Our food is definitely different. Every dish can stand alone.”
ZenCha Tea Salon serves up okonomiyaki, a savory Japanese pancake that has meat, seafood or vegetables. It is accented with either a Worcestershire- or mayonnaise-based sauce.
Owner I-Cheng Huang said it’s the best seller at brunch, but customers shy away from it in the early morning.
He said a cultural distinction is at play: Americans, especially during the week, are in a rush in the morning and are more inclined to grab a bagel and tea than sit down for a meal.
“When it comes to brunch, people are relaxed,” he said. “They’re open to more options.”
About a year ago, the Olive Tree Cafe in Hilliard started serving breakfast every Sunday.
Owner David Mor said he wanted to offer a true Mediterranean experience that touched on many points across three continents.
“The Mediterranean is very diverse,” he said. “We wanted to attract people who wanted to eat a little healthier.”
One of the menu items is jachun, a traditional Yemenite Jewish breakfast dish featuring thin layers of dough brushed with oil, rolled and baked for 10 hours.
It’s served with a hard-baked egg, fresh grated tomato and a homemade hot-pepper puree.
For a more traditional item – French toast – the Olive Tree uses challah, a braided Jewish egg bread, along with Ohio maple syrup and fresh fruit.
Still, many people are apprehensive about ordering unfamiliar fare, Mor said.
“They’re coming into unknown territory,” he said. “People are very set in their ways and very few people are willing to branch out.”
David Kincheloe, president of National Restaurant Consultants in Colorado, said mom-and-pop restaurants can compete with national chains for the breakfast dollar, but suggests they offer traditional items to get people through the door.
“That way, there is something familiar with a twist,” he said. “Consumers will even pay more if they perceive that it is worth more.”