Zaguán Latin Cafe & Bakery
Don’t get mixed up. “Latin” in no way means “Mexican” here. We’re talking traditional street food from much farther south, brought indoors to a cozy, blue-tiled corner of Oak Lawn. Zaguán’s twin claims to fame are its arepas and cachapas, both corn-based dishes that can be filled with eggs and vegetables and a variety of meats and cheeses. We prefer the English muffin-like arepas to the sweet cachapas (they are similar to a classy McGriddle), but we’re not judging if you want to go a different way. Beyond that, Zaguán also offers an assortment of empanadas (Venezuelan/Colombian and Argentine) and bread. Oh, the bread: dulce de leche and cheese, guava and cheese, and the deceptively named ham bread, which also includes olives, raisins, and bacon. The menu offers about a dozen such delights. A trip to Zaguán is worth it for the bread alone.
It used to be that if you wanted to spy a Dallas rock musician in his natural habitat, you’d head for the Gold Rush in East Dallas. On any given morning—make that early afternoon—you’d find a band or two huddled over coffee and migas, recovering from last night’s set. Higher rents have pushed out some of the starving artists, but brothers George, Virgil, and Mark Sanchez, who’ve owned the Gold Rush for 30 years, still guarantee a cheap, hearty breakfast for under $5. For that kind of deal, you don’t see the unswept floor or the cracks in your booth covered with electrical tape. Their John Wayne—flour tortilla, hash browns, eggs, hot sauce, bacon or sausage, chorizo, and cheese—is $6.95. The breakfast special of eggs, bacon or sausage, hash browns, and toast is a mere $3.95. Bottomless coffee’s only $1.35. Hey, isn’t that Reverend Horton Heat?
Poor Richard’s Cafe
Breakfast at Poor Richard’s in East Plano starts early: 5:30 am daily. The line can look intimidating as it snakes across the restaurant’s entry, but Poor Richard’s is a very big restaurant with plenty of tables, almost like a mess hall, and the wait doesn’t last long. The payoff is sweet: puffy omelets filled with ham and cheese, crusty home-style potatoes, and thick, golden pancakes. Proceed with caution as you approach the Big Tex breakfast. It’s a chicken-fried steak with gravy, grits, and toast. The restaurant has been a fixture since 1973, and it seems like the waitresses have, too. They don’t tolerate much in the way of silliness, and Richard Butterly himself is usually on hand, catching up with the many regulars. It isn’t cheap here, but there’s lots of food, and you do this kind of thing only once a week anyway, right?
This pair of nifty old-school diners is known for two things: awesome house-baked pies and generous, homey breakfasts. Big eaters will be drawn to the eggs with rib-eye steak and a broad selection of expertly made omelets. But the smartest route to take at Norma’s is to skip the eggs and just totally carb out. To enable you: crisp Belgian waffles, hotcakes, grits, heavenly cinnamon rolls, and—its trademark—moist, fragrant buttermilk biscuits, to be paired with sausage and gravy. The two branches boast a ’50s decor, with classic vinyl booths, retro signs, and vintage objects suspended from the ceiling. The cross-section of customers ranges from retirees on a budget to cops on the beat. Given the crowds, servers can be harried. Maybe today is the day you treat yourself to a slice of pie.
Bread Winners Cafe & Bakery
Let’s be honest: the breakfast at Bread Winners is quite nice. Egg-stuffed enchiladas with queso. Pomme de terre casseroles. Five flavors of French toast. Like we said: nice. And tasty. But the two main reasons we go to the original Uptown location are the fresh-baked pastries and the patio. When the weather is nice, dining in Bread Winners’ New Orleans-inspired courtyard is a sweet Southern charm, and the selection of muffins, scones, and breads can’t be beat. We give Bread Winners bonus points for serving free samples of its pastries before every meal. It appeals to our inner frugal gourmet.
When it comes to Buzzbrews, sure, sometimes breakfast happens at a nontraditional time. Like maybe 2 am. But that still counts, right? It is the morning, after all, and you can certainly avail yourself of all manner of New Age, diner-classic breakfast fare—egg sandwiches and a variety of pancakes and (the specialty) stuffed eggs. The latter menu items have whimsical names like the Hare Krishna (avocado and Jack and feta cheeses) and Californication (sautéed red bell pepper, corn, spinach, broccoli, onion, button mushrooms, and tomato). There is a location on Lemmon Avenue, but we always seem to find ourselves at the one off Central, located in the old Pitt Grill, with a heavy whiff of that greasy spoon vibe. One quibble: be prepared for what we’ll gently call “casual” service.
This popular late-night joint on Gaston has its own special mojo. Open 24 hours, it’s down the street from Deep Ellum, making it the go-to for many a tippler seeking a post-2 am layover before slinking back to the burbs. But eating here at 2 am is perhaps the best time. You’re slightly less fussy about the spot of sticky maple syrup left on the tabletop by the last carousers who sat at your booth. The Metro welcomes a broad cross-section of archetypes: Goth kids from the Lizard Lounge, early-rising blue-collar workers from the neighborhood, employees from Baylor nearby, and elderly men who seem to be permanent fixtures at the counter (a great place to sit, because when the joint is hopping, the cook performs a sort of short-order ballet). All come for Metro’s dense scrambled eggs, thin and crispy bacon, and assertively strong coffee. Extra points for unflappable waitresses who take it all in stride and its groovy jukebox loaded with rock and roll.
Original Market Diner
Like the classic diners in the Northeast, Original Market Diner comes from good Greek stock: the Vergos family, who founded it in 1989. An awning on the exterior tips you off that this was once a real drive-in. Inside, the vibe is thoroughly urban, with a snappy pace and no-nonsense efficiency that make you feel like you’re on I-95 instead of Harry Hines. It’s open for breakfast and lunch only, but happily serves breakfast all day. Could there be a more civilized act? The signature dish is the Easy Skillet, a kitchen-sink omelet with sausage, onions, peppers, cheese, and spicy Cajun seasoning. But don’t rule out the French toast made with raisin bread and “seasonal” dishes such as the strawberry pancakes served only during summer. Or just go with the basics, executed here with utter perfection: fluffy scrambled eggs, crisp hash browns, and coffee freshly ground for each pot.