Top five Florida restaurant chains with a fun breakfast
Breakfast out is Florida’s cheapest luxury. Fresh, custom-made, affordable breakfast fare is eating the dollars and time of lunch and dinner diners. At least five Florida based-chains have more than 100 restaurants that put breakfast first and close before 3 p.m.
Nutritional nannies took the fun out of breakfast for decades, nixing eggs, bacon, sweets and coffee. But today we glory again in them, putting eggs on hamburgers and salads, searching out fatty pork belly, developing a new love for pastries and arguing over a thousand formulations of coffee. That’s before we add lobster or brie to a three-egg omelet.
Born in Port Richey as a strip mall breakfast spot decked out with railroad gags like Baggage Car omelets and Caboose Crispers, the Station started out 23 years ago. Today, that little engine has proved it could — with 14 stores across the middle of the state and searching for more.
The Station serves up egg platters, burritos and Benedicts and spikes pancakes, waffles and stuffed French toast. Its vintage treasures include the almost-lost rarities of creamed chipped beef on toast and potato cakes with sour cream and dollar pancakes.
Salads, melts, burgers and wraps for lunch round out the menu.
Simple, traditional and chugging along.
Another Broken Egg
ABE was born outside of New Orleans but is now headquartered in Orlando, with a 60-restaurant-strong presence across the South.
Its Louisiana accent shows in beignet biscuits in powdered sugar, bananas Foster pancakes, six flavors of mimosa, four Bloody Marys, including lemon fennel. Andouille and crawfish are scattered throughout the menu.
While New Orleans gave America our most famous brunches, the menu is full-on Southern. Plus, the corporate creatives add modern tricks: Lemon, blueberry and goat cheese pancakes, turkey mozzarella panini and power bowls.
Coffee is single origin from Brazil, and if it’s not to your liking, add a shot of Bailey’s or Kahlua.
First Watch was early to spot the opportunity dawning in breakfast. The chain was founded in Monterey, Calif., 25 years ago before co-founder Ken Pendery moved its headquarters to Sarasota. At last count, there were more than 350 First Watch restaurants, all dedicated to breakfast and lunch.
The company quickly discovered that 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. hours had as much appeal to managers and staff as to consumers. Golf or fishing every afternoon. No late hours with a boozy bar crowd. Why not?
Food was easy at first — bacon and eggs, pancakes and waffles, nothing more elaborate than Benedict. Today, it serves up power bowls of quinoa, eggs and sausage, lemon blueberry pancakes, Asian pork belly and banh mi bowls.
And the coffee comes from a heroic women’s co-op in Colombia.
Keke’s Breakfast Cafe
A few years back, Publix installed a fast-casual, salad-heavy lunchery called Crispers next to two dozen of its groceries. It was the wrong meal for the times. Publix sold Crispers to an Orlando group, which rebranded it Keke’s and filled the seats. Keke’s sticks to a clean and bright space, mustering up a dozen waffles, including a banana split, and almost as many varieties of stuffed French toast and omelets with BBQ chicken, ham and pineapple. Lunch on grilled cheese, cheesesteaks, salads, wraps and panini.
Maple Street Biscuit Co.
Scott Moore and Gus Evans started this Jacksonville original in 2012 based on a Southern crowd pleaser. Today, its biscuits can be found in more than 30 locations pitching updated comfort food, more than half in Florida with another dozen from Georgia to Texas and North Carolina.
The flaky namesake adapts easily to lunch and modern trims. You can have it the old-fashioned way, with housemade jam or real maple syrup — shame to have to say that. You can fill it with fried chicken, goat cheese, eggs, bacon or collard greens. Vegetarians get a chance at biscuits and gravy of their own, made with shiitake mushrooms.
There’s even a biscuit surrogate — a “hash brown cake’’ of fried potatoes. Pair with dark chocolate cocoa and modern espresso or a latte with — what else? — maple syrup.
MSB has long common tables and get-to-know-you service. My order was tagged with the name of my 6th-grade teacher.
Read more in Florida Trend's August issue.
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