The Quest for Breakfast

Ben Whelan

Of all of the meals in the day, brunch has always held a very special place in our hearts. First off, you can eat almost anything, as most menus contain both lighter breakfast items and heavier lunch items. Second, what better way to start of a lazy Sunday or cap a crazy Saturday night than with some greasy, filling food accompanied by copious amounts of coffee and juice. Finally, brunch is the first meal at which it is socially acceptable to drink, a detail that can certainly not be overlooked. If there is a better way to spend a weekend day than downing a big brunch, getting buzzed on Mimosas and Bloody Mary’s and then sleeping it off into the afternoon, I have yet to find it.

We could go on and on extolling the virtues of this perfect “tweener” meal, but we’d rather let you experience it for yourself. Without further ado, here are The Mass Media’s selections for the best brunch locales the city has to offer, broken down into five distinct categories. Bon Appetit!

Best Diner:South Street Diner

178 Kneeland Street, Boston (617-350-0028)

Hours: Open 24 hours

Price: $5-$9

The South Street Diner, located just blocks from South Station, is truly a diner’s diner. Decked out in classic fifties style chrome décor complete with vintage barstools and a real jukebox, the all-night hangout is a destination for late night workers and hard partying college students alike. The hip young wait staff gives the place a fun, fresh atmosphere that makes it hard to prevent oneself from becoming a regular. Everything on the menu is served fresh off the extra long griddle that stretches the length of the restaurant and the sizzle of bacon and cooking eggs permeates the air, mingling with the steady hum of conversation.

The menu offers the traditional breakfast options at a reasonable price, and we are especially big fans of their big, thick cut home fries that are served with almost every meal. To make things more interesting, South Street also offers a diverse selection of specialty pancakes, including banana, banana walnut, blueberry and chocolate chip varieties. The menu also offers a selection of French toasts such as extra thick Texas French toast, banana French Toast and decadent Chocolate Fantasy French Toast. For those seeking a little bit of protein, the slabs of grilled sliced ham and corned beef hash can sate the appetite of even the most bloodthirsty carnivore.

Combine this eclectic mix of old and new favorites with a bottomless cup of coffee and a full service bar serving beer and mimosas until 1am, and you have perfect spot to while away the wee hours of the morning or start the day with a smile.

Honorable mention:

Mikes City Diner

Best Upscale:The Garden of Eden

571 Tremont Street, Boston (617-247-8377)

Hours: Saturday/Sunday 9AM-3PM

Price: $7.50-$13

Located in the quickly gentrifying South End, The Garden of Eden serves a classy, upscale brunch featuring some unique twists on the classic mid-morning fare. A neighborhood café, the eatery has a clientele as diverse as the neighborhood it serves and has been known to host many players from the local sports teams as well as our lovable Mayor Menino.

The French toast was a revelation and was served drenched in maple syrup and accompanied by a cinnamon-apple compote. Not your average French Toast, at the Garden of Eden this breakfast treat is made using a baguette brioche instead of bread. This change produced a version of the dish that was crispy on the outside and buttery rich inside providing some welcome contrast to the home-kitchen favorite.

The Scrambled Eggs with Chorizo Sausage warmed things up a little bit with chopped red peppers and onions providing a sweet balance to the spicy, salty chorizo sausage. This nuanced take on bacon and eggs was served on a slice of Iggy’s sourdough bread and was accompanied, like most items on the brunch menu, by a selection of fresh fruits.

For those of you wishing to keep things light, the Garden of Eden brunch menu also offers a healthy alternative to the heavier items with an Organic Granola. The mix of lightly toasted organic grains is served with low fat yogurt along with a mix of blackberries, strawberries, raspberries and sweet dried currants.

A cup of Hazelnut Illy coffee provided a sophisticated accompaniment to the meal and, if we had room, we certainly would have enjoyed a selection from the colorful pastry counter. This breakfast destination serves brunch only on weekends from 7am-3pm and boasts a beautiful patio overlooking Tremont street, weather permitting.

Honorable Mention:

The Bristol Lounge

Best Original Menu:Sorella’s

388 Centre Street, Jamaica Plain (617-524-2016)

Hours: 7AM-2PM

Price: $4-$7

If you like your omelet bursting with ingredients and your pancakes and French toast served in more varieties than you can shake a sausage link at, Sorella’s in Jamaica Plain is your breakfast destination. To say that the menu here is large is to say that Celtics are kind of good and that warm Maple syrup is kind of amazing. There is an omelet named for most of the employees who have served there over the years, as well as some regulars. Over the 25 years the store has been here, the menu has continued to grow, and I was informed that “nothing is ever taken off, only added”. In fact, the menu is so large that it extends on to the walls in the form of various specials and specialty items written on hand-scrawled pieces of colorful paper. The odd chalkboard, also decorated in colorful messages, proclaims the day’s specials and new items. Although small, Sorella’s has a very welcoming interior and we can see why it has developed an almost religious following. Service is quick and pert, not so ready with a smile, but very detail oriented and good at explaining the menu and answering questions.

We started our meal here with an assortment of some of the most original pancakes we have ever encountered. Our platter included Carrot Oatmeal, Oatmeal Chocolate Chip, Gingerbread, Pumpkin, Blueberry Hazelnut and Pumpkin Cranberry Walnut variations. While the double digit varieties of French toasts were tempting, especially the seasonal Egg Nog French toast, we instead went for some of Sorella’s famous omelets. While they were a little greasy and the filling was too much for the egg around it, these omelets definitely hit the spot. Filled with such gourmet ingredients such as asparagus, avocado, artichoke hearts (the A-Team of Opulence if you will), goats cheese and sun-dried tomatoes, these egg-envelopes of deliciousness were gooey and filled with flavor in every bite.

Because of its cheap prices, eclectic food and limited seating area, there is a line out the door for Sorella’s on Saturday and Sunday mornings and usually a hefty wait, so get there before 9:30 if you’re in a rush. Rest assured however, even if you do end up waiting, it will be well worth it.

Honorable Mention:

Neighborhood Bakery

Best Classic BreakfastThe Alchemist Lounge

435 S. Huntington Avenue, Jamaica Plain (617-477-5741)

Hours: Saturday/Sunday 11AM-3PM

Price: $7-$14

In addition to being a great place to grab a cocktail and a quick bite to eat, the Alchemist Lounge in Jamaica Plain’s Hyde Square also offers a heavy and very classic brunch on the weekends.

If you don’t plan on eating for the rest of the week, why not try the Croque Madam? This sumptuous French toast is stuffed with cheddar cheese and ham, and as if that weren’t enough, the dish is topped off with a poached egg and Hollandaise sauce.

The Alchemist also offers a traditional Corned Beef Hash which is salty and delicious and also topped with two poached eggs and Hollandaise sauce. If you prefer something on the sweeter side, we highly recommend the Stuffed French Toast. The thickly cut and egg battered slices of bread are stuffed with seasonal fruits and topped with a mighty dollop of real whipped cream as well as the requisite bath of maple syrup. If all of this sugar and fatty goodness seems a little too much, the menu also offers a delicious make-your-own omelet that can be cooked to order with a wide array of gourmet ingredients such as caramelized onions and silky smooth goat’s cheese.

Our favorite part about brunch is that it is perfectly acceptable to drink, and it is here where the Alchemist truly outshines your average breakfast joint. In addition to a wide array of breakfast cocktails, we will use any excuse we can to indulge ourselves in a Guinness float.

After breakfast at the Alchemist, you may be able to actually feel your arteries clogging, but you will be able to die happy and with a full stomach.

Honorable Mention:

Brasserie Jo

Best ChainIHOP

16 Eliot Street #18, Cambridge (617-354-0999)


Price: $5-$11

We would be remiss in writing a piece about Boston’s best places for breakfast if we did not include the International House of Pancakes. There are numerous IHOP locations sprinkled throughout the city, including franchises in Harvard Square and on Soldiers Field Road in Brighton. Open twenty-four hours a day seven days a week, the pancake house chain is perfect for ending a night out on the town with an early morning shortstack or for satisfying that late night pancake craving.

One of the most popular items on the IHOP menu is the trademarked Rooty Tooty Fresh N’ Fruity, consisting of two eggs, two sausage links, two strips of bacon and two fluffy buttermilk pancakes topped with fruit compote and the always questionable “whipped topping”. Another dish listed as a “Signature favorite” is the T-Bone Steak and Eggs. Described as a “mouthwatering” steak served with three eggs and three pancakes, this is one of the heartier options on the menu. It’s lucky that the steak is so mouthwatering, because it is served so dry it can use all of the extra moisture it can get and the cut of meat is even thinner than the pancakes it is served with.

However, despite its many shortcomings gastronomically, IHOP does serve its purpose. The pancakes are pretty good, the eggs, bacon and sausage are passable and no one offers more different varieties of maple syrup. In short, IHOP, like your favorite pair of jeans may not be of the best quality but it is reliable and always there when you need it.

Honorable Mention: Bickford’s