If you’re like me (which I hope you’re not), breakfast usually isn’t very special, or a lot of fun. A bowl of Cheerios. A mediocre cup of coffee. Kids yelling at me to stop blocking their view of Sid the Science Kid. ¶ In order to combat the winter doldrums, I decided to make breakfast fun. I explored neighborhoods near and far. I tasted so many eggs I feared I might become an egg. And at the end of it all, I found the best of the best. Want pancakes that float like clouds in downtown Minneapolis? Homemade hollandaise at a French café in St. Paul? A guy named Junior slinging hash in Eagan? It’s all here. ¶ So take off that bathrobe, put on a pair of pants, and start your day right—with the best breakfasts in the Twin Cities.
1. Hell’s Kitchen
80 S. Ninth St., Mpls., 612-332-4700, hellskitcheninc.com
Vibe: Bizarre art + dark basement = hauntingly delicious food.
Cost of a cup of coffee: $2.35
Specialty: Nearly everything on the menu has received some form of acclaim. The homemade peanut butter, huevos rancheros, and the mahnomin porridge probably get the most credit here.
Sleeper hit: Lemon-ricotta hotcakes. Oh. My. Goodness. Melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness with just a hint of lemon zest. Skip the syrup so you can savor the taste.
Best baked treat: The caramel-pecan rolls are wonderful. But don’t skip the savory toasted sausage bread.
Best for: Non-pretentious foodies
2. Fat Nat’s Eggs
3540 Winnetka Ave. N., New Hope, 763-540-0234
8587 Edinburgh Center Dr., Brooklyn Park, 763-425-0117
Vibe: Suburban families love Fat Nat’s. The generic strip-mall location is rescued by enormous, carefully crafted breakfasts.
Cost of a cup of coffee: $1.75
Specialty: Three-egg omelets the size of a football. Order Jacob’s omelet with carnitas, add hash browns with sweet onions, and thank us later.
Sleeper hit: The bacon-avocado eggs Benedict is a spicy flavor bomb. The homemade salsa verde really makes this dish pop.
Best for: Curing a hangover
3. Grand Cafe
3804 Grand Ave. S., Mpls., 612-822-8260, grandcafempls.com
Vibe: South Minneapolitans, families, and adventurous eaters mix here as well as the farm-fresh ingredients used by the talented chef John Radle.
Cost of a cup of coffee: $2.75
Specialty: Eggs en cocotte, a light-as-a-feather puff pastry filled with a heavenly combination of truffle cream, poached eggs, and ham. It’s worth the trip for this dish alone.
Sleeper hit: Huevos rancheros with Berkshire Farms pork confit. It’s an incredibly flavor-packed dish in which cilantro, housemade mole, and oaxaca cheese dance across the tongue.
Best baked treat: The $3 scone changes daily.
Best for: Romantic, lingering weekend brunch
4. Day by Day Cafe
477 W. Seventh St., St. Paul, 651-227-0654, daybyday.com
Vibe: Don’t look for a bloody mary at Day by Day. Its owner is a recovering alcoholic, and so are many staff members. They’ve created a place that feels like a warm, comforting hug: Old library books line the walls, wood floors and paneling abound.
Cost of a cup of coffee: $2
Specialty: The cheesy hash browns in the Earth Breakfast couldn’t be better—unless, of course, you add the sausage patty pieces. Nothing fancy—just plain good.
Sleeper hit: Good vegetarian options including the tofu-veggie scramble, but you can’t miss with the breakfast burrito. Packed with avocado, cheese, and eggs in a nicely toasted burrito, you can add fruit or load up on carbs with the hash browns.
Best baked treat: The bakery selections often change, but the blueberry muffin is reliably good.
Best for: Breakfast-eaters anonymous
5. Good Day Cafe
5410 Wayzata Blvd., Golden Valley, 763-544-0205
Vibe: Funky, upscale, and jam-packed with people. Weekdays, this is the place for an important breakfast meeting. Weekends, it seems like every family from Golden Valley, Plymouth, and Minnetonka is here, waiting for a table.
Cost of a cup of coffee: $2.50
Specialty: Iggy’s Fried Egg Sandwich—heavy on the avocado and ham—comes on a delightful hunk of brioche bread. Delicious!
Sleeper hit: Don’t miss the mushroom-and-spinach omelette. Good Day tops it with a decadent mushroom-sherry cream sauce. Unique, fluffy—perfection.
Best baked treat: They’ll cook a New Orleans beignet fresh for you, but the scones are equally irresistable: If you see a fruit-and-nut one, grab it.
Best for: Seeing and being seen
6. Maggie’s Restaurant
844 E. Lake St., Wayzata, 952-476-0840
Vibe: As homey as a strip-mall family restaurant can be.
Cost of a cup of coffee: $1.95
Specialty: French toast—beeline for it. Maggie’s makes their own French bread, and the French toast it produces is nothing short of wonderful.
Sleeper hit: Maggie’s sausage-and-mushroom scramble is huge, with sweet, flavorful chunks of meat.
Best for: Carb-loading before a lakeside run
7. Junior’s Cafe & Grill
1340 Duckwood Dr., Eagan, 651-686-5100
Vibe: You’ll probably be waited on by Junior himself (James Reyes Jr.) at this small 1950s-themed diner. He treats you like family, and the homestyle cooking tastes like home. Be prepared to wait a bit, though: There are only about 50 seats.
Cost of a cup of coffee: $1.99
Specialty: The country-fried steak is described as “Minnesota-sized” for good reason—it could feed two. The homemade gravy is a heart attack on a plate, but at least you’ll go happy. Deep-frying beef isn’t normally a good idea, but Junior pulls it off perfectly.
Sleeper hit: Two eggs, good hash browns, and toast for $4.50 has to be one of the best breakfast deals in town.
Best for: Bargain hunters with big stomachs
8. Three Squares Restaurant
12690 Arbor Lakes Pkwy., Maple Grove, 763-425-3330, 3squaresrestaurant.com
Vibe: My friend called it “Maple Grove-y,” in that soccer parents are all but guaranteed to see their kids’ teammates across the modern, friendly dining room. It’s loud, but not too loud in here, making parents feel right at home.
Cost of a cup of coffee: $2.25
Specialty: Chilaquiles with a heaping pile of chorizo sausage. The made-from-scratch hash browns and lime sour cream make this dish a particular standout.
Sleeper hit: The long strips of basil topping the perfectly balanced Brie-and-spinach frittata give this dish a fresh, delightful flavor.
Best baked treat: Get the side of cornbread instead of toast.
Best for: Grade-school goalies and their coaches
9. Bon Vie
518 Selby Ave., St. Paul, 651-287-0112
Vibe: It feels like you’re walking into a bistro in Paris… well, not quite. You’re still in St. Paul. But this charming Selby Avenue bistro features incredibly friendly and helpful service. Bon Vie is indeed “The Good Life.”
Cost of a cup of coffee: $1.75
Specialty: The eggs Benedict features a homemade hollandaise sauce with a hint of lemon that gives it a zesty brightness unlike any Benny in town. It’s incredible.
Sleeper hit: Why is migas (a Mexican breakfast) on the menu in a French bistro? Because it’s that good. Scrambled eggs, chorizo, and cheese topped with a unique seasoned sour cream (cumin and cayenne pepper) es muy délicieux.
Best baked treat: Bon Vie’s owners run A Piece of Cake Bakery, so the pastries are delivered fresh from just up the street. Don’t miss the flaky magic of the twice-baked almond croissant.
Best for: Gourmets with berets
10. Hot Plate
5204 Bloomington Ave. S., Mpls., 612-824-4794, hotplatediner.com
Vibe: Quirky, upbeat, modern diner where hipsters, young parents, and retirees come together.
Cost of a cup of coffee: $2.50
Specialty: Buttermilk pancakes with lingonberry butter comes in a short stack, but you’ll want more than just two of these highly addictive treats.
Sleeper hit: The fried-egg sandwich is perfectly prepared, with rich bacon, a nice sharp slice of Cheddar cheese, and a delicious heap of delightfully seasoned American fries.
Best baked treat: The caramel-pecan roll—gooey, oozing with homemade caramel, and bursting with huge pecans.
Best for: Kitsch-loving creatives
Jason DeRusha is a reporter with WCCO-TV.