Anybody who's dedicated to a.m. noshing like I am appreciates a good breakfast. And somehow, fillin' up to bursting seems appropriate on a chilly winter morning. North to south, here's a lucky-seven selection of restaurants that take their a.m. fare seriously.
Dock of the Bay
Bay Center, Wash.
Even at 9 a.m., someone might belly up to the the bar nursing a beer and gnawing on a pepperoni stick at this salty establishment (formerly the Blue Heron Inn) that's essentially a spacious tavern with a dining room attached. But rest easy; the locals are friendly, and the food here puts most taverns to shame. Brace your appetite for prodigious portions of grub prepared with a homey touch - witness house specialty Willapa oysters and eggs ($7.50). Last visit, before I could finish even the front page of the Sunday sports section, I was served a platter crowded with three splendidly scrambled eggs, a substantial slab of hash browns, a couple slices of wheat toast and a quartet of petite bivalves so fresh they still dripped saltwater.
42nd Street Cafe
4201 Pacific Highway, Seaview, Wash.
Chef Cheri Walker is a crossover artist. At her 42nd Street Cafe, she bridges the culinary gap between comforting and creative, purveying bacon waffles and mashed potato cakes, pit ham and red-eye gravy alongside jambalaya omelets and brioche French toast. The latter ($6.50) involves five round slices of vanilla-infused bread saturated with egg batter. Enhance your order with a pour or three of maple or berry syrup. And for a nectarean treat reminiscent of deep South decadence, indulge in Walker's beignets ($3.50), New Orleans-inspired fritters coated in confectionery sugar and best appreciated with a liberal smear of house-made Marionberry conserves and a couple cups of French press coffee.
The Schooner Twelfth Street Bistro
360 12th St., Astoria
Now that breakfast burritos and smoked-salmon omelets have become commonplace in these parts, it's getting harder to find morning meals that are out of the ordinary. The Schooner's granola pancake ($6) fills the bill. Crunchy house granola coats the bottom of a plate-sized sourdough pancake. Topside is an apple compote freshened by a dollop of sour cream, and the whole shebang is dusted with powdered sugar. The result is a pancake that's flavorsome without being saccharine sweet. You may even want to eschew the maple syrup.
2281 Beach Drive, Seaside
Whether you're coming off an evening of flying high or laying low, nothing could be finer the following morning than a hefty Corpeny's scramble concocted with cheeses, veggies, sausage, salami and other enticements ($7.95) and flanked by stalwart slices of owner Suzanne Ziegler's crusty bread. Accompanying fried potatoes are the region's finest breakfast spuds; for a wake-up call, douse 'em in Ziegler's sassy homemade chipotle-ketchup. French apple tarts, lemon-poppyseed scones, raspberry-streusel muffins and such are irresistible anytime snacks.
137 Main St., Warrenton
Sadly, small-town cafes mostly have gone the way of cassettes, physicians' house calls and nonviolent video games. Yet this amicable hangout in downtown Warrenton (yes, there is such a place) offers a retro feel and stalwart comfort food, served amid cheery decor - sunburst images, metal sculptures, fresh flowers and a gumball dispenser on the counter. Owner Krista Bingham chats up her customers and greets regulars by their first names. And hey, sometimes bacon and scrambled eggs taste better rolled inside a breakfast burrito ($2.95). Here a large, lightly grilled tortilla comes loaded with both, as well as a sprinkling of hash browns. Chunky house salsa redolent of tomatoes, onions, cilantro and other tidbits provides the ideal garnish. Still hungry? A humongous extra portion of hash browns fetches a mere $1.25 more. Can you say "Meal Deal?"
714 Broadway, Seaside
Life is good anytime at this cutesy three-squares-a-day establishment in Seaside's revitalized Gilbert District. But breakfasts are so pretty, beginning with the complimentary plate of sugary mini scones and pastry, recently cranberry coffee cake. Cinnamon-swirl French toast or a broccoli-artichoke frittata (both $6.95) are fine main-course choices. Yet I generally opt for the Very Veggie & Cheese omelet ($7.95), a prodigious creation bursting with broccoli, yellow zucchini and cilantro and oozing melted streams of cheddar and mozzarella. Sour cream and guacamole, each luscious glob sporting a carrot stick, see duty as garnishes. Fried red taters, an orange slice and wedges of fresh pineapple and watermelon (yes, even in January) are served on the side.
And talk about capital ideas: Every table at McKeown's sports a "diners' journal" for patrons' comments - a fun read while awaiting your meal.
The Hawk Creek Cafe
4505 Salem Ave., Neskowin
Waiting for a table any weekend is a given at many well-regarded coastal cafes, especially during that quintessential dining-out time - mid-Sunday morning. Such is the case at this pint-sized eatery just off the blacktop in tiny Neskowin, a bedroom community that's the last refuge of solitude for travelers delving south into Lincoln City's neon-animated blitz.
Some Hawk Creek devotees claim the wait, not to mention the drive down from Astoria, Cannon Beach or wherever, is worth it, because the morning fare here is extraordinary. Hankering for a short stack? Hawk Creek's pancakes ($4.50) are battered in beer, a tasty morning alternative to buttermilk. But omelets are top-drawer attractions, particularly the Northwest ($7.25), plump with smoked salmon, cream cheese and caramelized onions and sided with cottage-style spuds, plus a choice of toast or a hearty biscuit (hint: opt for the latter).
Contact the Mouth at The Daily Astorian, P.O. Box 210, Astoria, OR 97103, phone (503) 325-3211 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org