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The search for KC's best breakfast joints

By DEBRA SKODACK
The Kansas City Star

To Michael Kizzee, this was the most important thing about enjoying the most important meal of the day: Breakfast is a cool way to have a date with your wife.

Actually, the Kizzees often go out for breakfast.

“It’s cheery and I am more awake,” said Kizzee, sitting with his wife, Alicia, at Browne’s Irish Market. Their two small children were with the grandparents.

There’s a lot to like about breakfast. Many people find it more economical than dinner and less stressful than a lunch that has to be crammed inside a working day.

During the week many breakfast places have no wait for a table, and for the weekend crowd it’s a great way to gather with friends.

You can almost always get the basics: bacon and eggs, hash browns, waffles, biscuits and gravy — or branch out to casseroles, quiches, crepes and burritos.

Here’s a sampling of some of the up and at ’em fare around town, including some relative newcomers.


Happy Gillis Cafe & Hangout

549 Gillis

816-471-3663

Breakfast hours: 8-10:30 a.m. Tuesday through Friday; 8-11 a.m. Saturday; and 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday.

Happy Gillis is a small, comfortable spot in the Columbus Park area that regulars often liken to a living room.

That’s partly because one thing that stands out in the middle of the restaurant is a coffee table, a couple of comfortable chairs and a sofa, upholstered in owner Todd Schulte’s favorite color, orange. The other reason is that sharing tables is common, especially on weekends when bicyclists and the City Market crowd descend on the place.

Schulte and his wife opened Happy Gillis last year in the former corner sundries store. The building has had many business lives.

Children are certainly welcome, as evidenced by the crayons and brown paper atop a few tables. Although on a recent morning, one of those tables was occupied by a pair of businessmen having a quiet meeting.

Breakfast offerings are posted on a chalkboard, and orders are taken at the counter.

The menu, Schulte says, stays pretty much the same. There is an American breakfast sandwich, with bacon, egg and cheese, for $5. There are bialies, chewy yeast rolls similar to a bagel. The bialy with smoked salmon, egg and a red onion-caper aioli goes for $7.

Loaf Madame, a grilled meatloaf sandwich with white cheddar cheese and a sunny-side-up egg on white ciabatta bread is $8.


You Say Tomato

2801 Holmes

816-756-5097

Breakfast hours: 7-11 a.m. Monday through Saturday and 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday.

Like Happy Gillis, this is a laid-back eating experience with an eclectic décor. It’s a unique blend of restaurant and small grocery store where you might find a customer complimenting the bright orange Hubbard squash in the produce case while sipping a cup of coffee.

The tables and chairs, scattered about a large room with massive windows and an old wooden floor, are vintage, mix-and-match. A Formica table hugged by a long booth-like bench is next to a table-and-chair set that must have come from an ice cream parlor.

Menu items are colorfully written on a large white eraser board, although co-owner Mark Wingard says the breakfast selections rarely vary much. The one exception might be the daily quiche, which changes from vegetarian to meat and back again.

Some of the standards include a breakfast croissant sandwich with egg, cheddar cheese and either bacon or ham, for $4.95. The very generous egg and sausage casserole is $6.25, and the popular organic granola is $5.75.

You Say Tomato cooks strictly by oven, so items like the casserole will take a good 10 minutes. That’s OK because you can shop the grocery store or grab a copy of Newsweek or Dwell (or a guide to Goodland, Kan.) from a rotating rack.

The restaurant offers a lot of grab-and-go items including parfaits and muffins and their hugely popular, and huge, homemade cinnamon rolls.

It’s definitely made for families and groups, large and small.

“We want people to be able to sit and chat. This is not fast food,” Wingard said. “If you can, you can sit and enjoy a nice morning.”


The Classic Cookie

409 W. Gregory

816-444-1933

Breakfast hours: 7-11 a.m. Monday through Friday; 8-11:30 a.m. Saturday; 7 a.m.-noon Sunday.

Classic indeed. Classy definitely.

This Brookside-Waldo neighborhood favorite traces its lineage to previous locations downtown and on the Country Club Plaza. It’s been on Gregory for 22 years. Peach pastel walls and matching chairs and tables give it a slightly more formal atmosphere than other places.

That doesn’t mean it isn’t a friendly spot to enjoy the first meal of the day. In fact, they are so glad to greet newbies that every newcomer to Classic Cookie gets free cookies.

Many tables are set for two or four people, allowing close friends to share a quiet conversation. There are extra-long tables for larger groups.

The menu includes the standard egg and bacon combinations, as well as a Belgian waffle for $4.99 ($6.99 with fruit), an herbed potato and sausage casserole for $7.99 and a breakfast burrito for $5.99.

The Classic Cookie was the perfect place for a special date for Nikki and Steve Eads, who were headed to the hospital later that day for the birth of their first child, daughter Ella. It was the first time the young couple, who live in the area, had eaten there.

“Actually, breakfast is my favorite meal of the day,” said Steve, looking remarkably calm.

Classic Cookie owner Leslie Stockard thinks a lot of people are rethinking breakfast.

“It’s just a good way to start the day. It’s less stressful,” she said. “For dinner, you have to make a reservation; for lunch you’ve got to get back to work.”


Browne’s Irish Market

3300 Pennsylvania Ave.

816-561-0030

Serving Irish breakfasts from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. Saturdays through March 14.

Mildred Baldwin happily led her brood through Browne’s on a recent Saturday morning. Baldwin of Kansas City explained that finding good Irish breakfast locations is a sort of hobby for her and her daughter, who lives in Texas, and her two grandsons, one from Texas, the other from Washington, D.C. Grandson Jake Ward, the one who lives in D.C., is planning a trip soon to Paris and says he is determined to find the best Irish breakfast there.

Browne’s, perhaps best known for its homemade corned beef, opened its doors in 1887. The Irish breakfasts are not so old; they were started a few years ago as a sort of novelty, said current owner Kerry Browne. And for now they’re strictly seasonal, offered Saturdays in February and March up to St. Patrick’s Day.

A full Irish breakfast includes a rasher and bangers (thinly sliced ham and sausage) scrambled eggs, potatoes, a grilled tomato (an Irish thing), beans (another Irish thing), coffee, tea and orange juice for $8.99.

There is a meatless breakfast (you still get the Irish breakfast beans and grilled tomato) for $6.99. There’s a child’s breakfast for $4.99.

And if you are feeling very, very Irish, you can have a side of blood pudding for $1. And, bowls of imported lemon and lime curd are passed around freely to flavor up the Irish breads.

Customers order at the counter. Browne’s is another smaller establishment, cozy and crammed with all sorts of Irish goods including wool hats and scarves, linens, sweatshirts, china and lots of imported foods. Yep, you can take home a can or two of those breakfast beans.


Santa Fe Café

9946 W. 87th St., Overland Park

913-648-5402

Breakfast served all day: 6 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday.

Santa Fe Café is another longtime favorite breakfast spot frequented by regulars who know the menu. The current owners and customers gathered on a recent morning weren’t quite sure how long it’s been in business, but at least a few decades.

Situated in a strip shopping center along a busy Johnson County street, Santa Fe Café has two large flat-screen televisions inside the most expansive of its interconnected, carpeted dining areas.

And while the chairs and tables match, the coffee cups don’t.

It’s been a long tradition to have customers donate coffee cups to the Santa Fe Café. The result is a large array of Santa Claus cups, cups from vacation spots such as Seattle and Colorado, cups with local flavor such as one from Grace & Holy Trinity Cathedral, and cups with fun sayings, such as “Hard Work Never Killed Anyone But Why Take a Chance.”

“I think people love that,” says owner Marilyn Rugova. “You hear someone say, ‘Look, there’s a cup just like what Uncle Harold had.’ We want to make this place as comfortable as your kitchen table. That’s where we got that.”

The restaurant has a huge menu, although Rugova is trying some newer dishes like crepes (spinach and chicken for $7.99) and variations on eggs Benedict (Irish Benedict with corned beef hash for $8.99).

Sitting at a small eating counter, Bill Price says he’s been a regular at Santa Fe Café for several decades. It’s close to his business and serves breakfast all day.

That’s perfect for Price, because he builds hot rods for a living. Not exactly a 9-to-5 job. In fact, he had worked until 1:30 a.m. the day he was having breakfast at the Santa Fe Café at 11:45 a.m.

He likes being able to sit down and enjoy a full breakfast. He’s definitely not interested in a drive-through option.

“There’s no comfort in it,” he says. “I like a place that is comfortable, relaxed.”

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