Grease, caffeine and fun

Where cafe society goes for breakfast.

Gabriel Shapiro

More than just the most important meal of the day, breakfast in the Twin Cities can be a real experience. The multitudes that pack around plates of greasy goodness and black liquid salvation on weekend mornings have grown almost as large as those that swell to capacity to blunt their senses in the bars at night. For every hungry Jack and Jill who rubs the sleep out of his or her eyes, there’s a place that caters to their tastes, epicurean and aesthetic.

Social lives often have to happen around other things: jobs, classes, yoga, etc. But on weekends, the social can take center stage, and the potential for the entire day to be spent hanging out, catching up with friends and generally carousing exists. Breakfast excursions have become one way to pack even more social life into the once neglected pre-nightlife hours.

Going out to breakfast with a big group of friends, or with just you and your special someone, is a great way to start the day. Most social meals tend to come late in the day and lead either to bed or drunkenness. While there’s nothing necessarily wrong with either, they fail to capture breakfast’s unique magic.

There is also, for those who partake (legally, of course) of the booze, a therapeutic element to a great morning meal, particularly one that features hyper-strong coffee, absurd amounts of cheese, a manly pile of potatoes and/or fluffy pancakes. Nothing chases away hangover blues like cholesterol and caffeine.

With the quality and variety of breakfast spots in the cities, there’s no need to ever settle for a mediocre meal, nor should you settle for a boring restaurant. There are gourmet salons, punk rock bars and blue-collar diners. No matter what you’re into, there’s a place (probably several) that can offer you something delicious to get you out of bed on weekend mornings. Here are a few of our favorites (in no particular order):

The Dinkytowner
412 ½ 14th Ave. S.E., Mpls.
Saturday, 8 a.m.-4 a.m.
Sunday, 8 a.m.-2 a.m.

There are a lot of high points to the Dinkytowner’s breakfast menu, but tops among them is that it is served anytime. With hours like these, the food could be mediocre and people would still show up, but the food here is some of the best on campus, especially after the rest of our lame city shuts down at 10 p.m. This all makes the Dinkytowner any chronically late sleeper or insomniac’s best pal. Reasonably priced specials, all with vegetarian variations or half-orders available on request, are a good bet, especially the Cajun, the Tex-Mex and the Farmer’s.

Bonnie’s
2160 University Ave., St. Paul
Saturday 6 a.m.-2 p.m.
Sunday 7 a.m.-2 p.m.

Bonnie’s is the most authentic diner anywhere in the area. This cute little place is nestled in an industrial stretch of University Avenue Southeast, between a bar and a hard-luck hotel. They serve classic breakfasts cheap and quick. No hipsters, no crowds, no pretense, just the staples done well. Look for the biscuits and gravy or, if you’re looking for a real old-fashioned classic (according to some devotees), try the creamed chipped beef on toast. It’s not available every day, only on special occasions.

Hell’s Kitchen
89 S. 10th St., Downtown Mpls.
8 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

This is the hoity-toitiest spot on the list, and menu items such as crab cakes and breakfast lobster will clue you in right away if the prices don’t. The decor features tons of art by Ralph Steadman and tablecloths cut to look tattered. The hell theme is in effect, but only lightly (it’s hard to imagine hell with tan walls). The food is creative and unique, and truly delicious. There’s a lot of bison on the menu, along with homemade bread, peanut butter and preserves that are outstanding. The Bloody Mary is a highlight for you older kids.

This is a great place to take your parents when they visit the cities and want to pay for your breakfast. Your mom will think it’s “funky.”

Al’s Breakfast
413 14th Ave. S.E., Dinkytown
Until 1 p.m.

This is the king of the breakfast joints. Al’s is a legend in this town, and for good reason. This has got to be one of the smallest commercial spaces in the world, and it has been put to fantastic use as a breakfast counter since the 1950s. Get a prepaid tab, then next time you’re broke on campus, head over for either classics done impeccably well or something original. Favorites are the pancakes, but don’t be boring; add walnuts, blueberries, corn and what have you, and then listen as the staff hollers weird names back and forth in a breakfast code only they and their regulars can decipher. “Eclectic” doesn’t scratch the surface here, and a career as a University student that doesn’t include a trip to Al’s is sadly incomplete.

The Sunny Side Up
2704 Lyndale Ave. S., Mpls
7 a.m.-3 p.m.

Uptown, for those of you who live under a rock, is quickly gentrifying, so one wonders how long regular students will be able to afford to live, play or eat in the neighborhood. This is the best place for a morning meal in the heart of Uptown, if you can stand the wait. The French toast is a modern classic and the Mexican dishes are great (they have cactus, mmmmÖ). But for the more adventurous there are the eggs Benedict specials that sometimes render this breakfast regular unrecognizable, which is not to say it’s bad.

It’s an upbeat, bouncy place that perfectly represents Uptown at its best, while the long lines and strenuously hip clientele might represent Uptown’s less palatable side.

Victor’s 1959 Cafe
3756 Grand Ave. S., Mpls.
Saturday 7 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
Sunday 8 a.m.-2 p.m.

Featuring what they call “revolutionary Cuban cooking,” the folks at Victor’s have become a favorite within their neighborhood and to the flocks that migrate there every morning. You can’t help but feel as if you’ve walked into a more tropical part of the world as you enter. It’s a small, intimate space and the brightly colored walls are filled with images of Cuba, ranging from political icons to photos of the country and Victor’s T-shirts.

The authentic Cuban menu offers some basic Cuban food such as rice and beans, fried yucca and one of the best foods known to man, fried plantains. These addictive banana-like bad boys will be enough to bring you back again and again. Mango items, which include out-of-this-world waffles, will make you drool, and clever names on the menu, such as the “Bay of Pigs Sandwich,” will make you giggle.

The Seward Cafe
2129 E. Franklin Ave., Mpls.
8 a.m.-4 p.m.

The Seward is in a neighborhood joint that feels very neighborhoodsy. The ambience suggests a favorite comfortable piece of furniture that someone has based a restaurant on. It’s broken in, reliable and just plain comfy. This place draws a cross-section of the area, with lots of students, punks, hippies, immigrants, University employees and the odd biker from the Cabooze.

The menu is completely vegetarian-friendly with scads of vegan options. The best items are the earth breakfasts, which feature eggs, tofu or beans mixed with cheese and scrambled with some of the best hash browns you’re likely to find. Strong coffee, nice plants and a patio for the warm days make this a favorite.

The Triple Rock Social Club
629 Cedar Ave. S., West Bank
10 a.m.-3 p.m.

When breakfast needs to be perfect, this is the place to go. We at the Daily don’t like to play favorites, but this is where we end up the most. It’s close, it’s cheap, it’s downright delicious and the drinks are strong.

That’s right, if you’re looking to power through your hangover or just get a head start on the day’s festivities, the Rock has big ol’ drinks to complement any breakfast. We recommend the best vegetarian biscuits and gravy ever made with a Bloody Mary, or perhaps the only vegan pigs in a blanket we’ve ever come across with a Screwdriver. Maybe try the Rock Star Eggs in A Hole or Beth’s Fantastic Breakfast Burrito with a Colt 45. Whatever your pleasure, these folks will serve it up hot, fast and economically.

The addition of seating in the music room makes it rare to have to wait for a table these days, at least until the world discovers the magic of this exquisite morning outing.

Let’s keep this between us.