Ditch your jammies and that stale bagel tomorrow morning. Steer your car to downtown Puyallup instead.
Breakfast cafes sprawl from Meridian to East Main. I was struck by the breadth of the offerings. Simple cafes served uncomplicated American breakfast fare. Downtown restaurants better known for dinner service boasted gussied-up weekend brunch menus.
I also found bar breakfasts, delicious doughnuts and coffee houses worth your patronage, but for brevity, I skipped those for this report.
My top four restaurant destinations nailed every element of breakfast. Eggs arrived cooked to order. Gravy tasted homespun. And, most importantly, my coffee cup never sat empty. The four restaurants I liked best came with an extra helping of solid service.
The other four didn’t make it into my top tier for one reason or another, but they all provided something worth noting: They serve breakfast during all operating hours. That’s important for people who prefer to eat the most important meal of the day for lunch or dinner.
Count me as one of those.
Info: 113 E. Main, Puyallup; 253-845-0588, charliesofpuyallup.com. Breakfast served daily.
Five years ago, best friends Teresa Suprak and Janice Carter bought Charlie’s from two brothers who had operated the restaurant since 1972.
They had an agenda when they tackled their first restaurant together. If they were going to be restaurant owners, they’d be workers there, too.
It’s common to see the pair tableside — so much so that guests sometimes don’t know which is Suprak and which is Carter. Suprak joked in a phone interview that each will answer to the other’s name out of habit.
It’s not often I find a restaurant with a salad bar, let alone a place that has the trifecta of breakfast dining: economical prices, homestyle food and outstanding service. That speaks to Suprak and Carter, who have worked in restaurants their entire careers.
Head into the kitchen and you’ll find the same polish and experience executing a menu of American classics.
Gayle Davies has been a cook in the Charlie’s kitchen for 27 years. The kitchen manager is Ben Marcus, who longtime locals will remember from a decade at the Powerhouse Brewery, after he was a partner in the now-closed regional Cajun destination, From The Bayou.
If you haven’t visited Charlie’s for three or more years, you won’t recognize the new dining room that oozes hometown Puyallup pride. Be sure to take a look at the historical fair photos from the comfortable perch of the new booths.
Gayle’s Prime Rib Hash ($9.99) — the invention of the longtime cook — was so well crafted, I checked the menu three times to make sure I had the correct price. That dish deserves an extra nod because it’s what every hash wants to be when it grows up. Threaded with leftovers from the restaurant’s signature prime rib dinner, the hash was built with fried red potatoes. Two over-easy eggs spilled ribbons of yolk when pierced.
Chicken fried steak with eggs ($9.99) was elevated to rock star status for gravy groupies: a sausage river flowed into a pool below the breaded steak made from house-pounded top sirloin. Shredded browns spent enough time on the griddle to achieve that perfect balance of crispy jacket and creamy interior.
Eggs Benedict ($10.99) got a different treatment here. Thin layers of deli-style ham stood in for a ham slab (I didn’t mind — it worked). Cubed country potatoes were tasty, but I don’t think they’d ever win in a smackdown with those perfect hash browns.
The Rose Restaurant
Info: 122 W. Main, Puyallup; 253-845-2874. Breakfast served daily.
The Rose Restaurant will celebrate a hallmark anniversary this year: 25 years in business in downtown Puyallup.
In the notoriously rough restaurant business, making it to year 25 suggests a restaurant that recognizes success is in the details. Details such as plastic cubes of raspberry freezer jam rather than the standard Smucker’s tubs.
Custom-glazed coffee mugs in a nostalgic shade of mint green matching the diner’s decor. A server who greets regulars by name.
The Rose might appear a relic by today’s dining standards, but you won’t find me faulting the throw-back dining counter or a cafe where regulars can be served coffee in mugs they’ve brought from home.
Breakfast at The Rose was uncomplicated, straightforward and highly focused on the basics. Not fancy, it’s food the way your grandma made, served at a fair price.
The Ken and Brigitte referenced on the menu purchased the restaurant in 1989. Ken Placek died in 2001 and Brigitte Placek continues to operate the restaurant today. I asked her what’s the secret of her restaurant’s longevity and she answered, “Our regulars.” I’m adopting her description of the food — honest old-fashioned American breakfast.
Eggs Benedict ($8.50) was well priced and solid, although nothing too fancy in keeping with The Rose’s yesteryear approach. I chuckled at the sprinkle of black olives over the buttery Hollandaise — I haven’t seen olives on that dish since I was a kid.
The side of griddled, well-seasoned red potatoes showed the extra attention paid in the kitchen. If given the choice, ask for the country red potatoes over the hash browns, although those were pretty good, too.
Chicken fried steak ($9.25) tasted deliciously uncomplicated — tenderized steak with a crunchy coating covered in a gravy lake, eggs over easy and toast.
Kids will dig into the large Belgian waffle with a whiff of vanilla. It’s from the freezer, griddled to order and a fair price of $7.25 with eggs and links.
Crockett’s Public House
Info: 118 E. Stewart Ave., Puyallup; 253-466-3075, crockettspublichouse.com. Breakfast served Saturday and Sunday.
Thank goodness for television reruns. Although it was a year ago that Shaun Brobak and his staff at Crockett’s Public House filmed a segment for the television show “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” the rerun episodes on the Food Network still drive business to his downtown eatery.
In fact, the Crockett’s episode should be airing today (check the restaurant’s website for a schedule).
While the restaurant might be best known for modern American pub food — try the burgers, sloppy Joe and meatballs — Crockett’s should earn a reputation for its weekend breakfasts. The menu reads urbane: three kinds of bacon, cheesy grits, fair scones standing in for biscuits, and house-made sausage, all executed by chef Brian Johnston.
Besides the prime rib hash at Charlie’s, the chicken fried steak ($13.95) at Crockett’s was the standout dish for this report. An extra flaky coating jacketed a thinly pounded top sirloin steak topped with mushroom gravy and flanked by sharply cheesy grits and eggs any way you want.
Eggs Benedict ($9.95) came with a flood of buttery Hollandaise over perfectly poached eggs, chunky ham and crispy muffins. The accompanying tangle of country potatoes could stand alone as breakfast fodder. It comes with crab or spinach, too.
The cinnamon waffle ($8.95) is the same as is served in the restaurant’s signature chicken and waffles. Candied pecans and whipped butter atop the waffle will appeal to kids or adults.
And speaking of kids, local graphic artist Dennis Bland has designed what has to be the coolest kid’s menu, with a page of Puyallup-focused Mad Libs that was pure fun at the breakfast table. With well-trained servers who dote on kids, Crockett’s is a destination for family breakfast dining.
HG Bistro (UPDATE 2015: HG Bistro no longer is serving weekend breakfast)
Info: 1618 E. Main, Puyallup; 253-845-5747, hgbistro.com. Brunch served Sunday.
At first glance, HG Bistro looks to be a date-night destination, which is why I was so surprised to see that it serves Sunday brunch.
With owner Tim Hall at the helm, well-trained staffers delivered high-quality service and chef Richard Bretana offered a menu of Northwest bistro fare. The brunch menu looked short, but offerings such as duroc ham, chicken-fried calamari and multiple vegetarian options gave this restaurant an edge with diners seeking unusual offerings in a city full of classics.
Whatever you order, ask for a side of the restaurant’s signature ham ($4), or a waffle biscuit with maple sausage gravy ($5). A weekend special of those biscuits and gravy ($8.50) came with a copious flow of the creamy sausage gravy — there had to be at least a cup and a half of gravy on that plate.
On a first visit, try the fried eggs Benedict ($11.95); a dense bun at the base of the dish was a welcomed diversion from typical English muffins. The restaurant’s duroc ham turned that dish special, and the citrusy squall of the Hollandaise tasted squarely Floridian. Best Benedict in town.
Four more to try
Breakfast at these four are served during operating hours.
Auntee B’s, 213 N. Meridian St., Puyallup; 253-435-8833. Note: the diner closes at 1:30 p.m. weekdays, 3 p.m. weekends.
Proficient and friendly service was welcomed, plus kids received star treatment in this seat-yourself restaurant. Auntee B’s looked to be the ultimate destination for groups of six or more. Big windows, a tall ceiling and exposed brick create an airy atmosphere.
Be sure to check the board for berry-laden griddle cakes and stuffed French toast among other specials.
Must try: An egg, hash browns and a slice of toast for $3.65? That’d keep me returning daily.
Skip: Ham slab (with two eggs, toast and browns) tasted spongy. For $9.35, I expected better.
Mrs. Turner’s Hometown Cafe, 701 E. Main, Puyallup; 253-848-7761.
Despite the packed parking lot, the wait for a table wasn’t long at Mrs. Turner’s, a larger-than-it-looks restaurant with two dining rooms. That pie case in the lobby? That’s just good marketing, as is the “breakfast served anytime” declaration on the menu.
The homey restaurant turned over tables quickly, which might be why table check-ins were sparse and my coffee cup short on refills.
Must try: Country Benedict ($10.99) was like the love child of eggs Benedict and biscuits and gravy. Split-open biscuits cradled scrambled eggs, sausage patties and gravy that I wanted to be less pasty.
Tip: I spotted the Mexican breakfast dish chilaquiles ($9.99).
Skip: The corned beef hash ($9.99) had the mushy texture of the canned stuff.
Jason’s, 1402 Meridian St. S., Puyallup; 253-845-7367.
Is this a bar? A restaurant? The pull-tab counter anchoring the restaurant’s entry could prompt diners with kids to exit immediately. But it turns out, they like kids — and pull tabs — at Jason’s.
Service here came with extra charm. I’d return again just because of that roaming manager expertly checking on every table.
Must try: Any of the skillets, but especially the one with a three-pork delight of ham, sausage and bacon ($10.95, with eggs how you like them and toast). Pancakes ($6.75) here were oversize and springy, some of my favorites on this tour.
Skip: Anemic gravy over over-salted biscuits were a miss ($7.85/$9.95).
Hermann’s/Cattin’s Family Dining, 105 Ninth Ave. SW, Puyallup; 253-848-3494.
Would it seem odd to suggest pie for breakfast? I suppose, but I’m doing that anyway. Check the pie list on the board next to the cash register. On every visit, I’ve been rewarded with house-baked, delicious pie — not a single dud in all I’ve tried.
Some of the servers here could be named Flo because much like the legendary television waitress, they’re full of charm, sass and fun tableside anecdotes. Kids get extra special treatment here, with free meal promotions Mondays through Wednesdays.
Must try: Six fluffy cakes for a stellar price of $4.19. And the pie. Get the pie ($3.79).
Skip: Chicken fried steak tasted mushy and the gravy was pasty ($9.99).
Sue Kidd dines anonymously and The News Tribune pays for all meals.