Hello, I’ll Be Your Regular Today

Posted on Monday 19 March 2007

I am slowly but surely changing my ways. I no longer eat candy for breakfast.

As a result, I have discovered yet another diet that allows me to keep my girlish figure–the eat-a-big-enough-breakfast-because-you-won’t-eat-any-food-the-rest-of-your-shift-until-you-get-home diet. It is amazing. Oh sure, there’s a half-hour “lunch” break written into my schedule–but please, let’s be real. It’s restaurant life per usual. Food, food everywhere and no time to eat a bite.

So, I am now in search of a restaurant where I can become a regular for breakfast. (Note to thoughtful, always helpful readers: I can’t do the grab-and-go doughnut, bagel, muffin thing–remember, I have the pesky wheat allergy. And don’t even think about suggesting my home kitchen. I leave early to either walk or take the bus, and scrambling eggs is not on this hurried half-hour schedule that must also include waking up, feeding the ancient cat, showering, slurping a cup of coffee, and attempting to look like a million bucks while using a million bucks’ worth of makeup in an effort to look like I use no makeup.)

My choices for such a breakfast in my city are limited:

–Option A: fast food. I opt for Option A only in emergencies–when I am way late or way in need of whatever grease is being served up with a pre-formed potato cake because of my tendency, now and then, to drink one more glass of wine than I should the evening before.

–Option B: food by the pound. Do not even get me started about these revolting places. Tray upon tray of crusted-over eggs, dried-out potatoes, lumpy grits, curled-up ham slices, burned or raw bacon, and wrinkled sausage links–all suspended over luke warm water. Yum! The hot food is never hot, and the cold food is always room temperature. The few times I have eaten at these places, I have not felt very good for a couple of days afterward.

–Option C: Real restaurants that serve real breakfasts. They are few and far in between. Yes, I could go to any of the restaurants in the endless number of hotels that line the sidewalks on my walk through downtown, but, um, there’s a reason why hotel breakfasts are the most profitable meals of the day for said hotels.

My vision of being a regular at a great breakfast spot is to walk in, nod to the host, grab a counter seat or be directed to my usual booth, exchange pleasantries with the staff members who know me because I am there four mornings out of five, and who also know the only way I change up my predictable “no bread, no toast” order is by asking for ketchup instead of sour cream for my eggs.

I have not found this place. Such restaurants that do exist are filled with dark-suited, very important other people who are conducting what is known as “the breakfast meeting.” I am not only not invited to these meetings, I am very clearly intruding on their space and diluting their importance by attempting to elbow my way in to one of these crowded restaurants as a regular.

Note to all breakfast-eating, serious, important people: I don’t care about the trade, world, political, and industry secrets you are spouting for all to hear. I also don’t care where you go after breakfast, who your boss is or if you are the boss, or what your self-perceived power ranking is among the other dark-suited people in the restaurant. I’d just appreciate it if you’d give up that nice two-top booth on a random Tuesday or Friday, so I could spread my stuff out and work a crossword, okay?

By process of elimination and necessity, I keep going back–some four days out of five–to a stark, chilly place with no table service and only flimsy plastic forks and knives for cutlery, that at least serves a decent breakfast. Most days, I am the sole person in there, and I always order the “Health Breakfast Special.”

I love it that a four-egg-white veggie omelet automatically comes unadorned with toast. I love it that the egg whites don’t come from a carton and that the line cook always has to ask the owner how to make “this thing,” and then proceeds to carefully crack fresh eggs and separate the whites. I love it that the line cook sautes the fresh mushrooms and peppers and tomatoes first, and then pours the frothy batch of egg whites onto the grill over the vegetables. I love the sound of the way it sizzles. I love it that I can watch this from the other side of the counter that is lined left-to-right with a display of candy that makes we want to cry–Skittles, Twizzlers, M&Ms, you name it.

And I love that I always have to answer “for here” four mornings out of five, even though I have never carried out once in the three-and-a-half weeks I’ve been going there, four mornings out of five.

Now and then, the mood of the place drastically changes. Last week, a sizable group of middle schoolers sprawled all over the place, the kids making fun of each other’s recently bought hats and gloves from the sidewalk vendor because of the unexpected cold snap, and the adults making jokes about security and terrorists. Hey, you folks must be from out of town, yes? I found a stool in the back corner at the limited counter space no one ever sits at and hunched over the plate of my usual fare. The Nano earphones and newly downloaded music provided an excellent way to block out the loud nonsense.

On another day, pleasant-enough office workers took over the majority of the tables, leaving me to sit again at my go-to counter spot, which was fine except the office workers were really loud and really cheery about finishing a project the day before. An while I was very happy for them and the successful completion of their project, they were very cheery and very loud at a very early hour, and I was needing mostly quiet and cheerlessness at that particular moment of that particular morning. Again, the Nano saved me.

And now today, on this blustery Monday, the very worst happened, something I never could have predicted after almost a month because, if it hadn’t happened after three weeks, it surely wouldn’t happen, ever, right?

“You want egg white omelet, yes?” Yes, thank you.

“No cheese, right?” Right.

“For here, okay?” Yes, for here, thanks.

“I will bring it to you. You sit anywhere.” I will, thank you.

Yes, it had happened–I was a regular.

Why now? Why here? Why not the cool sit-down power-breakfast place four blocks over? Why not the hip diner-like place a neighborhood away? Why this drab, lifeless, self-described “cafe carryout,” of all places?

“How about you get some coffee today? I make it fresh for you!”

For me? Just for me? “Sure! I’d like that.”

No turning back. I’m in. And I’m sitting at any Formica table I want!

17 Comments for 'Hello, I’ll Be Your Regular Today'

  1.  
    March 19, 2007 | 11:07 pm
     

    great post! i love that feeling of belonging…lol..happened today at of all places..the grocery store!

  2.  
    Piper
    March 19, 2007 | 11:15 pm
     

    Congrats! I’m never at home in a new place until someone knows how I like my eggs ๐Ÿ™‚

  3.  
    March 20, 2007 | 12:24 am
     

    I understand what you went through… in spades. While I love to cook, and cook for others, I absolutely hate having to make breakfast. I’m not coordinated enough to time two eggs over, meat, and toast in the morning and my coffee… well, it sucks. I want to wake up, and watch the world go by as I eat.

    In fact, I’ve had to cultivate three places where I’m a regular; the kitchen at work which makes a very respectable omellette for me, plenty of veggies and they let me add my own cayenne pepper. Hey, if I screw it up, I can only blame myself.

    Then there is the weekend joint; most Saturdays and Sundays I can be found there. They see me walking in from the parking lot, and they put on my order; greek sausage, over, brown (aka wheat) toast, coffee and a water please. They all know my name, and I now all of theirs (servers and bussers). I always get a seat, and the occasional comped breakfast. But they just do weekend breakfasts.

    For those times I take a day off, or am on vacation, there’s the backup joint. While I don’t have the level of recognition of my other two places, they know me well enough to finish my order for me. Ham, over, brown toast, coffee and a water. Friendly and polite, they leave me to my own devices as I slowly wake up.

    It’s nice to be known, but even nicer is the pleasure of watching the world go by while someone brings me a coffee and takes care of those nasty little things like flipping my eggs without breaking the yolks. After my little slice of predictability and routine, I’m ready for whatever the day brings.

  4.  
    Julie
    March 20, 2007 | 1:31 am
     

    When my husband and I lived in Brooklyn, his breakfast order never changed. I’d vary mine just so I didn’t get too bored. On most Saturdays and Sundays, we’d walk down the street for breakfast. When the servers stopped by our table, they’d have two pots of coffee — regular for him and decaf for me. They’d double-check our orders. Sometimes we’d eat and run; other times, we’d sit for a while and chat with the staff and owners (only when it was quiet). We’d almost always run into friends. It’s one of the few things I miss.

    Now, we’re over a thousand miles away and we have another spot within walking distance. It’s a little fancier, but the servers still bring both pots of coffee. Soon, they’ll remember our orders, too.

  5.  
    March 20, 2007 | 7:36 am
     

    Wonderful ๐Ÿ™‚

  6.  
    cj
    March 20, 2007 | 10:07 am
     

    Hi, Gal! I’m a daily lurker *ahem* reader. I can relate with your desire to find that comfortable, just-right spot in the morning. Since I started working in an area with lots of restaurants, I’m painfully aware of those where I feel just don’t belong, for real reasons or vague ones. I’m glad you have someplace at least passable until you and your breakfast spot find each other.

    Just a small hint: I’m usually running out the door too fast to even think about breakfast, too. I learned to keep a stash of hard-boiled eggs in the fridge: prepare them the night before and they’re easy to grab, aren’t too messy, and taste great with hot sauce.

  7.  
    March 20, 2007 | 10:49 am
     

    I’m looking for a place like that around my place. So far…no luck. But with your story, I can do it…:)

  8.  
    March 20, 2007 | 12:11 pm
     

    How cool! ๐Ÿ˜€

  9.  
    March 20, 2007 | 1:47 pm
     

    aaah… you’ve found breakfast! now if you can just get some real cutlery you’ll be all set ๐Ÿ˜‰

    seriously though… I loved my regulars at the little coffee shop I ran a million and one years ago… loved the look on the faces of how did you know I want that drink… loved the later realization and acceptance that they indeed were regulars!

    It’s good you’ve found a place. Good that you are eating food , not candy , for breaky! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    but seriously.. maybe you should consider bringing your own fork?? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  10.  
    March 20, 2007 | 2:03 pm
     

    I’m a “regular” in the little cafe in my building. It’s a nice feeling to be remembered. Congrats on your coffe shop promotion.

  11.  
    March 20, 2007 | 4:08 pm
     

    I love my regular morning spot. I walk in greeted by name and take my seat. But I rarely order the same thing. Fortunately my morning spot is half a block away from work and takes five minutes to walk to and from. I like it cause it’s fairly quick. Thank goodness for tacos. ^_^ It’s always nice to have a spot for yourself.

  12.  
    March 21, 2007 | 6:02 am
     

    Artful Dodger–Tacos for breakfast sound excellent. At my first restaurant, two of the hosts always ate cold cut subs dressed with hot peppers at 9 a.m. The day I shared a sub (insides only, sadly), loaded with peppers and slathered with spicey oil and vinegar, was the day they said I could “eat like a real man.” Ha! Candy, tacos, hot peppers–I can eat anything at any time of day! Enjoy your breakfast spot.

    Jenni–Bringing my own fork…hmm.

    cj–welcome from the land of the lurkers!

    Savannah–I love my grocery store where the clerks know me, even if it isn’t the best-stocked place around.

    Piper–No place like home.

    Julie–I remember the days when my husband and I were a caf/decaf couple. That was before restaurant life became part of the mix.

    Aaron–You will most certainly find your place now that you are stateside again!

    Kim–Hello!

    Lisa–Indeed.

    Serdic–You have this breakfast thing down, it sounds like. As for broken egg yokes, whenever I do try to fry an egg, they always end up being scrambled.

    Jali–Everyone needs that place where they are always remembered.

  13.  
    SkippyMom
    March 21, 2007 | 6:28 am
     

    amazing…you, of all people, found a place that might actually allow you to be a regular.

    i was going to suggest some places to get a great/cheap breakfast where you live, but i am not to sure i would want to subject you on people i consider friends and pretty nice people.

    i know i sound snarky – i can’t help it…do you ever read what you write? “the suits” won’t acknowledge your need for breakfast because you aren’t one of them and aren’t interested in their business, but [in the same breath] you resent the people that make our city tick…the tourists [y’know the middle schoolers and their folks talking about terrorism – “new here?”] and the business folks celebrating their finish…yeah, you congratulated them, but you were so backhanded about it – they disturbed you so you wore your ipod and listened to your new music.

    remind me again WHY you live in the city i know you live in? or i guess a better question is WHY i come back to read you again and again.

    i could answer the second half of that in one sentence – let me know…i will gladly email you with something even snarkier than this.

  14.  
    Kris
    March 21, 2007 | 6:57 am
     

    From the POV of a waitress in a diner who often works breakfasts, can I tell you how much that little breakfast place appreciates you – the customer who comes in, lands, knows what they want, is quiet and polite and gets what they do? Because, believe me, we do.

    The power-breakfast guys, noisy middle schoolers and office workers stress out the usually overtired staff as much as they do the quiet, looks like a million dollars woman at the counter.

    Cheers!

  15.  
    March 21, 2007 | 5:22 pm
     

    welcome to breakfast

  16.  
    lh
    March 25, 2007 | 1:22 am
     

    what about a place like Panera or Potbelly’s? I think they serve breakfast at both of those places.

  17.  
    wineward
    April 3, 2007 | 3:56 pm
     

    Hey SkippyMom, did you get some of that bad peanut butter a few weeks ago? Maybe that’s why you’re so bitter.

    How could you possibly read this post and come away thinking that RG was denigrating suits, tourists, or happy office-workers? I took this post for just what it was—an exposition of the thoughts and feelings that accompanied her search for a reliable breakfast spot. If those thought and feelings include observations about the self-importance displayed by many power-brokers, or the noise and distraction created by children or celebrating office-workers, so what? She also complained about plastic forks. Don’t you want to berate her for putting down the plastic fork merchants while you’re at it?

    What I took away from this post is that RG is a slow-waker who likes her peace-and-quiet in the morning. Also, that she finds it ironic (but somehow comforting) that she’s become a regular at the spot in which this first seemed improbable.

    Lighten up.

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