Eating out for breakfast – a great American tradition

Over the past 35 years I’ve visited the United States on many occasions, and traveled through 21 of the 50 states.

It never ceases to amaze me what a wonderfully diverse country the US is – geographically, ethnically, socially, and politically. I can’t deny that there are regions of the US where I feel more comfortable than others. But everywhere (well, almost everywhere) folks have been courteous and welcoming – I think it must be the British accent.

On a recent trip to northern Minnesota, which took us (temporarily) into Wisconsin on the way back to St Paul, the waitress in the diner where we stopped for lunch (an excellent grilled ham and cheese sandwich and fries, plus soda) in Frederic asked where I was from. When I told her ‘England’, she replied ‘I thought so. I could listen to your accent all day long.’

And one of the aspects of American life I have come to enjoy very much is the ‘tradition’ of going out to eat breakfast – and a whole host of diners has developed nationwide. Getting out of bed on a Sunday morning, and first of all deciding which diner to visit. Then there’s the anticipation of a full breakfast: eggs, bacon or sausage, hash browns, and a myriad of choices of bread for toast. Or will it be a stack of pancakes, with exquisite maple syrup (the real deal – not some concoction that we buy over here in the UK, which has a hint of maple added as flavoring), or maybe the french toast, inch-thick slices of course, dusted with powdered sugar. As one sits down to make a choice, the server immediately pours a cup of steaming, freshly-brewed coffee. Heaven!

In the Twin Cities (that’s Minneapolis-St Paul, Minnesota to non-residents), I’ve dined at three breakfast venues, all excellent, and different in their own ways.

I’m most familiar with the Grandview Grill, on the corner of Grand and Fairview Avenues, just down the street from Macalester College from where Hannah and Michael graduated (also alma mater to Kofi Annan). We had breakfast there just a couple of weeks ago. The pancakes were delicious. It was a Saturday – we decided to go then since the following day was Father’s Day and we knew the place would be heaving. Accommodating a toddler and a small baby on a quieter morning was better for us and other clients.

Along Selby Avenue, at the junction with Dale, is the New Louisiana Cafe. Also a great venue for a filling breakfast. Seems it’s owned by the same people who run the Grandview Grill – if logos are anything to go by.

In downtown Minneapolis is Hell’s Kitchen, a rather eclectic venue that seems (from the photos posted on its site) also to have undergone some transformations from what I remember.

At one time the walls were covered with paintings by British cartoonist Ralph Steadman. On the two or three occasions I’ve had breakfast there, we had to wait quite some time for a table – it’s a popular venue. In December 2007, when we visited Hannah and Michael, we had a long and rather cold wait in the lobby. The outside temperature was well below zero – we’d just flown in from the Philippines. The breakfast more than made up for the wait.

Why do I like this breakfast-out approach? Well, it’s just not done here in the UK, and for us visitors to the US, it is just one big treat.

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