Let’s join together, Triangle and NC residents, and make breakfast great again

Could the most important meal of the day change the Triangle’s image as a welcoming, non-judgy place?

It’s not as if the cool cities clique keeps shoving us into the lockers. But when you’re a city — or, in our case, a metroplex – first impressions and first meals matter for longtime locals, selfies-hungry tourists and visiting entrepreneurs.

Nothing says breakfast renaissance like another Biscuitville opening in the Triangle, this time in Clayton.

There’s more.

Big Bad Breakfast, founded by James Beard winning chef John Currence of Oxford, Miss., is opening soon in Durham.

Birdie’s Barroom & Kitchen is expected to open this summer as LM Restaurants injects new life into downtown Raleigh. You have to appreciate their moxie: “Fayetteville Street is not only Raleigh’s Main Street, but the Main Street of North Carolina,” LM Restaurants VP of brand strategy Katherine Goldfaden told The News & Observer’s Drew Jackson.

If you’re an economic developer or a true politician of the people, perhaps it’s time to think of breakfast as the bipartisan, buzz friendly opportunity to feed a community’s desire to break bread — make that biscuits — together.

We travel often, and my first Google search typically is “best breakfast near me.” In the best of places, those four words rarely disappoint while keeping us within 0.8 miles of our hotel.

It’s the cheery Wildberry Pancakes and Cafe just off the Magnificent Mile in Chicago. Or the elegant Pershing Square across from Grand Central Station in Manhattan. We recommend Counter Cafe and 1886 Cafe and Bakery in the Driskill for those visiting Austin.

For in-state roadtrippers, you can’t go wrong with Kate’s Pancake House in Carolina Beach, Henry’s Restaurant in the Outer Banks, Biscuit Head in Asheville, and the unpretentious, all-cash Pinehurst Track Restaurant in Pinehurst.

North Carolina knows breakfast

North Carolina is built to become a great state for breakfast — and the Triangle as its centerpoint — because the first-meal trinity is our specialty:

  • Eggs — We are all about Big Poultry in North Carolina (despite the lack of state oversight that hurts independent farmers).

  • Pork — Any savvy restaurateur knows that inserting the word “Carolina” in front of ham, sausage or bacon is a menu-closing-I’m-ready-to-order moment.

  • Carbs — Yes, more could be done to highlight North Carolina’s abundant crop of sweet potatoes into breakfast menus. But local chefs know how to feed our bodacious love of biscuits and appreciation for doughnut artistry.

Ever since Audrey Hepburn made the croissant relatable AND glamorous in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” aficionados have debated the essence and definition of breakfast. Do you have to sit at a table to qualify as breakfast? Or can breakfast come in a waxy bag?

The Triangle has plenty of quality brunch spots, and food writer Drew of The N&O has astutely chronicled the rise of innovative bagel artisans such as Benchwarmers Bagels and Isaac’s Bagels.

“Breakfast is our most lived-in meal. For most people on most days, it’s a collision of convenience, milk and cereal thrown together in a bowl, maybe a mug, maybe poured directly into a mouth. Or if time allows, the peaceful symphony of pillowy scrambled eggs whipped until airy and soft — a miracle in a minute. On the best mornings, breakfast for us is maybe a sack of pastries at the Durham Farmer’s Market, croissants pulled apart like flakey confetti as our toddler houses one,” Drew offers.

He also adds: “Brunch is something else.“

Breakfast can bring us together

I agree brunch is a separate entity, especially if you need an excuse to chow on crab legs in the morning.

Breakfast as a bipartisan experience — for the young, for the old, for the fussy eaters — shouldn’t be tightly defined. It can bring a community together.

Many were bummed that Ye Olde Waffle Shoppe became a victim of the pandemic. The longtime Chapel Hill breakfast joint on Franklin Street was one of my favorites well before we moved here.

The Ye Olde Waffle Shoppe on Chapel Hill’s Franklin Street closed in late 2020. Julia Wall/jwall@newsobserver.com
The Ye Olde Waffle Shoppe on Chapel Hill’s Franklin Street closed in late 2020. Julia Wall/jwall@newsobserver.com

“Our business model is intimacy, it’s immediacy, it’s feeding people on the spot,” co-owner Melissa Peng told Drew when it closed in 2020.

How poetic.

Can we build community around morning meals that become moments, that don’t judge our choice of omelet toppings, that feed on our instinctive needs for intimate, immediate relationships?

Yes, we can make breakfast great again, Triangle.

Even if it comes in a waxy bag.

Bill Church is executive editor of The News & Observer. His favorite breakfast Monday through Friday is a bowl of Cheerios without milk.