the breakfast dictator [215]

Breakfast Portrait {11} | Post-Morning Glory; Melissa Choi

Posted in Breakfast Portraits by thebreakfastdictator on August 18, 2010

Melissa | Morning Glory | March 2010

Waveland Cafe | Des Moines, Iowa

Posted in Diner Review, Travel by thebreakfastdictator on August 15, 2010

Waveland Cafe | Des Moines, Iowa

1,103 miles is a long way to go for breakfast.

I’d heard about this joint in the fall of 2007, shortly after we’d started the Breakfast Club in Pittsburgh. Wayde and Erin were soon to be engaged, I’d recently started the original Breakfast Dictator, and despite the distance we kept in touch on at least a few topics – breakfast was surely one of them. So, in July, when I finally made my way back to Iowa, after a two and a half year hiatus, the Waveland was certainly on my hit list.

It boasts the best hash-browns in the universe. It has one of those racks that, just to the right of the bar, the regulars hang their mugs. Quirky paintings cover the walls and even the front windows. Some of the window art incorporates what one of the locals claims are bullet-holes. Is this true, or isn’t it? Such legend can’t be verified, but can’t be ignored either. Crime in Iowa? This place seems all to peaceful for that – a lovely blend of colorful people and perfect-Pleasantville (at least before the color is introduced).

Matthew's Mustache, among other things

Matthew grew a mustache. And not an ironic one, either.

“Lemme take your photo.”


….alright, but let me put my glasses on.

….it’s lookin’ pretty good, but I think I’m gonna shave it soon.

….check it!”

There’s a discrepancy on the mugs and on the menu. The mug reads “Established 1982”, the Menu “1984”. We ask our server. She asks the boss. The boss shakes her head and kinda laughs. “That sounds about right!”, she says. Our question remains unanswered. Bullet holes? Date of origin? Answers elude us. The legend grows.

Best hashbrowns in the universe, eh? I’ll have to have them. Two dippy-eggs and toast are my sides. The hashbrowns do not disappoint. I’ll take their word. I haven’t explored the universe yet. Though, perhaps Ron Paul has. His signature is on the wall.

“Any chance I can buy one of the mugs?”

“Yeah. We sell them. Do you want a small or a large?”

“What do you mean? I meant the one that I used. I’d like to buy it.”

“Oh no. We don’t sell those.”

“But I came all the way from Philadelphia.”

“You mind if he has a mug?”


“Alright, you can have this one. Enjoy your time in Iowa.”

1,103 miles was worth it.

The Dictator in the 412 (I miss Pamela’s!)

Posted in Travel by thebreakfastdictator on March 31, 2010

Pamela’s in the Strip:

Matt’s Big Breakfast | Phoenix, Arizona

Posted in Diner Review, Travel by thebreakfastdictator on December 6, 2009

Matt's Big Breakfast | Phoenix, AZ

It was cold for a Phoenix morning (upper 30s over-night) and I stood outside the hospital splashed in sunlight, surrounded by palm-trees and (oddly) shivering despite my wool army-drab button-down and $3 coffee. The doctor’s visit went well and my spirits were high. Surgery was not an option. For now.

A few minutes later, my host arrived in a green VW Rabbit. I love the new rabbits. She needed to get some work accomplished and I needed to address some email. A few (Phoenix) minutes later, we arrived at the coffee-shop. I ordered a mug of coffee and picked up a business card. Lux? That sounds familiar… Oh my goodness! LUX! I shot their first cover on top of the Smithfield at 5.30 on a Sunday morning in 2007 and the magazine was named after the coffee-shop in Phoenix where Mark and Cindy birthed the idea.

The world is tiny.

“My work is done. You wanna get breakfast?”

“Do you even have to ask? What was that place you told me about before I left Philadelphia?”

Matt’s. But there’s another place I thought of that you might like as well.”

“Oh, yeah? What’s that?”

The Welcome Diner.”

“Lemme find it on Yelp and I’ll think about it.”


“This is hard. I can’t decide. Let’s just go to Matt’s. I’ll do the Welcome in the Spring when I come back.”

The West is a unique place. The cities are different – spread out. The architecture is different, too. I can’t describe it. It just feels like it belongs here in the desert. Form over function. Matt’s fits in just this way. It’s tiny inside and everything’s painted white. A few photographs in white mats with white frames take up the rest of the wall space. The small bar occupies a quarter of the main dining area and four diner-orange tables decorated with desert plants take up the rest of the crowded and intimate space which is by now teeming with locals who’re there to gather a late morning brunch.

Three Egg Scramble

There were two specials that morning and once our server mentioned the first, I couldn’t remember anything else, but I told her that I needed some more time so that I could neatly arrange my table for a shot of the menu. When she came back I ordered the three-egg scramble with red peppers, spicy sausage (all their pork comes from Iowa!) and provolone cheese. A side of shredded hash-browns accompanied this beautiful breakfast feast.

For a joint that stays as busy as it does, the prices are fantastic. (I think everything’s cheaper in Phoenix). Before tip, my tab was right around $12 and for the quality and quantity of food that I received in one of Phoenix’s most popular spots, I had no complaints.

When I make a return visit to the Valley of the Sun in April, I’ll be sure to make myself an out-of-town-regular at this wonderful little place.

…And maybe next time I’ll run into Nate Ruess.

Breakfast Portraits {10} | J.F.T. on Film

Posted in Breakfast Portraits by thebreakfastdictator on November 25, 2009
J.F.T. on Tri-X | Honey's

J.F.T. on Tri-X | Honey's



Breakfast Portraits {5 thru 8} | B&W Film

Posted in Breakfast Portraits by thebreakfastdictator on November 24, 2009

(Clockwise) Melissa at Artisan Boulanger Pasissier, Lauren at Honey's, Anders & Ricky at Good Karma


Pamela’s in Oakland Vandalized during G20

Posted in Uncategorized by thebreakfastdictator on November 13, 2009

Pamela's | Oakland

I just found out about this via this hysterical site. While I lived in Pgh, I never visited the Pamela’s in Oakland, but the Strip District location was definitely my favorite spot in the city. It’s a shame this kinda thing had to happen at all. Do protesters ever really truly accomplish anything other than looking like idiots? I mean really — is busting windows on a small town dinerĀ  really gonna get the attention of global leaders?


And you know it.

Get a life.

{The Trib posits a good explanation for why this might’ve happened.}

Either way, the sign the owners of Pamela’s posted was hilarious, though, they probably didn’t intend it to be.




Breakfast Portraits {4} | Carolyn @ Cafe Lift

Posted in Breakfast Portraits by thebreakfastdictator on November 10, 2009

Carolyn | Cafe Lift

Breakfast Portraits {3} | Brae is home from Japan

Posted in Uncategorized by thebreakfastdictator on November 9, 2009

Merry Ann’s Diner | Champaign, IL

Posted in Diner Review, Travel by thebreakfastdictator on October 23, 2009
Victor Munoz | Merry Anns Diner

Victor Munoz | Merry Ann's Diner

Good-byes are sad, you know. And it was a day for good-byes. Nothing here can last and it was time to depart Illinois, the harvest and my dear friends. I thought for sure that I’d get a few more farmers on the way out, especially in Farmer City, but things didn’t play out as expected and I was eager to make it to breakfast. I’d heard about Merry Ann’s from several different people in Bloomington and the anticipation was slowly overwhelming me.

It was a long, cold, drizzled-grey drive across the corn belt and I’d stuffed myself with coffee but breakfast was certainly welcoming. The traffic on the main street of Champaign slightly got on my nerves as the thought of sitting in a warm and welcoming diner while drinking cup after cup of bottom-less coffee flooded my brain. Adding to the irritation was that parking in this area was a premium and I had to round the block a few times (and curse out the out of towner who took up two spaces in the parking lot) til I finally parked in the Wal-Greens across the street, strapped on my camera and found my diner respite.

Walking into this blue and orange clad diner was a step back in time (as many of your typical Americana-type diners are). And it was surprisingly crowded. I snagged the last booth in the far right corner and waited eagerly for the aforementioned coffee. My server (in my exhaustion, I didn’t even catch her name) quickly rattled off that morning’s specials, which I gladly accepted — and ordered the ham+cheese (with a side of pancakes!) omelet for a scant $3.99. She was super-friendly (something that being from the east coast will keep one from being accustomed to) and kept my coffee-cup from ever emptying. Before taking off for the long drive home, I asked her to make her photograph, but she politely and repeatedly declined. She suggested that I photograph Victor, the cook, instead. I made a few frames of him, crossed Neil Street and headed off into the never-ending grey midwestern morning.