the breakfast dictator [215]

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.

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.

Morning Glory | Philadelphia, PA

Posted in Diner Review by thebreakfastdictator on September 30, 2009
Morning Glory | 10th and Fitzwater

Morning Glory | 10th and Fitzwater

The number of times we drove past this dandy little joint in south Philly without ever even noticing it is certainly innumerable. Well, truth be told, I did notice it every time we made the trek from West Philly to South Philly for cheesesteaks at Pat’s – the dangling flowers on the outside always lead me to believe that it was a flower shop. The association was strange, I know, and fortunately, 9 years later, I stumbled over this glorious little diner at the corner of 10th and Fitz.

Every diner seems to have its own little quirks that make it charming (or an event to be forgotten) and Morning Glory is no exception. Most noticeable are the stainless-steel coffee cups (that I’ve heard were relics of a by-gone era that the diner scarfed up upon discovering them). And if, by any chance, that story is true, it adds just a bit more to this diner’s lure. Additionally, the ketchup is home-made and served in giant green glass bottles and a variety of condiments abound — my favorite, perhaps, was the Scorned Woman Hot Sauce.

easy on the eyes; pleasure on the palette

easy on the eyes; pleasure on the palette

I can be sold on anything, as long as it’s easy on my eyes and the very first time I sauntered into Morning Glory on an overcast, late-June day, I knew what I wanted before I was even seated. The grand, green Breakfast Burrito yelped at me from the plate it rested on at the bar as I walked by to my seat in the comfy blue (and rather inviting) dining room. Presentation is key and Morning Glory, perhaps, excels like no other (diner). It’s the little things that count and the small slices of fresh-cut melon (honey dew or cantaloupe) are laid neatly on the side of one’s plate. And let me take one second to gush about the fruit; having grown up in farm country (Lancaster, PA) I am somewhat of a produce snob and the honey dew I had that morning rivaled anything I’d ever find at Central Market in downtown Lancaster, and that, my friends, is an awfully difficult task to accomplish.

Typically, I prefer to avoid long lines, so i enter early (7 on weekdays or 8 on the weekends) and in my last visit, the cooks were singing and carousing with the servers and with the regulars (reading their Inquirers or City Papers at the bar). One of the regulars rolled up in a tan Chevy pickup, straight out of the sixties and, for a moment, I lost myself inside this little diner-world, soaking in the timeless ambiance of excellent food and damn-near perfect atmosphere.

Morning Glory ain’t no flower shop, as I so wrongly assumed my sophomore year of college, and that’s a glorious thing. You’d be best to visit (and make yourself a regular relatively soon).

The Runcible Spoon | Bloomington, Indiana

Posted in Diner Review, Travel by thebreakfastdictator on September 16, 2009

This Bloomington breakfast joint was recently listed as one of Esquire Mag’s 59 Best Breakfasts in America. And while I spent countless weekends in Bloomington between 2004 and 2007, it somehow escaped my knowledge; a grand faux paux, indeed. Regardless, there is talk of making the trek to the un-official Hoosier capital in October just to swing by this grand little place that was literally a block or two where I spent so many fall weekends for three straight years. (One should know that there is a ton to do in Bloomington, especially if you’re from out of town, so don’t fault myself [or anyone else for that matter] for missing a hot spot such as this.

Hopefully, we’ll bring you a review (complete with photos) rather soon.

:: The Dictator ::