The wait. Surely it's a good thing, right?
I mean, why else would an IKEA-superstore-sized mass of people — well, maybe not that many folks, but it sure feels like it when you're hungry and they're ahead of you — all head to the same morning spot, over and over again, if it weren't somehow great?
That's the theory anyway. And hopefully you've eaten at a handful of places that have left you sufficiently stupefied, with the purest maple syrup or the most perfect Hollandaise ever constructed oozing down your chin. But you've also probably eaten a sad omelette somewhere and said to yourself, "Jeez, I could have done better myself at home."
Sometimes an egg or waffle is just that. At other rare times, it's so much more.
Snooze, an A.M. Eatery
2262 Larimer St., Denver, 303/297-0700, snoozeeatery.com
Brave the hour-plus wait (with a free cup of organic Guatemalan coffee, at least) that we encountered at Snooze's original location, and you'll understand why the place has become a breakfast institution in just five years. It's hip, sustainability-minded, creative and largely delicious. Basically: the place to be.
They had me at "pancake flight" ($8.50). We made ours gluten-free, taking the graham cracker crumbles out of the blueberry cheesecake pancake of the day, which was still plenty delightful with a heavy jam smear. Ginger butter highlighted the not-so-starchy sweet potato buttermilk disc with a light caramel pecan garnish. But the world-beating stunner was the stupidly sweet cherry bourbon cakes, with bourbon cherries and sauce, chocolate chips, cherry butter and over-the-top streusel. Just, damn. — Matthew Schniper
Hungry Bear Restaurant
111 E. Midland Ave., Woodland Park, 687-5912, hungrybearcolorado.com
This restaurant, which has plated pancakes for 20-plus years, was packed with people — with a line going out the door into the cold — not to mention hundreds of stuffed bears on shelves, cupboards and glass cases. (Even its website sports a loaded 900-word back-story for "Rufus the Bear.")
The 10 or so cheery signs that riff on "I can only please one person per day ..." set a bizarre tone, but the people paying their bill at the front counter and spinning a post-meal wheel to win freebies, seemed nothing but pleased at whatever they just ate.
Once we got the chance to order the Blueberry Cream crêpe ($7.75), we found the sour cream and berries inside tangy and fun, and the almost-pancake-thick wrapping soft and very filling. Too bad about the canned whipped cream, though. — Bryce Crawford
6980 Lake St., Green Mountain Falls, 684-9018
Our other mountain-breakfast stop came at the Pancake by the Lake: the Pantry. (You can use that one, folks.)
Now, I don't know if a cramped and crazy room is a requirement for enjoyable consumption of eggs in public, but the little spot's door opens immediately to a quickly filling bar, then moves through a doorway into a bedroom-sized space filled to the brim with tables. Definitely lively.
Yet ultimately, our food proved as reserved as the mountain location. If you're a person who enjoys a quiet and non-spicy green chili, then the South of the Border Huevos Rancheros ($9.49) is for you. Nice corn tortillas slathered with dark refried beans sit underneath two over-medium eggs, tomato, melted cheese and avocados — just watch for the black edges. As well, the coffee was plentiful, and our server clearly a morning person. — Bryce Crawford
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