by ANN M. COLFORD & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & S & lt;/span & ummer's drawing to a close, fall schedules are about to kick in, and the Inlander Breakfast Investigation Team (or I-BITE) is on the prowl again, following up on leads and doing some serious enterprise reporting to track down the region's finest breakfast joints.
Well, OK, actually we're just hungry and looking to socialize, but we like to pretend that we have an important mission.
This sunny late-summer morning finds the team -- Doug Nadvornick, Michael Bowen and me -- gathering at the Kalico Kitchen, a popular little spot on the down-slope of North Division. We've decided to let Bo come along on this food journey, despite his infamous grits-for-potatoes debacle (he swears the lighting was dim) in a dinner theater review earlier this year, mainly because of his pleading e-mail: "[Breakfast] is MY FAVORITE MEAL AND I WANT TO BE INVITED TO GO ALONG AND EAT, EAT, EAT!"
I see no gingham or floral prints in the restaurant, something I take as a positive sign. I had been a bit worried when I saw the name "Kalico" -- especially spelled with a K -- but everything here feels spare and utilitarian. Except the clock. On the wall by the kitchen hangs a digital clock that looks like it would be at home in the Spokane Arena. Utilitarian, yes; spare, no. If we're late to work after this, we cannot use the excuse that we lost track of time.
When we first arrive at 8 am, the place is filled with working folks chowing down before the day's duties. Over the next hour, the working crowd is replaced by retirees and bleary-eyed college students, and the pace feels more relaxed, less rushed.
Our coffees are delivered quickly -- fairly standard diner brew -- and I'm disappointed to find that only nondairy creamer is available. (Have you ever read the list of ingredients in nondairy creamer? Scary.) Bo comments that the coffee cups are too small, and he's also put off by the artificial creamer. But our servers deliver copious refills, and the service in general shows great attentiveness.
The extensive breakfast menu has choices from egg combos to waffles to omelets, along with a few house specialties -- scrambles, breakfast burritos and even eggs benedict -- thrown in for variety. Our server takes our orders as soon as we're ready, and the meals come quickly.
Doug chose the "Vegi & amp; Cheese" omelet ($7), with a side order of French toast. All omelets -- including the massive six-egg Kalico Creation -- come with a choice of waffle, French toast, biscuits and gravy, hashbrowns or home fries, along with toast. "My omelet was a little edible art project," he says. "As it was served to me, there was the omelet with examples of some of its components on top, a little splash of color on top of the yellow omelet canvas, as if to show me: Here's what's inside." And inside was filled with tomato, green pepper, onion, black olive, mushroom and yellow cheese.
Of the French toast side dish -- sprinkled with powdered sugar and topped with maple syrup -- Doug declares, "Delish! Four half slices from a regular-sized loaf of bread, which was perfect. Larger slices of bread would have been too filling, considering the size of my omelet."
Bo created his own combo by adding items to one of the pre-designed meals.
"I opted to turn Light Meal No. 4 ($4.75) -- two slices of bacon, a poached egg, two slices of buttered wheat toast with grape jelly and a fruit cup -- into My Own Personal Heavy Meal by adding coffee, orange juice ($1.25) and a blueberry waffle ($5.50)," he explains with the ardor of a true breakfast fan. (In fact, he confesses, this was his second breakfast of the day.) "The orange juice was fresh, pulpy and especially good. The bacon was crisp yet juicy; the egg was poached a little hard but still good; the toast was tasty.
"As for the waffle," he continues, "while I enjoyed it, it wasn't crisp at all: Think pancake consistency. It was nearly overloaded with blueberries, souring the taste."
I found myself craving a waffle, too, so I chose the Waffle Special ($5.50): two pieces of bacon, one egg and a waffle. The bacon was thin and cooked nicely, not too soft, not too crisp. I ordered the egg over medium, and that's how it arrived: The white was cooked through, and the yolk was still runny, yet hot, just the way I like it. Like Bo, I found the waffle to be not as crispy as I'd like, but the flavor was good and not super-sweet -- just right for soaking up a light touch of syrup.
The I-BITE verdict:
Doug: My omelet was good and it was filling. I make something similar to this at home, without the olive, but in this case, the olive made the dish. It added a new flavor to the traditional mix of vegetables.
Bo: I'd return to Kalico -- it was clear that a lot of locals gather here for weekday breakfasts, and the place had a homey, welcoming feel -- but I'd want to try one of their many other breakfast options before declaring it a top-notch breakfast eatery.
Ann: The tight quarters at the front entrance and the fake creamer served with the coffee put me off at first, but Kalico redeemed itself with cheerful, efficient service and a tasty solid basic breakfast.