Dining Out- Indulgent Breakfast

by Susan Hamilton & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & M & lt;/span & y idea of breakfast is brunch. It's not an everyday occurrence, rather something special and indulgent. Brunch is a meal that doesn't follow a schedule. It's all about relaxing and enjoying yourself over a repast that spans morning and afternoon. Brunch is the perfect time to visit with friends, catch up on the latest gossip or find some quiet time with a newspaper.

Many urban watchers consider a solid brunch scene to be the hallmark of any good city, a scene that combines comfortable neighborhood spots and trendy places to see and be seen. So how does Spokane measure up? Several new brunch spots have opened up in the past year around Spokane, so I decided to visit three of my favorites: Caf & eacute; Marron, Just Jerry's and Maggie's South Hill Grill.

Caf & eacute; Marron

Any weekend (or weekday, for that matter) in Browne's Addition before the sun gets too high overhead, you're sure to hear the happy babble of voices and soft clatter of dishes near the corner of Cannon and Pacific. If the weather is warm, Caf & eacute; Marron's glass-and-metal retractable, street-side wall opens to bring the outside and the neighborhood in. The d & eacute;cor and cuisine reflect a European bistro appeal.

"We combined breakfast and lunch about two months ago," says Chris Burville, Caf & eacute; Marron's brunch and sous chef. "A lot of our lunch customers wanted more breakfast items to choose from, so we streamlined it and offer the combined menu daily. We do so much business for brunch that it just makes sense to offer it to our customers."

The brunch menu at Caf & eacute; Marron marries comfort food and what Burville calls nouveau Mediterranean dishes, many using fresh, sustainable produce from local farmers. Burville has recently revamped the consolidated breakfast/lunch menu to reflect changing, seasonal produce.

The avocado sandwich highlights the last of the summer tomatoes, along with crisp bacon and poached eggs for contrasts of texture and flavor. Many people say that Caf & eacute; Marron's French toast is the best around town. Starting with Bouzies' challah bread and topped with seasonal fruit, whipped cream and pecan granola, it's definitely hard to beat.

The three eggs, bacon, sausage, ham, potatoes and toast of the Hungry Man dish are sure to fill up even the heartiest appetites. "I created the Hungry Man dish to appease the working guy's appetite, like my brother-in-law, who's in construction," Burville explains.

As for me, I'll take the Mediterranean salad, with mixed greens, fried capers, cucumbers, summer tomatoes, shaved fennel and flat bread crisps tossed in balsamic vinaigrette with a side of artichoke frites and lemon aioli.

"Brunch is my program," Burville says. "I get excited about getting up early to cook for people. You should have tasted the trout omelet I made for one of our specials with roasted trout seasoned with lemon, thyme, capers and fresh tomatoes."

Just Jerry's

Owners Jerry Schrader and Robin Riemcke are continuing the tradition of great food they started at Cannon Street Grill. But does Just Jerry's live up to Cannon Street's reputation, bestowed by Bon Appetit magazine, as one of the top 10 places in the nation to eat breakfast? The answer is undoubtedly yes, as the lower South Hill eatery has been bustling with business at brunch since it opened last winter. It's doing so well that Sunday brunch has now expanded to include daily breakfast offerings.

"Brunch was our consistently supported business at Cannon Street," Riemcke says. "We'd do about 300 people in one brunch shift, and I usually knew 50 to 75 percent of them. The brunch regulars became close family friends. So with Just Jerry's, we wanted to continue that brunch tradition. When we switched our menu to a more casual feel, we added breakfast."

Comfort food, like traditional bacon and eggs, takes star billing at Just Jerry's. Fluffy, three-egg omelets with additions of ham, sausage, veggies or cheese are served with home-fried potatoes (made famous at Cannon Street). If you're a corned beef hash fan, try Jerry's homemade corned beef mixed with those home-fried potatoes and onions and topped with two poached eggs. (Read Jessica Moll's opinion on page 5.)

I'm partial to huevos rancheros, and Jerry's version lives up to my southwestern expectations. Served on a bed of seasoned black beans and tortillas, two poached eggs are garnished with homemade salsa, sour cream and avocado.

Breakfast items at Just Jerry's include a breakfast burrito, frittatas and scrambles. The jazzy, fun d & eacute;cor at Just Jerry's adds to the comfortable ambiance of this cozy, neighborhood eatery.

"We like to make people feel like they're coming to our house to eat," Riemcke says.

Maggie's South Hill Grill

Maggie Watkins has been in the restaurant business since she was 16 years old. Cheffing at L.A.'s Hard Rock Caf & eacute; and Wolfgang Puck's gave her a lot of experience in restaurant kitchens. So how does Spokane compare to L.A.'s brunch scene?

"Within 10 minutes of my house in L.A., there were so many ethnic restaurants," Watkins says. "There were places where you could get 40 different tacos and 50 kinds of tequila. Spokane doesn't have as many places that offer brunch. That's why I decided to have it at Maggie's."

The cozy, upper South Hill restaurant is a stylish mixture of sit-down bistro and fast-food caf & eacute;. The dining room, bathed in golden yellow and adorned with wrought iron filigree pieces, is very kid friendly. Maggie's also offers an outdoor seating area.

"Our concept is casual, quick and great food," Watkins explains. "We want everyone who comes here to feel comfortable, whether you're dressed for the symphony or you've just come from working on your house.

"You decide how fast or slow your meal and experience will be at Maggie's," Watkins continues. "It's fun and different because table service is provided after you order at the counter."

Brunch at Maggie's includes a Mediterranean breakfast sandwich, with poached eggs, fontina cheese, proscuitto and asparagus on grilled sourdough, topped with chipotle cream sauce. Besides eggs Benedict, served on Kansas City bacon, Watkins offers crab Benedict served on crab cakes.

"Our skillet scramble is a one-plate meal," she says. "It's got three eggs scrambled with potatoes, corn, jalapenos, sausage and a touch of curry."

The comforting apple-banana pancakes currently on the menu will be switched to pumpkin-walnut for the fall, Watkins says. Specials at Maggie's include French toast stuffed with cream cheese and topped with huckleberry sauce or biscuits with sausage patties and scrambled eggs.

"I want to provide South Hill families with an option for great meals in a hurry," Watkins says. "At Maggie's they can get a homemade, healthy breakfast."

& lt;span class= "dropcap " & W & lt;/span & eekends offer even more options: Vin Rouge has cinnamon-roll French toast and burritos stuffed with everything from steak to tofu; Picabu Bistro features a quiche of the day and four mimosa-style drinks; Luna offers Dungeness crab and artichoke tortelli with toasted tomato butter as well as warm beignets with fresh fruit puree; The Davenport Hotel hosts a Sunday champagne brunch; and at Anthony's at the Falls, you can savor blueberry crepes and New Orleans French toast. The scene in Spokane is much like the city itself: smaller than a big city, but with plenty of choices and that friendly and comfortable neighborhood feel.