At a breakfast joint, the first cup of coffee is made fresh and delivered hot and steaming to your waiting, perhaps trembling hands. At the Satellite Diner in downtown Spokane, it comes in a white ceramic coffee mug emblazoned with the blue Satellite logo, delivered to your table by an attentive server who knows intuitively when to come back with a refill.
Can your coffeemaker-on-a-timer do that? I rest my case.
I made my first visit to the Satellite on Friday morning, with Marty and a friend; it was so good that I returned on Saturday, by myself, in the middle of our brief snowstorm. Halfway through Friday's omelet, I thought to myself, "How could I have lived in Spokane this long and not visited the Satellite before?" Lingering prejudice from the old smoky-bar days is probably to blame, but that's no longer an issue: The recent remodel of the interior got rid of any last traces of nicotine -- walls have been updated to pumpkin and grape, with new counters, tabletops and chair seats. But rest assured, the friendly atmosphere remains the same.
We knew we were in good hands right away when Wendy -- also known as Lulu, the weekday breakfast shift regular -- greeted us with coffee, cream, menus and the kind of welcome that made us feel like regulars even though she hadn't seen us before. The classic early-bird specials (served till 8:30 am) sounded tempting, not to mention inexpensive (nothing more than $5), but I was craving vegetables and I wanted to try something stamped with the Satellite's unique identity. The Joe's Special filled both needs; it's a three-egg omelet filled with ground beef, spinach, parmesan and red onion, and served with hashbrowns. Marty chose the French toast, made with cinnamon-swirl bread, and a side order of bacon; our friend tried the sirloin steak-and-egg early-bird special.
While we waited -- and it wasn't a long wait -- Wendy brought the butter and syrup for Marty's meal and made sure we had everything we'd need when the meal arrived. She deftly refilled our coffee cups without spilling a drop.
My Joe's Special ($8) filled an oval platter. The thin egg layers surrounded a thick, crumbly filling -- a meaty, well-drained mixture blended with saut & eacute;ed onions and spinach and a touch of parmesan cheese. The generous serving of hashbrowns was crusty and browned on the outside, potatoey and tender inside, without being mushy. The optional saut & eacute;ed onions and green peppers on top added color, texture and savory flavor. Rather than toast, I chose the English muffin accompaniment, yet another treat.
Marty's six triangles of French toast ($5) came artfully arrayed on the platter, garnished -- as all the dishes were -- with a wedge of orange on a single torn lettuce leaf. He loved the cinnamon-swirl bread, which delivered a spicy zing in every bite. His three slices of bacon ($3.25) on the side were thick and straddled the line between crispy and chewy.
Our friend's steak-and-egg special ($5) was a bargain in price and a gem in quality. The six-ounce sirloin came grilled just right; it was tender and full of flavor -- and that from a self-proclaimed "beef snob." His single egg arrived hard-cooked, as ordered, and the rye toast complemented everything. He talked about it all day.
There are a lot of regulars in the Satellite's morning crowd, including a fair number of solo guys who stop in on their way to work. The feeling is friendly but not overbearing -- some people banter while others read the paper or just hunch over their coffee cups. Being perky is not required. And that suits me fine. Just make the coffee, and I'll be there.