by ANN M. COLFORD & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & W & lt;/span & eekend breakfast is different than breakfast in the workaday world: Somehow it should be a step above basic daily nourishment, something to lift us out of the ordinary and into relaxation. And so on a recent weekend, with sunshine and temperatures above freezing at last, the Inlander Breakfast Investigation Team headed out on another mission to check out the weekend brunch at Maggie's South Hill Grill, near Lincoln Heights.

The interior at Maggie's is bright and sunny, especially in the morning, with rough-hewn walls painted sunflower-yellow above the chocolate-brown wainscoting below. The stained-glass upper windows lend some color to the otherwise mundane parking lot views, and the artwork on the walls adds to the cheery atmosphere.

Brunch is available on weekends only, and on Saturday morning the place is hopping with a cross-section of residential Spokane -- young families, empty nesters, grandparents toting toddlers, suburban moms. Everyone is welcomed and made to feel comfortable.

So here's how it works: Walk in and grab a menu, then find a place to sit. When you know what you want to eat, step up to the counter and place your order. Coffee (from Thomas Hammer), tea (from Mighty Leaf) and water are self-serve, but servers will come by with refills. When your food is ready, a server will carry it out to your table. And if you're not sure what to do, the friendly staff will fill you in on who does what.

& lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & he weekend brunch menu has some standard breakfast fare, like a three-egg omelet and a country scramble ($8.25 each), and some stick-to-your-ribs basics like oatmeal (served with brown sugar, walnuts, Craisins and chocolate chips) and biscuits with sausage gravy ($4.50 each). But on this trip we opted for some of the more creative combos.

The Mediterranean breakfast sandwich ($10) -- asparagus, prosciutto, jack cheese and poached eggs on grilled sourdough with chipotle cream sauce -- sounded intriguing, but I was swayed by the crab benedict ($11). Maggie's does it up a bit differently than other places: Rather than simply substituting chunks of crab for the ham or Canadian bacon in a typical benedict, here the two poached eggs come perched on top of crab cakes, with the requisite English muffin underneath and a sprinkle of fresh herbs on top. There's just a light touch of hollandaise, and the runny yolks of the perfectly soft-cooked eggs add the right level of "sauciness" to the dish. Each crab cake is generous and distinctly crabby, with a light crunchy crust yet moist and savory inside with colorful flecks of minced celery, peppers and onions.

Next to the flavorful benedict, the side of potatoes was a bit lackluster -- small cubes of potato seasoned and browned but only lukewarm and a tad mushy on the plate. However, I was happy to not be tempted by the potatoes so I could focus entirely on the delicious benedict.

Doug ordered the pumpkin pancakes ($5.75), a stack of four fluffy cakes at least six inches across. "The first thing I noticed was the aroma," he says, "kind of like a pumpkin pie. And then the color, with that orange tinge of pumpkin."

He carefully spread butter on each cake and then poured the contents of two small maple-syrup containers over the whole stack. The pancakes were thick but light; the flavors of pumpkin and spice were subtle and not overpowering. Still, Doug couldn't finish the whole stack. "Of course, I was also munching my wife's French toast," he confesses. "That probably had something to do with it."

The French toast in question was the stuffed French toast ($8), which was less stuffed than layered -- sort of a deconstructed stuffing, if you will. The grilled French toast pieces were spread with cream cheese along with blueberries and strawberries in their syrups, and then presented in a stack. Bacon is usually part of the layering, but Doug's wife had requested that her bacon be served separately, and it was.

"Sometimes French toast can be too sweet, but the cream cheese balanced the sweetness of the fruit," she says. "And the bacon was perfectly cooked," Doug chimed in. He'd claimed the bacon as his own. "It was a little bit crispy without drying out the pieces."

We shared samples all around: Doug liked his wife's French toast best; she preferred his pancakes. As for me, I found the other dishes tasty, but I was quite happy with my crab cakes.

We lingered a long time after our meals were finished, and the staff didn't rush us at all. We had refills of coffee, water and iced tea and sprawled comfortably as other patrons came and went.

For lighter appetites, there's the yogurt-granola parfait, layered with fruit in a pint glass ($4.50), along with kids' breakfast choices for only $4. And for even more indulgence, check out the desserts from Luna, Fery's and Just American Desserts on display as you place your order.

Maggie's is the kind of place where you don't have to dress up to go out and get a weekend breakfast that's comfortable and familiar but just different enough to be special.

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