Austin's 24 Diner
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
We've all heard that particular mantra repeated by our parents, doctors, and teachers yet it seems to me that breakfast is frequently the most forgotten and even maligned meal of the day. A bowl of bland oatmeal? Soggy cereal, poorly cooked pancakes, or an overdone egg? Add to that the fact that most of us are literally running out the door first thing in the morning and I suppose it's no wonder that breakfast is often the most forgotten and grossly neglected meal of the day. Even the luminous Chef Escoffier once referred to dinner as "the king of meals," thus relegating the day's most important meal to secondary status.
With all due respect to the chef of chefs, I must humbly disagree. Some of my favorite dishes are in fact breakfast foods. French toast, waffles, and omelettes. Why launch into this tirade? It is because poor breakfast is not only the most forgotten meal by the masses, but it is frequently forgotten by food reviewers as well. We are quick to talk about the great new sandwich shop (Noble Pig anyone?) that uses house-baked bread, or the great new place that offers perfectly grilled pork belly (how about The Odd Duck). But how about breakfast?
Today's review takes us to 24 Diner, a restaurant downtown that serves up some great food 24 hours a day, so we decided to hit them up for breakfast. We'll start with the frittata. For those of our readers who have never had a frittata, think of it as a relative of the omelette. The eggs are beaten and the ingredients are combined into the raw egg then cooked. In this case I opted for the country ham and Gruyère frittata. This one is cooked very nicely top to bottom. The top is set, but the middle is still slightly runny. The meat and cheese complement each other very nicely, without overpowering the egg. This is a very generously sized offering with plenty of meat and cheese. If you are a fan of frittatas or omelettes I have to recommend this one to you.
Next, Dave decided on the "Chef's Waffle." The chef's waffle is a chef's choice type of dish. This time it was a waffle topped with peaches. All of their waffles are made from a yeast-risen dough, with bourbon vanilla and raw sugar served with real maple syrup. I've had waffles many times in the past and this one is by far the most unique. The vanilla adds a very nice touch to the waffle, but what really sets it apart is the yeast-risen dough. It adds a texture and flavor I would never have expected out of a waffle before. It came with a generous serving of peaches and syrup on the side. But honestly there were so many of the peaches, and they tasted so good that the syrup was not really needed. Fans of the waffle iron will certainly appreciate this one!
We also tried the "24 Hash." This is how hash should be done. Most times when you order hash it consists of a few roughly chopped potatoes cooked to different levels of doneness with a few bell peppers thrown with an onion and than covered in corned beef or other meat. This is not at all the case at 24. The potatoes in this hash were finely diced which when cooked made them crispy on the outside and yet still tender on the inside. The toppings include Cheddar, jalapeños, sausage AND bacon. I emphasize the "and" because isn't it so disappointing when you are forced to decide between the two main breakfast meats? At 24 you will never have this problem. The hash is finished with two eggs cooked to your choosing. I recommend, as I always will, to have nice runny yolks, there is something sexy about cutting into a yolk and watching that golden treasure ooze over the rest of the plate. This breakfast is definitely worth the trip downtown at 8 a.m.!
Another great thing about 24 Dinner is that much of their menu is from locally sourced products. It's made fresh, and the quality really comes through. Their entire staff, front to back really has it down. Dave commented that he never once had to ask for more coffee — our waitress simply filled it without being even slightly intrusive. For any of you fans of the most important meal of the day, we highly recommend 24 Diner and can't wait to go back.
The Austin Food Junkies are Alex Artibee, Matt Braley, and Dave Braley, "Two guys who love food, and one chef, trained at the Texas Culinary Institute." Check out their reviews of other Austin area restaurants on their blog, Austin Food Junkies.