Doesn’t it sometimes seem like more fun to go out for breakfast or brunch than to dress up for a special dinner? Most morning eateries are casual; many even have a regular take-out business. Of course there is also the allure of a high-end brunch, complete with fancy cocktails. Throughout the East Bay, there are dozens of spots that can fulfill your whims and appetites. Beginning with breakfast-on-the-go and ending with gourmet spreads, the following are a few new and old favorites.
For something completely different, step into the very French world of The French Confection. Co-owner Xavier Mauprivez grew up in Reims, above his family’s bakery, but it was his father’s reluctance to have him take up the same trade that pushed him to immigrate to the States. He and wife Karen ran a successful patisserie in Maryland for 20 years, converting American customers to the delicate and memorable tastes of real croissants, fruit tarts and quiches (pictured left). Since they relocated to Middletown in 2011, the accolades haven’t stopped. Morning customers might grab a savory croissant (with ham and Swiss, spinach and feta or bacon, egg and cheese). The have-to-have pastry is pain aux raisins, a melt-in-the-mouth swirl of dough, raisins and a touch of not-too-sweet pastry cream. 72 E Main Road, Middletown. 401-619-7816.
The Beehive Cafe in Bristol serves delicious food, including house-made sausage and house-made breads. Their tiny up-and-down space (tables upstairs and down; inside and out) is as cozy and comfortable as a children’s picture book. The imaginative food just makes it more so: butternut squash and cornbread hash; grilled polenta cakes with roasted tomatoes and poached eggs; gluten-free pancakes or bacon-and-brown-sugar buttermilk pancakes; a smoked salmon plate with boursin and house-made flaxseed toast. 10 Franklin Street, Bristol. 401-396-9994.
Bagels, Etc., in Barrington has been baking their bagels fresh every morning – from scratch – since 1989. They may not always stock every one of their 19 varieties (including a multi-grain, an organic sprouted wheat and four other whole wheat options), but you can always find a yummy one. Purists may shudder, but there are even glazed bagels for the donut-addicted. Toppings include not just cream cheese mix-ins but peanut butter, hummus or Nutella. And from a menu of ten breakfast sandwiches, the choices include eggs with bacon, ham, sausage, cracked pepper turkey or Taylor pork roll, plus several cheeses. Gluten-free breads and wraps are also available, and orders can be placed online for quicker pick-up. 259 County Road, Barrington. 401-247-1213.
It adds a dash of adventure to any meal at Belle’s Cafe that you arrive there by walking among the tall dry-docked boats of the Newport Shipyard and that you’re eating breakfast right on a dock at the eastern end of Newport Harbor. The breakfast burrito (with or without meat) is a great vehicle for scrambled eggs and friends, garnished with salsa and sour cream. The French toast and pancakes are served with real maple syrup; the home fries are definitive. And, as for omelets: the Caprese has fresh mozzarella; the “Azores” has chourico; the lox has smoked salmon with chive cream cheese. 1 Washington Street, Newport. 401-846-6000.
If the retro-hippie décor at Green Eggs in Bristol (food pictured below) doesn’t make you smile, the friendly waitresses, the colorful blackboard listings and the personalized menu items (named for customers, family members, staff or nicknames for their contents) certainly will. A “mousy” omelet is “cheesy, cheesy, cheesy”; “monkey business” French toast is stuffed with bananas. The muffins are super-sized and as yummy as made-from-scratch can be. The whole-wheat pancakes, ditto, served with a delicious “vanilla cream.” But the swooner among the breakfast dishes is the black bean “frittas”: the fluffiest scrambled eggs over sliced avocado and spiced black beans (plus red bliss home fries). Who could ask for anything more? 576 Metacom Avenue, Bristol. 401-253- 3443.
This summer, Eli Dunn opened Eli’s Kitchen in Warren to great acclaim - for his support of local food producers, for the community table in the middle of his intimate restaurant, but, primarily, for the unusual and alluring tastes of his food, with its Thai, Mexican, Cajun, Creole and New American influences. The “huevos” become something special in Eli’s hands: with smoked pork, avocado, cilantro, tomatillo salsa and lime, on corn tortillas with “New Orleans beans.” The biscuits and gravy have a porcini mushroom gravy, so that the smoked tasso ham can be on the side, along with the comforting grits. Even the egg sandwich gets “private stock cheddar” and aioli on sourdough. 40 Market Street, Warren. 401-245-1809.
At Cindy’s Country Cafe in Portsmouth, where Cindy Morse has been helming the kitchen for the past 11 years, there’s a distinctly American slant, with apples showing up in the “harvest omelet,” in the ABC breakfast sandwich (apple, bacon and cheddar), in the pancakes or the homemade muffins. The Elvis muffin is a customer favorite: it has peanut butter, bananas and chocolate chips. Tira Mi Su French Toast is a more recent invention. Other breakfast sandwiches take on the personality of their namesake: the New Yorker with smoked salmon; the Newporter with smoked turkey on a croissant; the Islander nods to Portuguese heritage, with chourico and a bolo. 1324 W Main Road, Portsmouth. 401-683-5134
When you love to bake and decide to open a cafe with from-scratch goodies, you do it up right, such as at Provencal Bakery & Cafe (in Middletown since 2004; now also on Lower Thames, in Newport). The Middletown location looks like a ‘50s movie set, with turquoise and gray accents and sparkly silver stools at a low countertop. The breakfast menu includes the regular “three eggs, any style” or “egg white scramblers,” but the difference is in the toast. Provencal’s homemade breads range from sourdough to roasted garlic rosemary, with foccacia and whole grains in the mix. Other breakfast favorites are tomato or apple “bombs” (seasonal) and croissants stuffed with ham and Swiss or spinach and feta. 796 Aquidneck Avenue, Middletown. 401-845-9313.
Table in Barrington is also a new kid on the block. The décor is chic but homey, with large windows letting in lots of light. Table has an emphasis on local farm products and on maintaining an intimate atmosphere. They offer some new twists for brunch items: a Benedict with smoked salmon and dill Hollandaise; French toast with Dave’s coffee syrup; a breakfast burger with mushroom marmalade and French fries; and s’mores pancakes, with marshmallow sauce, chocolate chips and graham cracker crumbs. Lunch salads and soup de jour are also on the brunch menu. 8 Anoka Avenue, Barrington. 401-337-5830
The Barn is one of those destination breakfasts: enjoy the drive to Adamsville, take in the open beam barn that is the inside space of the restaurant or sit outside and admire the wildflowers. But, of course, it’s also the food that keeps folks finding their way back. There are unusual Benedicts, such as with lobster or crab cakes, and unusual omelets, such as add-ins of kale, cabbage and/or collards in the late fall. The baked Irish oatmeal, with apples, raisins and walnuts, is super – as are the “Adamsville jonnycakes,” the thin East-Bay ones, as large as saucers. The crepes and the homemade hash also get thumbs-up. And the convivial staff lends the right country mood to this way-out-in-the-country spot. 13 Main Street, Little Compton. 401-635-2985
Surrounded by so much water, Rhode Island has surprisingly few water-view restaurants. The Boat House, in Tiverton, makes up for all that, with large windows and an expansive patio to take in the beauty of dazzling sunlight on the Sakonnet. Boats may dock a short walk away, for a brace of friends to walk a short path to the Boat House. The brunch menu is as simple and elegant as the high-ceilinged, nautical-themed restaurant, with specials to supplement its Benedicts (one with crab cakes and Canadian bacon), its Portuguese sweet bread French toast, its breakfast sandwich of the day, and its “Sakonnet Sunrise” (two eggs, bacon and French toast). 227 Schooner Drive, Tiverton. 401-624-6300.
Perched on Bristol Harbor, DeWolf Tavern has history – it’s a renovated 1818 shipping warehouse, with fieldstone and burnished wood to remind diners of that era – and innovation: its chef, Sai Viswanath, brings touches of his native India into his contemporary American cuisine. This may not show up as much in his breakfast menu, with classic eggs-and-toast, pancakes and omelets. But among the omelets named for people (Mr. Rego, Mike, Mrs. Wood’s) is one called “Halizy,” with lobster, shrimp, salmon and scallops. And among the breakfast beverages are chai, Earl Grey and “Classic Breakfast.” 259 Thames Street, Bristol. 401-254-2005.
Joe Simone is back, after his beloved Sunnyside went on hiatus two years ago. Simone’s is a new establishment, from the ground up, with an industrial look to the exposed ceiling ducts but a very elegant simplicity in the shades of gray and silver subtly accented with sunny yellow on walls, banquettes and chairs. The Sunnyside breakfast menu will return, with diners’ faves of chourico hash with poached eggs and Hollandaise; griddle omelets (they don’t get folded, and have your choice of meats, cheeses and veggies); olive-oil basted eggs with marinated tomatoes and wood-grilled bread; or buttermilk “souffle” pancakes with real maple syrup. 275 Child Street, Warren. 401-247-1200
Lower Thames Street, in Newport, has another winner: Stoneacre Pantry, with a rustic theme throughout its interior and a Continental fusion in its well-executed brunch items. Inside, there’s a prominent U-shaped bar; outside a similar wood crescent wraps around a tree as a banquette. It’s remarkably quiet and secluded on this patio, though the food may render you speechless. Fluffy buttermilk biscuits almost as good as a Southern grandmother’s. The best panna cotta this side of Venice. The truffled egg toast with wild mushrooms is a killer; the chili verde is nicely spiced with chunky pork; the shaved squash salad with goat cheese mousse, walnuts and arugula is wonderfully herbed; and if you get there in time, you might score a lobster Benedict. 515 Thames Street, Newport. 401-619-7810