I love living in Bristol, but this town really got to me one night. I was driving home from work on a Tuesday at around 9pm, absolutely starving for dinner. It was cold, I was tired and I needed comfort food and an adult beverage. I didn’t have a particular place in mind, but I detoured to downtown where the dining options are plentiful. Or so I thought.
Three times I walked into restaurants and three times I was sadly informed that the kitchen had just closed. Dejected, frustrated and stomach grumbling, I reluctantly headed to Metacom Avenue where I knew I could get a fix of fast food. Along the way, I wistfully recalled leaving my life in New York City. My parents thought I was crazy – why would I quit a job and move back home to the state with the highest unemployment in the country? They were right – I was crazy. Why would I leave a city where I could eat anything, anytime and move to a place where dinner service stops at nine?
Fortunately, my pessimism was short-lived thanks to DeWolf Tavern. It’s one of the East Bay’s true dining gems with accolades from the James Beard Foundation, Boston magazine and my girlfriend – a strict vegetarian who has it near the top of her very short “approved” list. I’ve had several memorable meals at DeWolf, and as I skimmed the online menu in preparation for this article I noticed something I hadn’t noticed before – breakfast. Not Sunday brunch – breakfast. As in 7am to 12pm every day. First-class dining at 7am without having to wait for Mother’s Day? This chef understands accessibility.
I visited on a Friday morning and immediately saw a sign directing patrons upstairs for continental breakfast. Continental breakfast? I didn’t wake up early and drive here for a muffin. A hostess appeared and explained that the continental breakfast was for guests of the next-door Bristol Harbor Inn. Aha! I was seated and presented with a menu.
A small asterisk for the breakfast experience. Upon opening the menu, you’ll see that the left-hand page has fairly standard breakfast fare – eggs, home fries, buttermilk pancakes, sweet bread French toast. Of course, it’s DeWolf Tavern, so “standard” is a bit unfair – you can have your omelet stuffed with lobster, caviar, shrimp or sopressata. The right-hand page is where things get really mouth-watering. These are the “House Specialties” and include Paprika-smoked Chicken Benedict, Smoked Salmon Naan Pizza ($10), Roasted Cauliflower and Spinach Baked Eggs and Lobster Baked Eggs ($14), among others.
The asterisk is that the left-hand menu is available every day, but the House Specialties are only available on Saturday and Sunday. It was Friday – curses! However, the dining gods, obviously trying to win back my good graces, waved their magic wand. My server informed me that the kitchen had just made a batch of hollandaise sauce, so most of the weekend menu would be available.
Taking advantage of this good fortune, I ordered the Smoked Salmon Benedict ($9) - two poached eggs and smoked salmon on an English muffin, topped with grated coconut and horse- radish hollandaise. The dish is accompanied by a vegetable fougath – chopped snow peas and coconut sautéed in hash butter – and I ordered a side of home fries, which are made with peppers, onions, garlic, chili, ginger, curry leaf and a coating of ginger ketchup. The Benedict was excellent, with the crunchy snow peas and soft eggs making for an interesting textural experience. Also, the freshness of the food and “just-right” portion size energized me to start my day, without the bogged-down feeling that larger, greasier breakfasts can sometimes induce.
Since I was dining alone and didn’t have enough “material,” I had no choice but to return on Sunday. On this go-around, I went with the Steak and Egg Naan Sandwich – fried eggs, shaved steak, Swiss cheese, caramelized onion and horseradish sauce wrapped in fresh naan (leavened, oven-baked flat bread). The sandwich was good; however, if you’re Portuguese and/or have eaten your fair share of Bife a Casa like me, you can’t bite into a steak and egg sandwich without expecting a tsunami of garlic and red pepper. Of course, this sandwich didn’t have that – it wasn’t supposed to – but for me, it was distracting to have my taste buds waiting for a flavor pop that never came. The sandwich was accompanied by house made chips, a common side to DeWolf dishes that are perfect every time.
For those in search of a lighter, or quicker, breakfast, DeWolf also makes their own pastries. I haven’t sampled any yet, but it’s on my radar the next time I’m downtown and need something to go. It’s not often that such a fine restaurant caters to all the day parts. Now if they would only deliver, I might just forget New York City altogether...