Mom was right all along: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. For evidence, look no further than the restaurant scene, where diners, cafes and counter service eateries specializing in the first meal of the day have been popping up all over the place like biscuits in a hot oven.
Here’s a roundup of a few favorites that have opened in the last couple of years. Most serve breakfast all day (which generally translates to closing time somewhere around mid-afternoon), and offer a separate lunch menu starting at 11 a.m. or so.
Chanticleer Cafe & Bakery
6490 Tryon Road, Cary
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The story, in an eggshell: Open just six months, this cheery family-run shop has already won a devoted following with a chalkboard menu of breakfast and lunch sandwiches and a display case loaded with a tempting display of baked goods.
Rise and shine with: Egg and Ashe County cheese on a croissant; steel-cut oatmeal with pecans, dried cranberries, cinnamon and brown sugar; pretty much any pastry, from Danish to bear claw.
Sleep in and do lunch instead: Panini (try the Reuben or the Pear & Prosciutto); grilled vegetables on focaccia; quiche of the day; fruit tart; Tiger Cookie (chocolate and cinnamon stripe).
316-201C Colonnades Way, Cary
The story, in an eggshell: The first Triangle location of a small Charlotte-based chain offers full table service and an extensive menu that goes far beyond toast.
Rise and shine with: Country Benedict (with sausage gravy and country ham on a split biscuit); Boursin omelet; stuffed French toast (raspberry, blueberry, peanut butter and banana, or strawberry and cream cheese).
Sleep in and do lunch instead: Meatloaf sandwich; blackened chicken Caesar wrap; tuna melt; lobster roll, a frequent special, is a must if it’s available.
Fig & Honey
141-201 Chatham Downs Drive, Chapel Hill
The story, in an eggshell: An offbeat offering of Southern- and Mediterranean-accented fare makes this counter service eatery worth a drive to its location in a Harris Teeter-anchored strip mall just over the Chatham County line.
Rise and shine with: The Chatham (runny egg, fried chicken, fried pickles and bacon on a biscuit); Southern Comfort (bacon and pimento cheese biscuit); gluten-free biscuits available.
Sleep in and do lunch instead: Pittsboro Pocket (hummus, red onion, cucumber, lettuce, tomato and sprouts in pita); kebab plate (falafel, kofta or chicken); fresh-squeezed lemonade, orangeade or old-fashioned milkshake.
1002 Ninth St., Durham
The story, in an eggshell: Starting out in 2011 as a mobile cart selling gourmet doughnuts, this popular street vendor first opened a brick-and-mortar shop in downtown Durham in 2013. Now located in roomier digs in the former Magnolia Grill building, the restaurant has expanded its offering to include a diverse assortment of sandwiches, salads, daily quiche and soups, and a weekly hot entree special. Throw in a beverage selection that covers the spectrum from ginger molasses latte to bloody Mary, and what else could you ask for?
Rise and shine with: Doughnuts, naturally, with temptations including apple cider, chocolate Earl Grey, and a classic plain glazed yeast; check the board for specials such as breakfast banh mi on a bagel, and avocado breakfast plate (two eggs, bacon and avocado toast).
Sleep in and do lunch instead: Harissa Explains It All (roasted local sweet potato, harissa, roasted beets, chevre cream cheese, arugula and bacon on focaccia); Spicy Sausage & Greens (house-made sausage, pepper jack cheese, braised kale and a local egg on a biscuit).
Multiple locations; see website.
The story, in an eggshell: Minimal indoor seating and a menu limited to biscuits and doughnuts doesn’t prevent people from lining up at the counter at the original Rise, which opened near Southpoint Mall in 2012. The formula has proved so successful, in fact, that three additional locations have opened (Raleigh, Morrisville), and at least two more (Carrboro, downtown Durham) are in the works.
Rise and shine with: Thick-cut country ham or hand-patted sausage biscuit (add choice of cheese and/or egg if you like, or any of several other optional fixings); apple fritter; maple bacon bar.
Sleep in and do lunch instead: Fried chicken biscuit (add honey); don’t overlook specials, which vary by location and might include anything from pork chop biscuit with griddled onions and Sriracha mayo to beef stew on a biscuit.
3652 Rogers Road, Wake Forest
The story, in an eggshell: The new kid on the block, Stewart’s opened in December and already has them lining up out the door. The line moves quickly, though, thanks to friendly and efficient service led by owner Leanne Stewart (you’ll find her at the cash register or circulating around the dining room).
Rise and shine with: Croissant or biscuit (big, buttery and flaky, cut in a distinctive square shape) with a wide variety filling options from Nutella to chicken breast (grilled or fried) to thick-cut bacon and egg; hot quinoa with cranberries, walnuts and fresh fruit, is a healthy alternative. To wash it down, choose from a stellar selection of Carrboro Coffee brews – French press, pour over or espresso.
Sleep in and do lunch instead: Sourdough panini (try the grilled pimento cheese with bacon and pickle chips); chunky house-made chicken salad croissant; soup and salad combo (especially if chili is the soup of the day).
True Flavors Diner
5410 NC Hwy. 55, Durham
The story, in an eggshell: Veteran Durham caterer Sidney Coves opened this RTP gem in March of last year, and has been broadening his fan base with an eclectic menu served in a casually charming setting.
Rise and shine with: Fish and grits, chicken and waffles, Creole chicken omelet, whole hog hash (roasted pork, ham, bacon and cheek with diced potatoes, peppers, onions and mushrooms, topped with white cheddar).
Sleep in and do lunch instead: Duck crackle club sandwich (roasted duck, duck skin cracklings, bacon, pepper-fried egg and garlic aioli on a buttered brioche bun), bourbon-bacon meatloaf; on weekends, brunch options cover a similarly broad spectrum from PBLT (the P stands for house-made pimento cheese) to smoked salmon Benedict with red pepper basil Hollandaise.
The N&O’s critic dines anonymously; the newspaper pays for all meals.