The Snooze kitchen finally wakes up

I'd heard about Snooze long before it opened and was excited about the place, juiced to have a hip, eclectic, chef-driven breakfast joint in the Ballpark neighborhood. And then I finally got there in July 2006 and found the staff rude, the food uninspired and the vibe operating at such a gross level of aggressive cool that I wanted to punch myself in the face just for walking through the door. The disappointment felt like a personal betrayal.

But I got over it by January 2007, when I returned to Snooze — and discovered that while the service had improved marginally, the food was, if anything, even worse. And I swore that I would never return.

Except that I did. Recently, I'd been swamped with requests from otherwise trustworthy gastronauts to give Snooze one more chance. And last week, I ate there not once, but twice, and you know what? Finally, Snooze is capable of not just putting out a good spread, but doing it while getting crushed by the kind of rush that most restaurants only dream about these days. On Thursday morning, I stopped in for breakfast and had a stack of sweet-potato flapjacks glazed in bourbon caramel, sprinkled with roasted pecans and topped with a blob of ginger butter. Sure, the pancakes were overkill — sweet as a hundred kisses and a mish-mash of sultry Southern traditions — but overkill is better than underwhelming any day.

Still, the Snooze kitchen has always done pancakes reliably well, so on Friday I returned during the peak of the noon rush. And while, yes, the place was full to bursting, loud as hell and crowded with hung-over party girls showing their tramp stamps and ass cleavage (not necessarily a bad thing, mind you...), the host took time out from a busy floor to shim my wobbly table, and the kitchen took the time to actually make food that was thoughtful, well composed and delicious. My pulled-pork Benedict (which had some goofy name on the menu) featured pulled pork over three-cheese polenta cakes, topped with poached eggs and cheddar hollandaise; the dish was complex and perfectly presented, down to the smoked paprika topping the poachers. I'd also ordered some apple dandy pancakes, dressed in honey and peanuts and — save for the roasted pepper I found lurking among the chunks of apple — well executed by a seasoned kitchen that clearly now knows what it's about.

At long last, I'm a fan of Snooze.

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