To qualify as a breakfast bar, a place must do one thing -- serve breakfast -- and do it within a limited time span. In the case of the 20th Street Cafe, that span runs from 6 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. weekdays (7 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturdays), and never a minute longer. But if the owners want to knock off just as the late rush is coming to an end, who are we to complain? At 20th Street has been dishing out working-class food for working-class people since 1946. The breakfasts are generous, the coffee always hot, and the chicken-fried steaks a real treat, but what sets this joint apart from all of the other early-morning contenders is the effect of history on this space. Over the years, everything about 20th Street has been worn in and streamlined toward a beautiful conservation of movement. It's small, so the kitchen is never more than a dozen steps away. The waitresses hang dishrags from the coat tree for ease of access. And there's nothing in the canon of American diner cuisine that this kitchen isn't ready to do -- and do better -- than anyone else in town.


Johnson's Corner
Samantha Baker
We brake for Johnson's Corner. After fifty years, this truck stop got a remodel that made it a shiny examplar of chrome-plate efficiency. But while its look has been updated, this landmark continues to serve the kind of breakfasts that have kept truckers going, and going, for the past fifty years. Nothing the kitchen does is small. It turns out gigantic cinnamon rolls, huge portions of hash-brown potatoes, massive omelettes, enormous plates of corned beef hash and slabs of chicken-fried steak that weigh as much as a brick -- meals that have made its diner food rightly famous around the world.

We brake for Johnson's Corner. After fifty years, this truck stop got a remodel that made it a shiny examplar of chrome-plate efficiency. But while its look has been updated, this landmark continues to serve the kind of breakfasts that have kept truckers going, and going, for the past fifty years. Nothing the kitchen does is small. It turns out gigantic cinnamon rolls, huge portions of hash-brown potatoes, massive omelettes, enormous plates of corned beef hash and slabs of chicken-fried steak that weigh as much as a brick -- meals that have made its diner food rightly famous around the world.


At A La Tomate -- owner Phil Collier's loving homage to the cuisine of Provence and Toulon -- everything is good, but the croissants are the best. Made fresh every day, they are impossibly buttery, with crackly shells and insides like clouds. Each one is a cholesterol hand grenade just waiting to go off -- doubly dangerous, since they're so light, it's easy to eat two or three. We eat them plain. We eat them with the horns dipped in chocolate. We eat them drizzled with honey or, for the ultimate culinary extreme-sport thrill, split open and smeared with even more butter. And every time we sit down in front of another, it's as though we're spitting in the Grim Reaper's eye. Sure, we know that nothing that tastes this good could possibly be good for you, and there are probably teams of freelance cardiologists cruising up and down 17th Avenue just waiting for regulars to drop dead from pleasure ten steps from the door. But at least when we go out, it will be with smiles on our faces and crumbs on our lapels -- evidence of our final meal at A La Tomate.

At A La Tomate -- owner Phil Collier's loving homage to the cuisine of Provence and Toulon -- everything is good, but the croissants are the best. Made fresh every day, they are impossibly buttery, with crackly shells and insides like clouds. Each one is a cholesterol hand grenade just waiting to go off -- doubly dangerous, since they're so light, it's easy to eat two or three. We eat them plain. We eat them with the horns dipped in chocolate. We eat them drizzled with honey or, for the ultimate culinary extreme-sport thrill, split open and smeared with even more butter. And every time we sit down in front of another, it's as though we're spitting in the Grim Reaper's eye. Sure, we know that nothing that tastes this good could possibly be good for you, and there are probably teams of freelance cardiologists cruising up and down 17th Avenue just waiting for regulars to drop dead from pleasure ten steps from the door. But at least when we go out, it will be with smiles on our faces and crumbs on our lapels -- evidence of our final meal at A La Tomate.

Bistro Vendome
Bistro Vendome
When Bistro Vendome first opened, it tried to do three meals a day, every day. This ambitious plan was soon replaced by a dinner-only schedule that took a lot of pressure off the kitchen and chef Eric Roeder. Still, in a space like this -- tucked behind the main street, with a patio that opens onto the only quiet, secluded bit of real estate in Larimer Square -- it would have been a sin for Bistro Vendome not to do something while the sun was up. So Friday, Saturday and Sunday brunches were added, and that's when things really took off. The in-house bakery staff started knocking out excellent pain perdu topped with citrus honey and panier baskets of excellent croissants, buttery brioche and thick-sliced breakfast breads. Coupled with big, French-press pots of black coffee, those pastries remain a great reason to rise and shine.

When Bistro Vendome first opened, it tried to do three meals a day, every day. This ambitious plan was soon replaced by a dinner-only schedule that took a lot of pressure off the kitchen and chef Eric Roeder. Still, in a space like this -- tucked behind the main street, with a patio that opens onto the only quiet, secluded bit of real estate in Larimer Square -- it would have been a sin for Bistro Vendome not to do something while the sun was up. So Friday, Saturday and Sunday brunches were added, and that's when things really took off. The in-house bakery staff started knocking out excellent pain perdu topped with citrus honey and panier baskets of excellent croissants, buttery brioche and thick-sliced breakfast breads. Coupled with big, French-press pots of black coffee, those pastries remain a great reason to rise and shine.


Pho -- that beef-broth-and-rice-noodle soup that's the most ubiquitous offering in Vietnamese cuisine -- is always eaten for breakfast. It's always eaten for lunch, too, and dinner on the streets of Da Nang, and as a midnight snack by drunken scooter kids in Saigon trying to sober up for the long ride home. But as a breakfast dish, pho is unsurpassed, and no one in town does it better than Pho 79. With one broth and a million different combinations of meats, herbs, spices and noodles, breakfast at Pho 79 can be a never-ending journey through the flavors of the Far East. But by nine in the morning, the Aurora outlet, at least, can be so packed full of hungry neighbors coming from the Japanese-Korean-Viet-Thai neighborhoods surrounding Havana Street that there's no space left for the casual culinary tourists.

Pho -- that beef-broth-and-rice-noodle soup that's the most ubiquitous offering in Vietnamese cuisine -- is always eaten for breakfast. It's always eaten for lunch, too, and dinner on the streets of Da Nang, and as a midnight snack by drunken scooter kids in Saigon trying to sober up for the long ride home. But as a breakfast dish, pho is unsurpassed, and no one in town does it better than Pho 79. With one broth and a million different combinations of meats, herbs, spices and noodles, breakfast at Pho 79 can be a never-ending journey through the flavors of the Far East. But by nine in the morning, the Aurora outlet, at least, can be so packed full of hungry neighbors coming from the Japanese-Korean-Viet-Thai neighborhoods surrounding Havana Street that there's no space left for the casual culinary tourists.


Everyone loves doughnuts. But no one loves doughnuts quite as much as Elliott Vigil, owner of Glazed and Confuzed. Vigil knew nothing about doughnuts (except that he loved them) and nothing about the restaurant industry when he opened his shop last year. But that didn't slow him down. He found an industrial kitchen capable of producing 200 dozen a day, hired a team of expert bakers who could fill the gaps in his technical knowledge, and went to work creating the sort of doughnuts we'd all make if someone just gave us the keys to the factory. He sells eggnog doughnuts and doughnuts studded with crushed bits of candy cane over the holidays, doughnuts injected with caramel, banana fritters, huge glazed doughnuts filled with cherry and chocolate glaze, lemon-drop doughnut holes, and doughnuts made with espresso-shot dough and crusted with crushed espresso beans. Vigil may not know what he's doing, but we know he's doing it right.

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