Thursday, February 26, 2009

Matt's Big Breakfast

Have I mentioned that I want to be Guy Fieri (host of the Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives)? What would it be like to gain fame and fortune by traveling around the country eating at small, local, and frequently funky restaurants, where in many cases the owner is also the head chef? Well, we have the chance to travel and eat, but where is the fame and fortune?

We made arrangements to have breakfast with Chuck’s cousin Raina, who lives in one of the historic neighborhoods of Phoenix. She listed a couple of possibilities, but when she described Matt’s Big Breakfast, we knew this was the place to go.

While Matt’s serves a big breakfast, the restaurant is anything but big. Seating about thirty (I forgot to do an accurate count) with seven of the seats being stools at the counter, it is no wonder that we arrived to find seven parties in front of us in line.

There is a legal pad on a table outside the door, and you sign yourself in with the number in your party. When a table opens, one of the waiters comes out, reviews the list, and announces to the multitude assembled on the sidewalk the name of the lucky party to be seated.

Matt’s is open for breakfast and lunch. Lunch service begins at 11:00 a.m., but breakfast is served all day. The menu is short – seven breakfast selections, plus oatmeal and frosted flakes and six sandwiches for lunch, plus a cobb salad and chili.

Matt and Erenia (the owners) are selective in the products they serve. The Iowa pork products come from the Pork Shop in Queen Valley; the eggs of cage-free chickens come from Chino Valley Ranchers; the Angus beef is from Harris Ranch Beef Co.; and, where possible, the produce is organic and/or locally grown.

While it was after 11:00, all three of us ordered breakfast. Raina went with two sides – the home fries and a slice of off the bone ham. Chuck ordered the griddle cakes with two sides: black pepper thick bacon and home fries. I had the daily special – three eggs scrambled with Campari tomatoes, white cheddar cheese, and Canadian bacon served with a choice of home fries or hash browns (I chose the hash browns) and sourdough toast.

We’ll start with Chuck’s griddle cakes. Out of the kitchen came three six-inch diameter cakes about a quarter to a third of an inch thick, light and fluffy, with a crisp exterior (especially the edges) that was reminiscent of what we love about sopapillas. They were served with a large scoop of real butter and a pitcher of syrup.

All three pork products were extraordinary. Raina’s ham was not too salty or smoky but was juicy and tender and had enough griddle char to add flavor. Chuck’s bacon was lean and not too smoky and the black pepper added a flavor edge. The Canadian bacon in my omelet also was light on the salt and complemented the eggs and cheese. The Pork Shop is an hour and a half drive from where we are staying, but a field trip is in our immediate future.

I usually prefer hash browns to home fries, but should we return to Matt’s, I’m going for the home fries. These were good-sized chunks of skin-on potatoes, skillet fried with red onion to an exterior crispness, and liberally seasoned with pepper, these were home fries raised to a new level. My hash browns were cooked crisp as I ordered, but this may have been their undoing. The potatoes were grated so fine that the long cooking time turned the interior to a soft, almost mashed potato texture.

My egg scramble was an enormous portion - moist eggs with sweet tomatoes (I’m not familiar with the Campari variety but would love to find some for pasta, BLT’s, and salads) and a generous amount of Canadian bacon. If I had a complaint (and I do) there was too much sharp cheese for my taste and after a while the cheese overwhelmed the other tastes.

Now toast is usually a throw-away--a side that frequently goes uneaten. However, the sourdough toast was heaven. It came as a semi-thick slice that was lightly toasted. The crust was crisp but not tough. Chuck asked for a taste and proceeded to appropriate half of my portion.

I would rate Raina’s and Chuck’s breakfast as 5.0 Addies. Chuck talked about the food all day. Because of too much cheese in the eggs and the mushy interior of the hash browns, I would rate mine as 4.5 Addies.

Later, Raina mentioned that Matt's had been featured on Guy Fieri’s program.

Guy knows really good food.

No comments: