Fried Rice at Eggs ’n Things (Honolulu, HI)


During every trip to Honolulu, my wife and I have breakfast at Eggs ’n Things, an excuse to eat their Portuguese sausage with eggs and two scoops of rice. My wife ordered it (this time, she substituted home fried potatoes for the rice, which turned out to be a bad idea), while the Island Style Fried Rice & Eggs caught my eye. When the plate was set before me, all I could think of was Mauna Loa, it was that big and sprawling.

It was more than bulk that was impressive. The fried rice was quite good (☆☆☆½), a kitchen sink of diced Portuguese sausage, ham, kamaboko (fish cake), bok choy, bean sprouts, julienned carrots, mushrooms, celery and green onions. More than that, the rice was savory and avoided the mushiness that I’ve encountered more than once on this trip. To be honest, all I could manage was less than a fourth of it, the rest taken away to be eaten by both of us for another breakfast at the condo. If it weren’t for its sheer size, the rice would be something to order again. But then, we could think of it as future breakfasts.

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Ken’s House of Pancakes (Hilo, HI)


My wife and I wound up eating three times at Ken’s House of Pancakes, near Arnott’s Lodge where we were staying during our time in Hilo. It came up as a local favorite in a couple of sources. Our Mauna Kea tour guide also said it was his favorite place to get saimin.

The fact that Ken’s has been around for over 35 years says a lot about its popularity—“jammin’ since 1971,” as Ken’s is fond of publicizing. It’s one of those places that you sense immediately that locals come here often, even if the corner parking lot can inconveniently be entered only from Highway 19 driving eastbound.

ken's house of pancakes

The breakfast menu is impressive. The first item listed is pancakes, which comes in different sizes and combinations, including island-popular coconut and macadamia versions. And what would any respectable diner be without its signature huge portion-sized concoction? Try their Kilauea, Our King of Stacks: three huge buttermilk pancakes layered with bacon, slab of smoked ham, and topped with two eggs. I can’t end this paragraph without mentioning Ken’s three house-made pancake syrups: coconut (my favorite), lilikoi and guava. They are intensely flavored and just sweet enough, justifiably famous. Other carbofoods include French toast and waffles.

Eggs ’n’ Things include two eggs, rice/hash browns, and pancakes with a choice of standard breakfast meats, but also different kinds of sausages (Portuguese, blood, Vienna, Scottish bangers) or mahi mahi, Spam, ground beef patty, or steak. There are many house specialties too numerous to mention, including snow crab or lop cheung omelets.

For our first breakfast, we split Portuguese sausage Eggs ’n’ Things (☆☆☆), which the kitchen was nice enough to divide for us. A good breakfast, but the fried rice was too soft. The choice for a side of fruit was either canned peaches or fresh papaya. Duh. The ripe papaya was served with a slice of a local lime, which was gigantic.

Portuguese sausage eggs 'n' things with fried egg, buttermilk pancake and fried rice

Portuguese sausage eggs ‘n’ things with fried egg, buttermilk pancake and fried rice

Lilikoi, guava and coconut syrups (left to right)

Lilikoi, guava and coconut syrups (left to right)

We returned for dinner later in the day after spending the day at the Hilo Farmers Market, Queen Lili’uokalani Birthday Celebration, Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, Akaka Falls and Mr. Ed’s Bakery. A customer favorite is Ken’s ox tail stew. Tonight was an opportunity to try the saimin, too.

I don’t know if it’s an island thing, but my preference is for a thinner stew, one that’s not thickened with gobs of flour. Ken’s was very thick and flavored with herbs that were overpowering. All the vegetables—carrots, bell peppers, celery, onions—were cut too large, about 3″, also distracting. Meat from ox tails are always a challenge to free up from bone, and they were no exception tonight. This normally is not an issue with me, but combined with the other annoyances, it was. The stew may be a customer favorite, but it wasn’t mine (☆☆).

Oxtail stew

Oxtail stew

Hawaiians like their saimin noodles soft. Such was the case tonight, as were the wrappers around the wonton. The flavor of the shrimp-flavored broth was quite good, much better than Zippy’s, but the chashu had the off-flavor of having been refrigerated for too long. Overall, not a bad saimin (☆☆½).

Our last breakfast in Hilo was spent at Ken’s because it was close to the airport. One of the specials was a kalua pork hash loco moco served over rice and topped with fried eggs. A great attribute of hash is its crispiness, our preference being the crispier, the better. This quality is not compromised much by corned beef since it doesn’t exude much moisture. Thus, it should’ve occurred to me that kalua pork, which is inherently very juicy, and gravy poured over loco moco are recipes for sogginess. If I didn’t think of it as hash, the dish was still tasty (☆☆½).

Kalua hash loco moco

Kalua hash loco moco

While there was nothing extraordinary we had there, Ken’s is a solid restaurant with a broad menu and good breakfast options. And it has a neighborhood vibe, even at the crossroads of two highways.

Ken’s House of Pancakes
1730 Kamehameha Ave
Hilo, HI 96720
(808) 935-8711

Breakfast at Blue Moose Café (Port Townsend, WA)


“If a messy kitchen is a happy one, this one is delirious.”

How can you not like a café that has the chutzpah to post that above their kitchen?

How about, “The reason we’re not all here is because we’re not all there”? There is even a banner on a wall emblazoned with a single word: BACON! Add to that a pretty carefree approach to interior design, mainly the abundant use of primary colors (especially blue) and enough visual clutter to make you wonder where Waldo is, you pretty much have an idea what it’s like in the Blue Moose Café. Open only for breakfast and lunch, it’s secluded in the back part of Haines Street in the middle of Port Townsend’s Boat Haven shipyard. If I hadn’t found out about it on TripAdvisor, I might never have discovered it on my own.

The interior isn’t large. Some tables are squished almost right up against one another. Each table has its own bottles of catsup, Tabasco sauce and Huy Fong rooster sauce, not to mention a jar of killer housemade apricot jam. You can also sit at the counter on one of four stools. The entire floor is sealed concrete. Coffee is supplied by Port Townsend’s popular Sunrise Coffee, which itself has a building just down the street.

But funky decor is not what makes Blue Moose. It’s the food. Beyond the tongue-in-cheek names for some menu items (like This Ain’t No Atkins’ Special or Last Night I was Dreaming About Elvis), the basics are here: eggs, bacon, ham, pancakes, corned beef hash (“No can openin’ here!”), omelettes, biscuits ‘n gravy, oatmeal, etc. But, there are also interesting twists on classics, such as Smokin’ Joe (a Joe’s special with smoked salmon instead of ground beef) or a french toast made with housemade brioche and dipped in vanilla custard, served with honey-pecan butter. Many items appear to be originals, the most popular of which are the scooters, lightly grilled flour tortillas filled with various stuffings, reminiscent of burritos.

Deciding what we wanted was a chore, a happy one, to be sure. It was at least ten minutes after we were handed the menus that we finally decided.

Moose bagel features a toasted Bob’s bagel (also of Port Townsend), your choice of three kinds. My wife picked the everything, a savory bagel studded with poppy and sesame seeds. She also opted for a vegetarian sausage (instead of ham, bacon or sausage) that was made mostly of pecans, which was quite flavorful. Scrambled eggs and cheddar completed the fillings, a very good breakfast sandwich (☆☆☆).

Moose bagel with vegetarian sausage

Moose bagel with vegetarian sausage

My scooter was filled with scrambled eggs, chorizo and cheddar and jack cheeses, and topped with salsa, sour cream and a darn good cilantro-chile sauce. Instead of the standard black beans, I substituted potatoes. The black beans might’ve worked better because the potatoes were mealy, exacerbated by steaming in the tortilla wrap. Overall, a good menu (☆☆½) item.

Scooter with chorizo and cilantro sauce

Scooter with chorizo and cilantro sauce

The waitresses were all extremely friendly and accommodating—substituting the potatoes for the beans, giving me extra cilantro sauce when requested, ever filling up our coffee cups without our asking. A pretty happy bunch, they obviously like working here. Blue Moose’s seclusion well outside the historic district doesn’t keep customers from coming, however. Even if today were a Saturday morning, I get the feeling it’s busy all the time. This is one place we’ll be sure to have breakfast every time we visit Port Townsend.

Blue Moose Café
311 Haines Pl, #B
Port Townsend, WA
360.385.7339
 

Panama Hotel Tea & Coffee


Not many realize that the Panama Hotel in the International District has a tea and coffee shop. Though it was set up to serve its clientele, it is open to the public. The space is not very large but is nicely decorated with old historic black-and-white photos on the walls and memorabilia of the Japanese community that used to live in the area before WWII. A good selection of pastries is available for breakfast as well as paninis and salads, teas from around the world and first-rate espresso and coffee. We spent a good 45 minutes enjoying our beverages and rolls, looking at the pictures and strolling through the hotel guest lounge area, accessible through a stairway at the rear as well as from the street.

Storefront

Storefront

Drip coffee, chai latté and sweet rolls

Drip coffee, chai latté and sweet rolls

This is a nice alternative to dim sum breakfasts in the International District, complete with wireless capability and relaxed, quiet comfort.

Panama Hotel Tea & Coffee
607 S Main St
Seattle, WA 98104
206.515.4000

Breakfast at Marination Ma Kai (Seattle)


As soon as you step off the water taxi at Seacrest Park, Marination Ma Kai is directly in front of you, slightly to the right. It’s hard to miss since it’s the only building on the dock. The two women (Kamala Saxton, who hails from Hawaii, and Roz Edison) responsible for this restaurant first began business with Marination Mobile, which in 2009 was named by Good Morning America as the best food truck in America and then followed by a succession of praise from the local media and even a plug from Anthony Bourdain. The mobile truck has had a fanatical following since its inception. Marination Station soon followed in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, a brick-and-mortar operation that presumably came about because Seattle’s strict regulations made it difficult to run a food truck operation there. Marination Ma Kai is the third and latest undertaking in the mini-empire. Incidentally, ma kai (makai) is the Hawaiian word for “toward the ocean” when giving directions (mauka meaning “toward the mountain”), no doubt a reference to the restaurant’s location.

The food served by all three can be loosely described as Hawaiian-Korean-Mexican fusion. Think, for example, of Korean tacos, a version of which was made famous in the LA area by Kogi. Marination fills their corn tortillas with a choice of kalbi, miso-ginger chicken, spicy pork or tofu, along with slaw, pickled jalapeños and their special, commercially available Nunya sauce. There is also Kimchi Quesadilla and fish tacos featuring grilled miso-sake fish and Nunya sauce. You get the picture.

Marination Ma Kai has a breakfast menu that none of the other outlets offers, which we partook of as soon as we arrived in West Seattle in the morning.

Situated on the pier, Marination has a spectacular view of the Seattle skyline to the east. There are plenty of park picnic tables outside to enjoy the view and take in warm, sunny weather. Inside there is seating for more people, including a bar facing the south-facing windows. Customers place their orders at the counter, given portable wireless alerts, and pick up their orders when ready.

Awesome is the word for the Double Coconut Muffins (☆☆☆☆). Served warm, they were tender on the inside, nicely browned on the top, insanely buttery and filled with generous shreds of coconut, an outstanding muffin.

Double Coconut Muffin

Double Coconut Muffin

Since we’re not loco moco fans, the two remaining savory choices were Sunrise Burrito and Breakfast Sliders. Rolled inside the burrito (☆☆½) were Portuguese sausage, scrambled egg, potatoes, green onions and crema. The sausage is housemade. Unlike typical Portuguese sausage, it isn’t dry but rather like a crumbled patty, which had a hint of clove flavor. While my wife didn’t care for the kimchi addition, I thought it added a distinct Korean/Hawaiian stamp. We both agreed that the crema, which seemed like a variation of Nunya sauce, made the burrito too wet. A wedge of lime came with the burrito, which to us added too much acidity. Still, it was an innovative burrito.

Sunrise Burrito

Sunrise Burrito

The same Portuguese sausage was used for the Breakfast Sliders (☆☆☆), sandwiched between Hawaiian-style housemade sweet buns that were not as sweet as King’s. Shredded Cheddar and Jack cheese, fried egg and Nunya sauce completed the ingredients in this rather good breakfast sandwich.

Breakfast Sliders

Breakfast Sliders

Exactly what is Nunya sauce, you ask? Marination will not reveal all of its ingredients, outside of mayo, kojuchang and garlic. What other spices are used is a closely guarded secret, as in “nunya business.” You can purchase the sauce in jars though as well as T-shirts and undies.

Undies

Undies

In the afternoon, while waiting for the water taxi back to Pier 50, we decided to have a shave ice (☆☆) from Marination. Two problems. The ice was too crunchy, not shaved finely enough—a snow-like quality that defines the best Hawaiian shave ice—and passion fruit and mango syrups that were timidly fruity, making this the equal of any other shave ice we’ve had locally, namely, meh. Why can’t anyone do this right? For starters, you have to have the right ice machine. Still, the ice cold refreshment hit the spot after a long day of walking around in rather warm, humid weather.

Shave ice with passion fruit and mango syrups

Shave ice with passion fruit and mango syrups

Marination Ma Kai
1660 Harbor Ave SW
Seattle, WA
206.328.8226
Menu

Breakfast at Morning Glory Café (Eugene, OR)


Among the places that popped up when looking for breakfast restaurants on Yelp, Morning Glory was one possibility. What makes it so different was the reason we decided to give it a try; it is a vegan restaurant. We got there just as it was opening up for business, located right around the corner from the Eugene train depot. In fact, we saw at least two customers with rolling suitcase in hand. It’s not always possible to get a healthy meal on the road, let alone one that uses organic ingredients whenever possible. There is even a special monthly organic menu. In a salute to the farm-to-table movement, the menu lists all the local suppliers, all of them in Oregon.

One of Morning Glory’s specialties and a customer favorite is The Fusion (☆☆½), a medley of sautéed tofu, onions and mushrooms, folded into a shell of shredded potatoes and topped with chopped tomatoes and green onions. We asked for the herbed tofu sour cream on the side. What really made this dish a cut above the ordinary was a wonderful combination of herbs and spices. One problem with it was the shell couldn’t maintain its crispiness, the browned potatoes becoming leathery from the filling’s inevitable steaming process. The concept is fun but doomed from the start. Less ambitious but possibly more successful would be The Owl & The Pussycat which substitutes cubed herbed potatoes for the shredded potato shell.

The Fusion

The Fusion

While there are no eggs listed in any menu item, you can order organic free-range eggs for an additional cost, which removes the restaurant from a strict vegan category.

Breakfast at Black Bear Diner (Mt. Shasta, CA)


There are many a Black Bear Diner on the West Coast, 59 and counting. Truthfully, we had never heard of the chain before until we were here in Mt Shasta. And, as it turned out, this is where it all started. There is nothing to suggest a franchise except for the sign outside (above) and the menu printed on the inside pages of what looked like an informational newspaper (for mass distribution?). There are also more than the usual number of diner-labeled gift items in a small alcove which implies there might be other outlets. Otherwise, the interior has the look of a local diner or coffee shop.

The waitress told us that their chicken fried steak (☆☆☆) is a customer favorite, so that settled it for us. It was quite possibly the best I’ve had though it must be said the dish is not a usual breakfast choice for me. The steak was wonderfully tenderized and the breading nicely seasoned, crunchy and not in the least greasy. The gravy, which has never impressed me wherever I’ve had it, was adequate enough. Black Bear Diner encourages customer choice, so we opted for country red potatoes and poached eggs, both good. 

Chicken fried steak, country potatoes and poached eggs

Chicken fried steak, country potatoes and poached eggs

The breakfast menu invites return visits. We won’t have to travel to Mt. Shasta for that, because there is one in Federal Way.

A whimsical touch to the diner’s ambience are the wood bears carved out of Washington red cedar.

cedar bear carving