THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Cheap Eats

Inventive breakfasts start the day right

Eddie Kennedy and Ashley Fairbank of Waltham enjoy the cheerful ambience at In a Pickle. Eddie Kennedy and Ashley Fairbank of Waltham enjoy the cheerful ambience at In a Pickle. (Dina Rudick/Globe Staff)
By Louise Kennedy
Globe Correspondent / December 29, 2010

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

Your article has been sent.

Text size +

Between the twin poles of a greasy diner two-over-easy and a chichi hotel Benedict Nouveau lies the sweet equator of morning fare: the affordable, delicious, unpretentious, yet inventive breakfast. It’s a staple of West Coast mornings but weirdly rare here.

Just slightly west of Boston, however, there’s good news for fans of the creatively filled omelets, toothsome French toast, pancakes, and cheerful decor that characterize the genre: not one but two little breakfast oases, tucked away along Route 20. That’s Main Street to you — in Watertown for The Spot Cafe, or Waltham for In a Pickle Restaurant.

In a Pickle is perhaps the more family-friendly, with sweet options ranging all the way to a Snickers pancake. Thumbs down from Mom on that one, sight unseen, but caramel crunch French toast wins enthusiastic — and sticky — thumbs up for its delicately crisp topping, its caramelized afterglow, and its generous mountain of whipped cream. Mom herself prefers coconut banana French toast: It’s only lightly sweet, with just enough coconut to wake up the palate.

For either, you’ll need only a touch of maple syrup — luckily, because the stuff tableside is fake, and 3 ounces of the real McCoy will set you back $2.25. At least you’ll have enough to share, so get the City Hall Cakes, too: light, golden pancakes, thick with banana slices and walnuts that add substance without weight.

Pancakes with fruit are one of the glories of The Spot as well: banana, blueberry, cranberry, or — o rapture! — raspberry. (Both places offer chocolate chip, too, if that’s your kids’ idea of fruit.) But it’s a tough call: the crisp-edged but fluffy cakes, or the eggily ecstasy-inducing cinnamon French toast? Well, The Spot gets all its bread from Montreal’s Au Pain Dore — the bakery ships the dough, which is baked right here to an authentically crackly turn — so the toast wins by a nose. Again, though, you’ll have to spring for real syrup; it’s $1.65 here for a tiny cruet.

Don’t forget omelets: your choice of three vegetables (tomatoes, mushrooms, spinach, and more) for Sara’s Veggie at The Spot, or the carnivore rush of the Meaty One at In a Pickle — ham, bacon, and sausage, plus cheese. Home fries are the standard orange cubes at the Pickle, a little crisper and more delicate at The Spot. Pickle coffee is diner style; The Spot pours a rich cafe au lait, among other options.

Both places stay open till 3 p.m., with breakfast and lunch (panini et al., including a ham, apple, and honey combo at In a Pickle that makes a fine eye-opener) dueling for attention. But you can get lunch anywhere. These places serve breakfast. Let’s encourage them.

Louise Kennedy can be reached at louisekennedy330@gmail.com.

IN A PICKLE RESTAURANT

655 Main St., Waltham,

781-891-1212, www.in-a-

pickle.com. All major cards,

wheelchair accessible.

Prices Breakfast $2.30-$9.25.

Lunch $5.25-$7.50.

Hours Daily 6:30 a.m.-3 p.m.

Liquor None.

May we suggest Caramel crunch French toast; City Hall Cakes; Meaty One omelet; ham, apple, and honey panini.

THE SPOT CAFE

385 Main St., Watertown,

617-923-2339. MasterCard, Visa, wheelchair accessible.

Prices Breakfast $3.25-$7.95.

Lunch $3.55-$7.75.

Hours Tue-Sun 7 a.m.-3 p.m.

Liquor None.

May we suggest Natasha’s French toast breakfast; raspberry pancakes; Sara’s veggie omelet; sliced baguette and jam.

Cheap Eats restaurants are reviewed by several people, including food editor Sheryl Julian, and not rated with stars. Dining Out reviewer Devra First rates restaurants on the star system below (read recent Dining Out reviews).

Ratings

  • 4 Stars Extraordinary
  • 3 Stars Excellent
  • 2 Stars Good
  • 1 Star Fair
  • No Stars Poor