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This Hillcrest staple is celebrating thirty years in business this year. Because of that, my expectation was that the food there would be a little dated, that the restaurant had operated on institutional credibility more than an ability to stay relevant. It's not like that isn't a valid strategy that appeals to a certain demographic, but I found the Crest Cafe has kept up with the times well.
Truth be told, there was a slightly retro vibe going on inside, but it was subdued and managed to tread the fine line between hip and kitschy. Also, despite the rainbow-clad restaurants appeal to the Hillcrest gay scene, the dining room had a pretty diverse crowd during breakfast. Basically, my expectations were all way off, which I liked. It's not that I found the scenario preferable to what I'd envisioned. I just like to be surprised within the confines of an industry that tends towards predictability.
The breakfast menu had a lot of interesting variations on classic breakfasts. I was tempted by power pancakes ($9.25) that had cottage cheese, blackberries, and almonds somehow worked into whole wheat pancakes. Likewise, the bacon pancakes topped with eggs ($9.25) appealed strongly to my penchant for artful use of bacon. In the end, I opted for an artichoke and ham strata ($9.95). The dish was really a savory bread pudding. Artichoke hearts and ham had been bound together with sourdough cubes and a light custard. The portion was reasonable and the mountain of fresh fruit that served as a side dish made things seem healthier. Often, we eat terrible breakfasts, as I just read in a Men's Health online article, and finding something a little more reserved than a massive stack of pancakes and sausage can really change the way we approach the day. I felt like the "strata" gave me a little indulgence and a little temperance at the same time.
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