True to our word, we returned this weekend for a second breakfast at Another Broken Egg Café at the Portofino Center in Shenandoah. We originally visited about a month ago, but having been in a bit of a rush at the time and arriving on opening day, we chose to wait to review our initial meal and give them some more time to grease the squeaky wheels. Based on the stated 45-minute wait when we arrived at just after 11:00 on Saturday, clearly we weren't the only ones looking to enjoy a leisurely breakfast.
Though the roomy interior seats about 150, and the spacious and inviting courtyard has capacity for about 50 more, the owner/managers would rather everyone's experience be smoothly paced and enjoyable than try to keep every table full at all times, which would place an unnecessary burden on both the serving staff as well as the kitchen. To that end, for the foreseeable future the courtyard is being used as a waiting area where complimentary coffee is available in a quiet and comfortable environment instead of cramming everyone into an anteroom with a bench or two leaving them to stand, empty handed while they wait.
It also allows for children to have some breathing (or running) room, and the complimentary Biscuit Beignets brought around to those that have waited more than 15 minutes or so don't hurt, either. Future plans include using the courtyard for private events and possibly some after-hours entertainment. Pleasingly, our anticipated 45-minute wait was really only about 25, and we were called back to the hostess desk by a talking (albeit insistent!) coaster/buzzer/pager.
We were thrilled to see our server from our first visit, Makenzie, still on staff. She had informed us the last time we were in that this was her first industry position and she was a little nervous, but we told her we thought she was doing a great job and clearly management agreed as she's made the first cut. Her level of service and attitude are a reflection of all of the servers we observed, regardless of the amount of experience one might have. Which is also a good reflection on the level of service management is providing to their customers. Lisa, our server this morning, was no exception to the rule; she was ever-attentive, never allowing our coffee cups to get cold or less than half-full, knowledgeable of the menu, accommodating to any special request and quick to offer suggestions or input to any questions we had.
We started with a warm Monster Cinnamon Roll ($3.99) which at about 3" tall and 5" across, is easily large enough to share. The flaky roll and not-too-sweet, buttery glaze of icing were really yummy, and we had to stop ourselves from eating all of it in order to leave room for our actual meals. After all, we'd already split three Biscuit Beignets – a regular order of which would have been eight of these mini-delights ($4.99), but either way come with ABE's signature honey-marmalade for dipping. Our bottomless coffee cups stayed warm with Community Coffee – brewed to a Gold Cup Standard ($2.29), which your server will tell (warn?) you is brewed stronger than you might be used to. Allen, one of the owners, tells us they've been getting feedback both ways on the coffee and they're considering possibly going with a lighter blend, but we would be disappointed to see the change. The coffee may be strong, but it is smooth and flavorful, not harsh or bitter like so many other restaurants out there (*cough* IHOP *cough*). Provided the servers keep doing what they're doing, advising those that order it of its strength, it should be well appreciated by the majority and not come as a surprise to anyone.
She made me order something different; pointing out I have a tendency to always order an omelette or scramble that has a Southwestern or Tex-Mex flair to it. I decided to just go along with her rather than point out that she only ever orders pancakes or French toast – at least, at the time I didn't point it out. But I digress, Lisa helpfully offered suggestions from the omelette and scramble menus and suggested that I could modify them to my liking, or build my own however I wished. In the end, I went with a modified Southwest Scramble ($10.49) .99 for egg white substitute in which I changed out breakfast sausage for the Chorizo and also added grilled chicken and green peppers (add $1.98). The Scramble comes with flour tortillas, so I also added a side of Wheat Toast (+$1.99). So that along with coffee comes out to... well, a fair amount of money for fake eggs. :) All that being said, it was a very tasty breakfast and I left feeling like I ate too much; or at least I would have had I eaten all of it. The country potatoes were excellent on their own and the egg scramble was well over an inch thick and cooked to near perfection. Another Broken Egg is easily in my top 3 favorite breakfast restaurants. Their salsa recipe needs to be revisited and I have better guacamole from the deli at HEB but this isn't a Tex Mex Restaurant now is it?
Okay, first of all, it's true; he does always order the same type of breakfast. But to be fair, it's probably my fault. Carb-hound that I am, I don't exactly scramble up a lot of proteins for the breakfast table at home. So yeah, sue me for wanting my pancakes, waffles or French toast when we're out. A girl doesn't have to have yogurt and fresh fruit every day. But I too am frequently guilty of digressing… Another Broken Egg offers a "Cinnamon Roll French Toast" described on the menu as "thick slices from their cinnamon roll, grilled w/ their famous French toast batter, layered with warm cream cheese icing, topped w/bananas foster sauce, a mix of warm berries and whipped cream." It sounded like Heaven and the death of any chance at eating remotely healthy. I swallowed my desire and consoled myself with the fact that we did start out with the Cinnamon Roll and the Biscuit Beignets. Instead I went with the standard French Toast ($7.49) and opted to add warm berries (+$1.49), passing on the maple syrup brought with my order. I also decided to give the Baked Bacon ($2.99) a try, since that's how I prep it at home and generally prefer it that way.
The French Toast was, in a word, perfect. I don't know what type of bread they're using, and the batter is "secret recipe," but I can say this; the bread is thick enough that the batter doesn't immediately soak into it, leaving a flat, soggy center and the batter definitely has more to it than simple eggs and milk. I would venture a guess at some cinnamon, vanilla, maybe some nutmeg and possibly almond extract (though generally restaurants don't add nuts or anything nut-based without mentioning it on the menu due to possible allergies). Because the French toast is so well-made, it stood up to the warm juices of the blackberries which pooled in the plate, adding just the right amount of sweetness and not rendering it a soppy, soggy mess. And while Lisa told me I wasn't getting any special treatment and that it 'came that way' if you added warm fruit - I know I didn't ask for whipped cream, but it wasn't on the tab, either (the menu said it was an extra $0.99). Bless her heart. But, alas, there's always something, isn't there? And this time for me it was the bacon. As I mentioned, when I make it at home I bake it as well, and I know what it does to the texture if you over-do it. Unfortunately I got a double-whammy; my bacon was overdone and arrived at the table cold. I think it must have been baked earlier that day and then sat a bit too long on the warming table before it ended up on my plate.
The Bottom Line
Overall, we completely enjoyed our meal. Sure, there was the bacon thing, but these things can happen at any caliber of restaurant regardless of age - and if that's the worst of it, it's hardly worth complaining about. This one negative is overwhelmingly outweighed by the supremacy of the rest of the meal, level of service and pleasantness of the atmosphere. The price range for meals is slightly higher than your "average" breakfast place, but at the same time, you don't expect to find a Lobster et Fromáge Omelette and Bloody Mary's on the menu at Denny's, either. Still, prices are reasonable enough to have a very nice breakfast, brunch or lunch without breaking the bank.
So many times you hear the horror stories of first-time restaurateurs who go in blindly and open a restaurant because it "seemed like a good idea at the time" or they "thought it would be fun." But in the case of Allen and Deb Miner, this is not one of those times. Though they did not have previous restaurant experience, when they decided to open the Houston-area's first (and Texas' fifth) Another Broken Egg Cafe, they put in countless hours of research, education and sweat equity into the launch. They opted for a franchise in order to have the support system a parent company can offer, but at the same time, struck out to make this location their own, adding personal touches and making subtle, yet clear changes to the decor to give their restaurant distinction (if you ever visited prior tenants The Melting Pot, this new interior is completely different). Deb tells us that Allen has personally cooked every item on the menu as well as tried them all, and she has sampled from the majority of it herself. Allen also attended a full-immersion, six-week training. All of that preparation seems to be paying off as the service staff is top notch, the kitchen is putting out consistently well-received dishes made with the finest quality ingredients, the customer count has been averaging four to six times what they estimated before they opened, and nearly every word of feedback to be found has been positive. Diners will find only the most beautiful of fruits and vegetables, the lobster, crab and crawfish are never imitation and always first-class, and the painstaking efforts put in by the entire staff to ensure you have a great visit are apparent everywhere you look. In short, the food and service is worth the extra dollar or two you might spend on Breakfast in The Woodlands.
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