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Bountiful Breakfast at Rick and Ann’s (Berkeley)

Melanie Wong | Aug 15, 200411:53 PM

“Never been to Rick & Ann’s? Ya know I’m a partisan”, he said. “Yep, and that’s why I want to go with you, point me in the right direction,” I said. On Friday we made our way to the East Bay to break our fast at the fabled Rick & Ann’s. The breakfast mene is available until 2:30pm.

Pulling up to the entrance at 12:45pm, he reflexively leaped out of the car to get a jump on the other patrons, calling over his shoulder, “I’ll get us a table”. I had thought we’d avoid the weekend’s legendary lines, but we still had a bit of a wait. It was long enough that we had a chance to study the menu and skim the dog-eared NYT section in the rack. He got antsy and started to pace, announcing, “I’m ready to eat”, and looked hungrily at the pastries on display.

Finally we were seated at a two-top on the patio with the nice view of the Claremont across the street and the aroma of Peet’s coffee. As we admired the pancakes served to the next table, he said, “Some day I might get the pancakes, but I’m here for my usual, the Midwest. Have to wait but you’ll understand when you see it. Tried to pre-order ‘fore you came in, but I dunno if the hostess put it in or not.” He thought I should have the signature red flannel hash, so I ordered the North East. These are described on the menu as -

“Midwest: two potato-cheese pancakes with two eggs any style, grilled tomatoes, and our house-smoked Niman Ranch pork chop. Please allow 15 minutes to prepare.”

“North East: red flannel hash served with two eggs any style and choice of toast, muffin or scone (Hash: fresh red beets, sweet potatoes, new potatoes, red onion and bacon)”.

With stomachs growling, we twiddled our thumbs waiting for the potato pancakes (that’s what takes so long) to come up. He muttered, “We shoulda asked ‘em to bring yours first for us to share.” I smiled patiently and sipped the fresh press apple juice, which I found rather cloying and in need of more acidity.

When the food finally arrived, the father at the next table craned his neck to gawk at our plates and said, “Omigod, that looks absolutely fantastic! What is it? ” My companion pointed to his overflowing platter and smugly answered, “The Midwest breakfast with a pork chop and potato pancakes, ya have to wait 15 minutes, but it’s worth it.” With a certain sadness and note of disgust in his voice, the dad said, “And, I ordered a salad for lunch, jeez…next time that’s what I’m getting...”

The Midwest plate is indeed impressive to behold, an interplay of cream, ecru, beige, and brown tones in many and varied textures and temperatures punctuated with red slices of red (ungrilled) tomato and some chopped green scallions. I inhaled deeply the aroma of sizzling pork fat wafting across the table as samples of Midwest were trimmed off and conveyed to my plate. “This is a multiple component deal, many different elements to try in combination”, he explained. Even though I’m not sure I mixed and matched the full exponential range to appreciate the gestalt, the individual parts were delicious.

The inch-thick house smoked chop had a nice layer of tasty fat and good grilled flavor. Only lightly smoked, the taste of the sweet pork could still shine through. The texture was relatively firm and neither mushy nor too sweet/too salty from over-brining. He thought the pork chop seemed a little smaller than in the past and a bit dry towards the middle. He enjoyed it with gusto even so, picking it up to extract every last bit of porky flesh, fat and flavor by gnawing the bone clean. The fresh applesauce was bountiful and very good with a bit of spice. The large, lacy and golden brown potato pancakes splotched with orange cheese were beauties, crackly-crisp, and deeply satisfying in that fashion that only fried potatoes and dairy can be even if they got a little tough as they cooled down. The accompanying giant dollop of sour cream was a distraction from their special harmony. With all of this, plus two fried eggs, to fress on, I had to squelch a laugh when he stopped our server to ask if toast was included (no, it’s not) with this breakfast!

My North East was but a farm team player in this eating event. I had dutifully forked over half of the buttery, crumbly scone and a few scoops of the hash for my fraction of the Midwest, but I certainly got the better end of that trade, tastewise. “There’s enough bacon in the hash that you don’t have to miss meat”, he said as he cleaned up the rest of my plate. The eggs were over easy as ordered, but the whites were bubbled and singed, not the “soft, custard style” promised on the menu.

We used an hour and 20 minutes on the parking meter. I hate to think of what it would be like on busy weekends and doubt that I’ll ever run that gauntlet. However, that pork chop and the potato pancakes might bring me back sooner or later.

Rick & Ann's Restaurant
2922 Domingo Ave
Berkeley 94705

Afterwards we picked up some day-old goodies at 40% off from Nabalom in Elmwood. We were too stuffed to think about eating fresh Danish pastries or anything else today. Before hitting the bridge, we did a little wine browsing at Premier Cru in Emeryville.



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