Growing up, I rarely went “out” for breakfast. I suppose I can attribute the lack of venturing to weekdays of school-morning flurry: staple-less book reports, Froot Loops, and still-unsigned-by-mom-despite-being-due-today field trip allowance wavers all jumbling together cacophonously. As for weekends, why would a little girl ever need to leave an environment where her father was arranging handfuls of M&Ms into smiling, melting pancake faces? However, university presents an unfortunate dichotomy: gin-basted yet ravenous students, who may well be too kitchen-daft to succeed at preparing more than pre-cut bagels (which, just sometimes, they hurt themselves trying to slice), craving the fortifications of a copious, comforting breakfast, and craving it 24 hours a day.
After a concert, or a club, or just one of those long nights during which air freezes solid inside nasal passages, sometimes breakfast is just what we need to rejuvenate. I mean, if it really is the most important meal of the day, we may as well eat it twice. But where do we start off in search of eggs at three thirty in the morning? I tried the Concordia ghetto.
I traipsed toward Moe’s Diner (2214 Maisonneuve O.) with the mindset of infiltrating a Concordia stronghold and stealing their breakfasts; a little out of the way? Yes, but while you’re there you can pick up bubble tea and a sexually-expressive performance artist, too. Moe’s, with its typical, vinyl-boothed “diner” décor and Dire Straits background music, was surprisingly friendly and unselfconscious. My dining companion and I were quickly served weak and warming coffee, and were presented with extensive menus, which we proceeded to hungrily exclaim about (“breakfast club with poutine!”) before ultimately settling on a plate of French toast and a “Classic” breakfast of eggs, bacon, toast, and hash browns. The “Classic” was predictably satisfying, especially since I take joy in the form of ultra-crisp bacon and white bread (buttered far more lavishly than I’d ever allow myself to eat at home, but that I will gladly consume for the sake of journalism). The vaguely cinnamon-y, doughy French toast was tasty when dribbled with squeeze-bottle maple syrup. However, Moe’s is definitely not the kind of place familiar with dustings of powdered sugar and artfully arranged fruit. In fact, fruit, brown toast, egg-whites, and almost all vegetables save a grilled and cheese-draped tomato are conspicuously lacking from the menu. The food is simple, filling, and will not disappoint, as long as you’re not expecting anything too intricate or health-conscious – and at 3:30 a.m., I’m going to take a guess that you won’t be.
Next, I decided to troll the Miami Deli (3090 Sherbrooke E.) with my dad, who was in town. Entering the retro-kitsch diner, we were immediately confronted with a tank of dopey-looking catfish and verdant plasticity, and were seated at a booth, a certain acid orange, which reminded my father of a chair his mom had in ’71. The breakfast menu consisted of predictable roadside diner offerings: eggs, bacon, piles of pancakes and waffles. Compared to Moe’s, however, Miami offers some positively healthy fare. I considered a fruit salad with cottage cheese, but went for a mushroom omelette, made with egg-whites for $2 extra. Though tasty, the healthiness of the thin fried omelette was probably negated by the oil it gleamed with and the bland cubed potatoes it lay flatly beside. The watermelon and honeydew served with my meal were really sweet, and my brown toast came drenched in a now familiar amount of butter. Dad’s eggs benedict were pretty impressive, coated in a thick, tangy hollandaise and served with asparagus upon request. Everything was large, satisfying, and lent itself nicely to indulgent lashings of ketchup. The coffee thermos was left on the table for us to continually pour, next to a little pamphlet, which assures that if you stumble in at night and haven’t quite finished getting your drunk on, the Deli has a liquor licence and surprisingly offers shots of cognac and sambuca to wash down your waffles. It’s a good place to go for kitsch and calories.
After Miami Deli, I tried to be academic at a definite student hang-out: the 24-hour Second Cup at Milton and Parc (3498 Parc). It’s accepted that 24-hour breakfast is a godsend after a night out, but what about those long, pre-exam evenings when you need to be provided with endless coffee and fortifications? Second Cup has a massive selection of coffees and teas, and makes an extremely creamy, comforting vanilla steamed milk. A wide variety of pastries are available, but do consider that by the end of the day, the selection is prone to being peaked. If a big piece of strawberry cheesecake doesn’t qualify in your books as breakfast, the coffee shop also offers yogurt and granola, fruit, and pre-made breakfast egg and cheese sandwiches. I opted for maple pecan instant oatmeal, which was kind of watery, but full of raisins and nuts, and warming after walking around in the cold. I snuggled into one of their couches and consumed it in the coffee house atmosphere, which was conducive to studying, if you can abide a bit of radio top 40 while you work.
On a bright Sunday morning a few friends and I decided to try Chez Claudette (351 Laurier E.) – an extremely cute diner, which upon our arrival was sundrenched and comfortably full of locals, tucked into tables under walls decked with Elvis posters. The menu presented a variety of specials and sides, including healthy options such as brown toast and fruit with cottage cheese. As a group, we opted for a triple-decker BLT with a fried egg, served with crunchy, vinegary coleslaw and flavourful, crispy hash browns; an egg-topped breakfast burger served with absolutely coma-inducing hash brown poutine; a big crêpe filled with fromage blanc, generous amounts of ham and real maple syrup, sunny-side eggs, and baked beans; and, for the carnivore, the “Clau” special: two eggs and potatoes coddled by ham, bacon, sausage, and liver pâté. The only item that disappointed was the doughy, slightly soggy French toast, which lacked cinnamon-y, vanilla-hinting goodness. Even after finishing everything we ordered, we still ventured to try a “Pauper’s Pudding” – a dense, crumbly white cake served warm in a sugary toffee sauce – to conclude on a sweet note. Maybe not typical breakfast fare, but I would recommend ordering it and a scoop of vanilla ice cream if you visit Chez Claudette at any other time of day. This is definitely a casual environment, with a movie playing on a TV propped in the ceiling corner, and the adorable proprietress, Claudette herself, ready to pose for a photo with us. Thankfully, this gem is close enough to party streets St Laurent and St Denis to visit frequently at all hours.