Before the 1880s, the breakfast table in America looked much like any other meal, relying on the same recipes and ingredients and often re-serving what came out for dinner. Breakfast was viewed as having a utilitarian purpose only and was nothing to savor or indulge in. That changed when John Harvey Kellogg introduced cereal to Americans, believing that vitamin-rich rolled grains would improve health, both physically and morally. Here is where the modern origins of the breakfast ritual took hold, though skipping breakfast has gone through phases of acceptance since then.
People in the Capital Region are realizing that the power of breakfast need not be relegated solely to the hours before noon, and round-the-clock breakfast is becoming more popular around the region.
Part of breakfast's appeal comes from the price, as the tab for eggs, toast and coffee is often as little as half the cost of lunch at a local eatery and pennies on the dollar when compared to the cost of dinner out. Another part of the appeal is that breakfast is soothing and familiar and typically takes less effort to make than other meals in the day.
"Breakfast is comfortable, even at a place like IHOP or Denny's. It's the first meal of the day. You feel the life come back into you," said Chris Luriea, owner of the Mercantile Kitchen and Bar on Broadway in Saratoga Springs. With decades in the restaurant industry around the country, Luriea said he always felt a dearth of breakfast-focused restaurants in comparison to where he grew up. "I grew up in Long Island with diners and the ability to have breakfast all day. I've been in Saratoga for so long and I haven't see [all-day breakfast]. It's not done in a lot of restaurants around here," he said.
Broadway is packed with bar and dinner options, and he pointed to Compton's and Country Corner Cafe as being reliable spots for breakfast downtown, but both close relatively early in the day. He chose to offer breakfast well through dinner hours. "I wanted to appeal to as many people as possible," he said, and most customers who come in for late-day breakfasts opt for eggs while enjoying a glass of Prosecco on tap. "A lot of people think of us as a breakfast space. I think we might be the only place [in Saratoga] doing all three meal periods," Luriea said.
The idea of "anytime breakfast" has also stretched into the juice bar business. Juice, a typical staple at breakfast, has found itself en vogue with those opting out of carb-heavy meals and going for fruits and vegetables instead. The health benefits of juicing are still largely questioned academically, but the popularity hasn't slowed. IBIS World, a data company, published in its research that the juice and smoothie industry is worth $3 billion in the U.S., with a 1.4 percent market growth rate in the last year alone.
In the Capital Region alone, juice bars can be found from Schenectady (Raw Juice and Smoothie Bar, on Jay Street), to Latham (White Apron in Galleria 7), to Chatham (at Main Street Goodness, where smoothies, juices and other breakfast options are made available until 5pm Thursday through Tuesday). Next door to the Mercantile is Legacy Juice Works (formerly Saratoga Juice Bar).
In Troy, Liza's Juice Bar and Juice Factory VII flank Manory's, a Collar City mainstay that now serves all-day breakfast. In her January dining review for the Times Union, Susie Davidson Powell makes note of this by writing, "In a sea of juice bars and $2,000-a-month downtown apartments (like the fully rented News Apartments two blocks away), they are betting on all-day breakfasts [and] Black Pearl espresso roasted in Albany." She also called Manory's an "institution" with its new commitment to all-day breakfast, though the menu leans toward the grandiose more than the practical with listings for doughnut French toast, nine-egg omelets and milkshakes spiked with breakfast cereal.
The issue with any of those options is that one must get out of bed and leave the house in order to enjoy them. Ilene Friedman, owner of Send Me Waffles in Clifton Park, chose to deliver a breakfast classic straight to the customer's door with her Belgian waffle mail-order service. "Our waffles are an anytime of day thing. I think breakfast is seen that way more now. [The concept of breakfast] is extended to any time of the day," Friedman said. Like Luriea, she said that breakfast is approachable and comforting but she also finds that it has become more about convenience than anything else. "Breakfast used to be a sit-down thing, now it's more on the go." Her waffles, which can be ordered at sendmewaffles.com, can be purchased on a subscription basis for a nonstop supply of classic pearl sugar-sweetened breakfasts on-the-go.
Deanna Fox is a food and agriculture journalist. @DeannaNFox, foxonfood.com