The Washington area's best weekday breakfasts photo
(Grump's Cafe by Fritz Hahn)

The Washington area's best weekday breakfasts

The Food and Weekend staff  |  Updated 08/23/2012

The old-fashioned, sit-down weekday breakfast may be hard to find, but it's not extinct. Writers for the Food and Weekend sections combed the region for fare so good, you'll want to put down your BlackBerry and savor the morning meal again.

In photos: Washington's best breakfasts

 

Al Carbon

Rockville, MD

With its cheap prices, quick service and authentic Central and South American fare, it's no surprise that Al Carbon draws an early breakfast crowd. It's across the street from the Rockville Metro station in an industrial niche, and the breakfast crowd usually consists of contractors coming in to grab a quick pupusa and a hot coffee. Diners who can linger longer than 10 minutes are rewarded with desayuno tipico, a plentiful serving of rice, black beans, eggs with onion and tomato, sour cream, avocado and fried plantain; or an oversize breakfast burrito. In addition to its inexpensive and generous servings, Al Carbon stands out for its cooking methods: Everything is prepared on a wood grill. You might be in a rush, but the smoky flavors will take you back to the gratification of a grilled meal on a lazy summer day.

 

Blind Dog Cafe at Darnell's

Washington, DC

You should know this about me: I'd be a sucker for Blind Dog Cafe at Darnell's even if the pop-up restaurant served, well, only dog treats. Any shop that would name itself after a sightless Jack Russell terrier gets my support on the basis of sheer canine compassion alone. Fortunately, Blind Dog Cafe's charms don't end with the namesake pooch. Partner Cullen Gilchrist, a professional line cook, has constructed a tight, quick-serve breakfast menu of croissant sandwiches supplemented with yogurt (with homemade granola) and a line of rotating sweets developed by his sister, Greer, who somehow runs a freelance bakery right from the tiny counter at Blind Dog. Her scones are altogether original - part scone, part crispy, chewy cookie. Don't miss the pimento cheese frittata sandwich, either: It's part French, part Southern and all delicious. The coffee, from PT's in Topeka, Kan., is worth every drop, too.

 

Burger, Tap & Shake

Washington, DC

When this Foggy Bottom eatery began serving breakfast in February, it made perfect sense. With the Metro, George Washington University and a hospital full of workers in view, there is certainly morning foot traffic to lure. The fare is a notch up from conventional, with a handful of egg sandwiches served on soft, house-made buns with sausages grilled to order. The service is swift and friendly. Seating is plentiful, and bonus points must be awarded for the copious bottles of Sriracha, which provides a nice condiment kick for egg dishes. Along with the flavorless coffee, take a pass on the "breakfast fries." The description is pretty dead-on: french fries at 9 a.m.? They're probably best left to the college kids.

 

Cafe Assorti

Arlington, VA

Halfway between the Court House and Rosslyn Metro stations, this Kazakh/Russian/European cafe, bar and bakery (talk about a mixed identity!) is perfectly situated for anyone looking to escape the Orange Crush. There are grab-and-go pastries for those on the move. If you have some extra time, sit in the modern, bright orange dining room, where you can see the kitchen staff working your order via peak-through windows. Hot entrees hit the table in less than 10 minutes, but it's unlikely the delicious food will last that long on your plate.

 

Cafe Aurora

Alexandria, VA

Tucked into a small strip mall that is just off, but somehow facing away from, Duke Street near Landmark Mall, this small Eritrean eatery can be tricky to find. But those who are willing to wait until 9 a.m. for breakfast will discover a lot to like inside the mocha- and gold-decorated cafe. The menu is all over the map, with traditional breakfast items, Italian pastas and Eritrean dishes all available as soon as the doors open. Stick with the east African fare such as the fuul (fava beans and tomatoes, onions and cheese) and the Eritrean breakfast favorite fatta (cubed French bread soaked in a spicy, creamy tomato sauce and served with yogurt). Of course, if you aren't feeling adventurous, you can always get a waffle smothered in ice cream. Either way, the coffee, in true Eritrean fashion, is good and strong.

 

Chick and Ruth's Delly

Annapolis, MD

There's a comfortable ritual to breakfast here. Doors open at 6:30 a.m., but the day officially begins at 8:30 a.m., when the entire place rises, as if still in grade school, to recite the Pledge of Allegiance to a flag above the cash register. Then everyone settles back down to figure out which classic diner dishes to order: the Senator Nathaniel J. McFadden (a mountain of corned beef hash topped with two poached eggs and surrounded by piles of home fries and toast)? The Mayor Al Hopkins (chipped beef on toast with home fries)? The Golda Meir (lox, cream cheese, onions and tomato on a bagel)? Chick and Ruth's, which has been on Annapolis's bustling Main Street since 1965, is the kind of mom-and-pop experience you don't forget easily. The staff is good-humored and fast with coffee and water refills, though you may have to flag them when the place is slammed, which is often, but it never feels like a chore.

 

District Taco

Arlington, VA

The crazy-long lines found here on evenings and weekends aren't in evidence on weekday mornings, making this a quick stop for the office-bound. And you won't linger long choosing your fuel. The breakfast menu consists of three items: tacos (Basic, Healthy, Veggie), a breakfast burrito and huevos rancheros. All are good, but the last -- a satisfying combo of two eggs "over hard" layered atop rice, black beans, sour cream and salsa, all on a corn tortilla -- is particularly hard to beat. Breakfast is served all day.

 

Dukem Ethiopian Market

Washington, DC

With five distinct dishes, all typical of Ethiopian breakfasts, the morning menu at this U Street Ethiopian restaurant is a refreshing departure from the egg-and-cheese offerings all over town. But it's almost a shame -- and certainly a bad idea if you have to interact with people at work -- to indulge in the hearty, spiced scrambled egg or the kicky foul on a weekday. In particular, the foul (pronounced "fool"), an addictive fava-bean stew, is laced with garlic and onion, spices, jalapeno and a too-generous pour of olive oil, making it better suited for a Sunday hangover cure than sustenance before a day at the office. Another ding for those looking for a weekday meal: the endless wait (almost 30 minutes) it can take for the meal to turn up, even if the restaurant is empty.

 

Extra Perks

Alexandria, VA

Extra Perks does a brisk weekday morning business, with the crowd pretty evenly split between those getting drinks to go and those sitting down for a meal. The shop has a British theme, meaning you'll find teacups on the wallpaper, Union Jacks on the tables and McVitie's biscuits for sale. The cholesterol-heavy British breakfast with eggs and two types of breakfast meat goes down easier than it should, preferably made into an improvised sandwich with the accompanying toast. Employees manage the flow of orders with buzzers a la Cheesecake Factory to let you know when to pick up your food. Expect that to take less than 10 minutes. Extra Perks is a great alternative to the more crowded spots in the nearby fancier sections of Old Town, and there's plenty of easy street parking to boot.

 

Fairfax Inn Restaurant

Falls Church, VA

It may look like an ordinary family diner, but Fairfax Inn Restaurant has a decidedly cosmopolitan twist: Filipino fare. Be sure to request the separate menu. The specials all include two eggs, rice (the garlic version is potent), pickled papaya and traditionally prepared meat or fish. The less adventurous can stick to such standard breakfast items as pancakes, omelets and the like. The diner is in Seven Corners, a notoriously confusing tangle of roads that nonetheless makes it a convenient pit stop for Northern Virginia commuters on their way to the city. You won't lose much time either, as orders are ready in less than 15 minutes.

 

Florida Avenue Grill

Washington, DC

The District loves its half-smokes, but only a true Washingtonian could appreciate a half-smoke for breakfast. And that's what makes the Florida Avenue Grill special: Few restaurants wear their hometown roots more proudly than the Grill, as greasy as it is venerable (1944). The proximity to Howard University makes it a popular spot for students, but tables and counter seats are readily available most weekday mornings and street parking can be found with little effort. The coffee is diner-quality standard and plentiful; no meal is complete without the house biscuits, served with most entrees. And for a true soul food experience, order a side of the creamy grits with your pork chop or salmon cakes.

 

Founding Farmers

Washington, DC

When the World Bank and International Monetary Fund are your closest neighbors, few other spots in the city have the global power-breakfast potential of Founding Farmers. But you don't need to be a banker or ambassador to be well fed here: The restaurant's rustic greenhouse aesthetic, with exposed wood and metal beams, offers a homey welcome, as do the country-style hashes, specialty pancakes -- think red velvet and carrot cake -- and a take on the classic Southern fried chicken and waffles. Parking in the West End can be hard to come by (particularly while rush-hour meter restrictions are in effect), but service is prompt yet unhurried: Leave about 30 minutes from menu to check. For commuters heading into the city from the Maryland suburbs, there's a Founding Farmers along I-270, north of Montrose Road.

 

G Street Food

Washington, DC

Need a vacation but can't get away from your desk job? G Street Food's globally minded menu might hold you over ... at least until you finish your coffee. In addition to the standard assortment of bagel-and-egg sandwiches, there's a long omelet list, including Hungarian (onion, red pepper, tomato and chives), Polish (onions, potato and zucchini), Russian (tomatoes and fresh parsley) and Spanish (potatoes, bacon, peppers and onions). G Street's doughnuts are made in-house and are the size of large bagels; they come plain, chocolate-iced or sugar-coated. They pair well with an Americano or Counter Culture drip from the in-house barista. (As a bonus for coffee lovers, the legendary M.E. Swing is next door.)

 

Grump's Cafe

Annapolis, MD

Coming here is like taking a vacation before work, starting with the brightly colored picnic tables outside and continuing with the surfboards, Corona beer paraphernalia and beer-bar signs. (By the way, margaritas and Bloody Marys are available on the breakfast menu, even on weekdays, just in case you decide to really make this a vacation.) Grump's takes its coffee seriously. Its house blend and the popular Dancing Goat blend come from Washington state's Batdorf & Bronson roastery, and other coffees are from Anne Arundel County's Ceremony Coffee Roasters and Chesapeake Bay Roasting Co. The food is the type you might expect at brunch -- Eggs Bay Ridge (jumbo lump crab meat, poached eggs, tomatoes and hollandaise atop two English muffin halves), the Smokey Chipotle Omelet (roast chicken, melted cheddar, sauteed peppers and onions, house pepper sauce), the Chicken Vicki Fried Steak (country-fried steak smothered in sausage gravy, and two eggs and grits). But if you don't want to linger, you can spend less than $5 for a short stack of buckwheat pancakes with bacon or sausage or the Breakfast Club sandwich, essentially a BLT on toast with cheddar and two fried eggs, and easy to eat on the picnic tables outside when the weather is fine.

 

Jimmy T's Place

Washington, DC

You wouldn't expect to find an honest-to-goodness greasy spoon just five blocks east of the Capitol, but that's what makes Jimmy T's such a gem. Settle in at a chrome stool and banter with the line cook while your eggs and bacon sizzle on the flat-top grill. As soon as your diner-quality coffee shows up (in a random mug from a mismatched collection), you'll start to feel like a regular. Located in a rowhouse at Fifth and East Capitol streets, Jimmy T's looks like it hasn't changed much since its signs advertising 65-cent ham-and-egg breakfasts were accurate. The menu is packed with basics: eggs/cheese/meat on an English muffin, biscuits and sausage gravy. But check the boards behind the counter for such specials as waffles with blueberries and bananas or omelets punched up with red or green salsa. Booths and stools are at a premium during peak times, but don't sit down at an empty-yet-uncleared table or you'll face the staff's wrath. Warning No. 2: Jimmy T's is cash-only.

 

Johnny's Half Shell

Washington, DC

For about an hour each weekday, usually between 8 and 9 a.m., you can wander into Johnny's Half Shell and get a glimpse of how official Washington works. Men and women -- maybe you recognize their faces, maybe you don't -- are lost in conversation over their breakfast plates, trying to pry information from each other or hammer out an agenda. These are often your elected officials or their staffs; their unerring sense of accommodation -- and their taste buds -- regularly drive them to Ann Cashion and John Fulchino's warm, inviting seafood parlor in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol. Cashion's compact breakfast menu, heavy on prepared egg dishes, is better than it needs to be given many of her customers treat the restaurant as a morning conference room. But if you really want a taste of Cashion's soulful take on Gulf Coast cooking, try her grillades and grits, this humble New Orleans staple that's been fine-tuned into a surprisingly elegant dish, its creamy grits the perfect foil to the peppery blasts of sliced (and very meaty) beef. This is a leisurely paced spot to stop and savor breakfast, not slam it down and run.

 

La Casita Pupuseria and Market

Silver Spring, MD

Check the East Coast hurry-up attitude at the door when you enter. Even on weekday mornings, when most customers are getting to-go orders and the tables are nearly empty, food takes at least 25 minutes to show up. The laborers and suits who come in for the traditional Salvadoran breakfast dishes don't seem impatient. The wait gives you a chance to browse the shelves of imported packaged snacks or study the mural of a beach scene. And when the food does arrive -- spiced Salvadoran hot chocolate, chorizo, perfectly fried plantains, scrambled eggs with rice, tomatoes, onions and peppers and served with red beans and avocado -- the feeling of being transported to another country is complete.

 

Mark's Kitchen

Takoma Park, MD

Where else can you get a mung bean pancake, a seaweed omelet and an all-vegan meal for breakfast? This reliable neighborhood favorite, a vegetarian-friendly diner with a Korean twist, has just as many traditional choices for carnivores. You can get your eggs with bacon and sausage or substitute meatless versions. Order buttermilk or buckwheat pancakes and choose from eight options to be cooked in: go basic with bananas or chocolate chips or inventive with smoked salmon, green tea or ginger. A server steered me away from the blueberry-buckwheat variety: "Too much moisture," she said, so it's harder to get the dense cakes to cook consistently. The place is also a juice bar; don't miss the fresh-pressed orange juice, which arrives like nectar with foam on the top.

 

Marlboro Grille

Upper Marlboro, MD

Located in the middle of Prince George's County seat, the Marlboro Grille is close to the county courts, the office of the county executive, the sheriff's office and board of education. That's why you'll find suits rubbing elbows with law enforcement and people in T-shirts talking over plates of no-frills diner food every morning from 7 a.m. on. Ignore the tired decor -- the artificial plants look like they've been around since the restaurant opened in 1995 -- and tuck into a platter of turkey sausage, a brick-size pile of hash browns, two eggs and four pieces of toast, or the popular combination of a half-smoke with two eggs and your choice of buttery grits or home fries. Servers are friendly and efficient; it's easy to see why so many customers know them by name.

 

MGM Roast Beef

Washington, DC

Scratch a good lunch counter and you'll often find that a decent breakfast spot lies within. MGM Roast Beef proves the rule. It serves morning food from 7 to 10:30. The flat screen is on mute so the '70s R&B tends to fill the space. It's easy to grab a stool, sit and eat within 10 minutes of placing your order. Although you might expect the meats (ham, bacon, sausage, turkey bacon, turkey sausage) to be treated properly -- and they are, with a slight char -- the oniony home fries, creamed grits and fluffy three-stack of blueberry pancakes ($1 extra for the fruit) deserve equal star billing. Sad face: Orange juice comes in a bottle.

 

Mike's Cafe

Arlington, VA

Located less than a block from the busy Ballston Metro and steps away from office buildings and high-rise housing, Mike's Cafe is perfectly positioned to be a big breakfast mover. Lines move swiftly, and breakfast sandwiches, burritos and omelets are made to order behind the counter. Even during a rush you can be in and out with your meal in 10 minutes. Seating can be scarce with only a short stretch of bar space and a few tables, but to-go seems to be the preference of most morning customers.

 

Mosaic Cuisine and Cafe

Rockville, MD

Mosaic includes a number of high-end breakfast staples (overstuffed omelets, eggs Benedict with roasted potato hash, bagel and smoked salmon, etc.), but regulars appreciate its real claim to fame: waffles. From breakfast to dinner, the chefs find ways to incorporate their signature draw into French and American favorites. Still, it's best enjoyed in its most basic form: topped with fruit and a dusting of confectioners' sugar. Syrup is available, but discouraged. If you must embellish your waffle, whipped cream and caramel cream will do. The omelets -- especially the Mosaic omelet with spinach, grilled tomatoes and Swiss cheese -- don't disappoint, either. The best part: They come with potato hash and, of course, a waffle.

 

Northside Social

Arlington, VA

For the culinarily conscientious breakfaster, Northside Social evokes all the buzzwords: organic, house-made, locally sourced, free trade. It also helps that all of it tastes great. The team that opened the nearby Liberty Tavern and Lyon Hall in Clarendon are also behind this charming cafe with its freshly baked breads and pastries and Counter Culture coffee service. The doors open at 7 a.m., and the space fills quickly with both laptops and their attentive owners. From standing in line to getting your food, a diner can be sitting down to eat in 10 minutes. Depending on how backed up the baristas are, your coffee order may take longer.

 

Open City

Washington, DC

On weekends, Open City is the hub of the Woodley Park brunch scene. Nestled in the trees just across the Calvert Street Bridge and less than a block from the Woodley Park Metro, the restaurant has a relaxed buzz, as families, morning joggers and guests at the nearby Omni Shoreham belly up to the expansive bar or file in to the large seating area for their late-morning fix. Eating breakfast at Open City during the week isn't altogether different. The eatery maintains its low-key, neighborhood vibe while still sending you off to work in about 30 minutes, start to finish. In addition to standard fare, breakfast offerings include house-made pastries, a chai tea waffle with a subtle hint of spice and a hearty chorizo scramble. Open City also doubles as a coffeehouse and is fully stocked with fair trade Counter Culture coffee and espresso that makes for an excellent morning cup o' joe.

 

Right Angle Deli

Fairfax, VA

Don't rely on the address to find this small cafe that draws a loyal clientele of regulars: Invisible from Arlington Boulevard (Route 50), it fronts on Williams Drive in the ground floor of the Dewberrry Building. Once inside, you'll be greeted by a friendly staff, a traditional menu and reasonable prices. Food is prepared to order and can take a while. Eggs are a better bet than the French toast, which was dry but, impressively, arrived with a jug of real maple syrup. And bacon is a better choice than the pale sausage patty. The nicely cooked home fries are spiked with fried onion. Order at the front counter; the food is brought to your table. Breakfast service stops at 11 a.m.

 

Smith & Clarkson's Deli

Springfield, VA

French-toast fans will be happy with the big, fluffy, eggy slabs of challah, not so happy with the imitation maple syrup. Omelets we tried were good, home fries were decent and the customer at the next table sang the praises of his Big Mouth breakfast sandwich. A display case holds tempting pastries to grab on your way out. Outside, a few cafe tables and plastic chairs have been set out for the season, though al fresco diners will have to contend with a limited view (Braddock Road) and a monotonous din (the Beltway). A steady stream of customers passes through, but not enough to cause major delays in the service. Order at the counter; they yell out your number for pickup. Breakfast is served all day.

 

Taqueria la Placita

Hyattsville, MD

The spot Washington food scribes have praised for serving some of the best tacos in the area starts its day at 6 a.m., when laborers pop in for food that can keep a stomach from growling for hours. A quick and generous order of hard-scrambled eggs with chorizo comes with black beans, slices of mild white cheese, yellow rice, a four-stack of warm corn tortillas and three types of sauces. Huge cups of freshly squeezed orange juice or refrigerated bottles of juice and soda are the morning beverage choices, but self-serve coffee is available at the bakery next door. The tamales are large, a bit dry and ready in under 2 minutes. There's plenty of seating and a Latino music video channel blaring on TV to help awaken the senses. It helps to speak Spanish here.

 

Ted's Bulletin

Washington, DC

This is the go-to breakfast spot in Barracks Row, but going there for weekend brunch is about as much fun as a trip to the DMV. Weekdays, though, are a different story. The art-deco dining room seems a bit more sane and still fairly diverse: office suits talking business, a toddler eating sausages with his fingers while Dad looks on, tourists in jeans and sneakers planning their day. (And you never know: You might, as we were on a recent visit, be seated in a booth next to actor Ed Begley Jr.) Leave the calorie counters at home, because Ted's is a place to eat hearty: The T.U.B.S. (Ted's Ultimate Breakfast Sammy) has both fried and scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon and melted cheddar stuffed between two slices of Texas toast; the signature Big Mark Breakfast comes with three eggs, sausage, bacon, hash browns, toast and a house-made pop tart. Not quite that hungry? Create your own platter from the a la carte menu, which includes biscuits and sausage gravy, eggs any style, hash browns and cheddar grits. Service is brisk without feeling too rushed. Our favorite touch: If two people order coffee, the servers bring a full vacuum flask to the table so you can serve yourself.

 

Virginian Restaurant

Vienna, VA

This 47-year-old spot has the kind of quiet, homey atmosphere that Cracker Barrel wishes it could deliver. Breakfast is served all day, starting at 6 a.m. On a Thursday at 8:30 a.m., with the place less than one-third full, it can arrive at your table in 3 minutes. Park out front. Sit at the counter or at a table near the picture windows. The waffle billed as Belgian turns out to be of the local, garden variety, and the cup of creamed chipped beef congeals all too quickly. But if you order the breakfast in a skillet, you won't need to eat again until dinnertime.

 

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