Ten years ago, Philip McCombie and his Thailand-born wife, Kem, opened Perks, a small coffee shop on a quiet block in Old Town Alexandria, not far from the bustle of King Street. Business was good and customer loyalty was strong. So when the space next door became available in 2009, they bought it and reopened with 64 seats, a full kitchen and a fitting name: Extra Perks. They also own a nearby restaurant called Thailand, Royal St.
We stopped by on a recent morning to grab something fast and found an ambitious breakfast, lunch and dinner menu with something for everyone. Philip's British heritage figures prominently among the choices, most notably in generous helpings of shepherd's pie ($6) and a full English breakfast ($9.75). The latter includes two fried eggs, a portobello mushroom cap, grilled tomato, a few rashers of meaty bacon, toast and a banger crafted by British butcher Steve Gatward at Let's Meat on the Avenue in Del Ray.
"Someone once said our sausages aren't authentic," McCombie says, "and then she told me she was Irish. I said, 'Well, there's your problem. Irish sausages are totally different!'"
Add a side of English baked beans for 75 cents, and you've got enough protein to last the day.
The shepherd's pie looks better than it tastes. A blend of ground beef and vegetables blanketed with mashed potatoes should amount to heaven on the tongue, but this version tasted of less-than-fresh ingredients. Better was the corned beef hash, topped with two sunny-side-up eggs ($7.95).
Among the more continental choices, we enjoyed a sandwich of sausage, egg and cheddar ($3.60) at breakfast and one with turkey, Swiss and sprouts ($6.60) at lunch.
What we loved most was the quiche ($4.95 per tall wedge), made in-house. Two kinds are offered daily. The spinach version is packed with the vegetable; the Lorraine is studded with smoky bacon. Both are moist yet fluffy, bound with a butter-rich crust. McCombie says the secret is less cheese and more vegetable or protein. A carryout slice reheated in the oven at home was delicious.
Clusters of small tables and a nook with a couch create a cozy ambiance. Order your food at the counter and sip coffee from Chesapeake Bay Roasting Co. while you wait for a hand-held, restaurant-wait-style buzzer to signal that your food is ready. Service is efficient and cheerful.
British goodies including canned Heinz beans (same as the ones served with the English breakfast) and Cadbury chocolate bars are on sale, a fun and thoughtful touch that will make you feel as though you've momentarily hopped the pond.
--Catherine Zuckerman (Good to Go, February 2, 2011)