I'm always on the lookout for simple, pleasant and inexpensive breakfast places. This week I'll report on two, one in a shopping strip in Arlington and the other in downtown Warrenton about 45 minutes from Seven Corners.
2421 Columbia Pike, Arlington.
Fins has nothing to do with fish. If the neon tail fin of a '57 Chevy hanging in the window is not enough of a clue, inside there's a life-size papier-mache model of a red '57 Chevy mounted on the wall.
The handmade car, the jukebox loaded with hits from the '50s and '60s, and photos of Elvis, the Beatles and Buddy Holly are some of the personal touches of husband-and-wife owners Charlie and Julie Campbell, who opened this comfortable neighborhood bar and grill two years ago. They have created an atmosphere that is fun and stylish, but unpretentious.
Service is energetic and friendly, and prices will put a smile on even the grumpiest of morning faces. Mimosas, screwdrivers and Bloody Mary's with a pinch of horseradish are $1 until noon, and three pancakes or a thick Belgian waffle are $2.75. The coffee is a good blend and refills are frequent.
Highlights include the cheese omelette filled with a ladleful of first-rate, spicy chili made with chunks of stew meat and just a few beans. The four ounce breakfast steak was thick enough to be grilled to a medium-rare and the home fries were nicely seasoned and not greasy.
Needing improvement is the Hollandaise sauce on the eggs Benedict and a batch of cranberry muffins that were pale and overly sweet.
Breakfast is served only Saturdays and Sundays, but is available until 3 p.m.
11 S. Second St., Warrenton, 703-349-4723.
Caramel sauce on your pancakes? Well, the next time I'm going to try it. One of the serendipitous discoveries at Fergi's is the best caramel sauce I've had since childhood, but more about that later.
This small restaurant on the ground floor of the Masonic Hall just off Main Street is easy to miss and, unlike Fin's, there is no theme or distinctive character to the interior decoration.
Glass-covered tables with tan tablecloths are a nice touch, but there is a general plainness to the beige walls and pine framed windows. Taped jazz gives the ambience a lift, as does the friendliness of the owners, Reynolds and Jerry Ferguson. On any given day, one or more of the Fergusons' eight brothers and sisters are on duty.
The food arrives in generous portions and is solid if not scintillating. Although breakfast is served seven days a week, on Sundays there usually are a few specials, such as Fergi's Delight, which is two perfectly poached eggs atop an English muffin with chunks of tomato, green pepper and onion blanketed with a light Cheddar cheese sauce. Other recent specials included eggs Benedict and a passable chipped beef on a flaky split biscuit.
The tasty triangles of French toast arrived with about three times the usual nutmeg; it was the kitchen's mistake, I was told, but one I didn't mind. The stack of three hotcakes were fine accompanied by savory sausage links or lean slices of Canadian bacon.
All orders come with delicious home fries cooked with onions.
As for the caramel sauce, it's the creation of the Fergusons, who have discovered just the right proportions of caramelized sugar, heavy whipping cream and vanilla. You can order a pint to take out with three days' notice ($6) or sample it on the caramel ice cream pie, but the next time I'll try it on my pancakes.