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Sweet Pea Cafe frittata
Chef Josh Thornton has created several unique breakfast items at Sweet Pea Cafe.
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By Jim MacQueen
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Akron Family Monte Cristo
Monte Cristo breakfast sandwich
This week brings another round of excellent breakfasts. Both our illustrious Publisher and I think breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and it offers the chance to try out lots of those little neighborhood favorites. For this adventure, I thought I'd visit several of the places that were highly rated for Akron Life & Leisure Magazine's “Best of the City” July issue.
However, to get started, I wanted to begin where we left off in Part 1 of this series, with one of the chain restaurants. Personally, I like chains for certain things, and breakfast is one of them. I mentioned EatNPark last time, and I also like IHOP and Bob Evans. During soccer season, I don't have a lot of free time, and Bob Evans has one of those fast breakfasts that is terrible for your health, but quick and full of the fat and carbs I use up running. Since the Bob Evans Farm was founded on making sausage, as you might expect, I think the restaurants have great meals featuring processed and spiced meats. I also like their biscuits. So, take their sausage gravy, break up a couple of biscuits into it, and you're good to go. It might not look like much, but it tastes great!
Okay, on to local places, better things. For nearly as long as I've been around Akron, Michael's AM has been a breakfast and lunch fixture in The Valley. It's located directly across the road from Papa Joe's in the strip mall where I used to buy most of my soccer gear. My significant other used to work just down the street, so I've been a regular there for a long time. Michael's is one of those places I go when I have a hankering for baked goods. They make their own muffins and sweet rolls, and since they pretty much only do breakfast and lunch, if you can think of a breakfast item, it's probably on the menu. It's been voted the best breakfast in Akron several times, and not only by us, so I think it's a place you can count on. Located at 1562 Akron-Penninsula Road, Michael's AM is cash-only.
For a breakfast restaurant closer to downtown Akron, our July runner-up, Akron Family Restaurant is hard to beat. Located at 250 West Market Street, across and just down the street from St. Vincent St. Mary’s High School, the name says it all. This is traditional American breakfast at its best. This is the place for ham and eggs, omelets, chicken fried steak with country gravy, pancakes, and all those other artery-clogging eye-openers. The coffee is strong and good, the service is friendly, and the prices are right. On my most recent visit, I tried something you don't find on every menu, a Monte Cristo breakfast sandwich filled with ham and cheese inside french toast. Served with hash browns, it was yummy as it sounds.
New in town is a place that quickly got a runner-up honorable mention in the Best of the City guide, Fairlawn's Sweet Pea Cafe. Take a look at the picture of the salmon and spinach fritatta I tried (see...I can eat healthy food, too!). In addition to this baked egg dish, loaded with smoked salmon, cream cheese, and baby spinach leaves, you'll see herbed redskin potatoes and rye toast. That black coffee carafe is never empty. While the small strip mall location at 117 Merz Boulevard is a little off the main roads, the end room is full of windows and light. Chef Josh Thornton has created one of the most inventive and interesting breakfast menus I've seen in a long time. When I'm in the mood for something different, I would drive across town to satisfy my appetite at the Sweet Pea.
The final stop this week is another of those local neighborhood favorites, in this case North Hill standard Fred's Diner on Home Avenue. It may not look like much on the outside, but trust me, the food is great and so is the service. Like Akron Family, the food at Fred's is traditional American. The pancakes are light and fluffy, the corned beef hash is outstanding, and the bacon and eggs are always done just right. The service is good, and so far, my only complaint is the slightly weak (by my standards) coffee. At 930 Home Avenue, Fred's has been around for a very long time because the food is good and pricing is right.