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Breakfast, not brunch

Three Little Birds Cafe is charming on the outside (below) and delicious on the inside. Above, the Eggs in a Basket. Images by the author.

By Kathleen Parramore

No mimosas, no Bloody Marys and no shakshuka. I love breakfast. Coffee, eggs, bacon, grits and toast — white toast. And yes, we can add oatmeal, French toast and omelets, but I like the basic American breakfast at 7 a.m., not 10 a.m.

Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica eschewed breakfast as eating too soon and therefore committing a sin of gluttony, but I prefer a more modern perspective in which the low-fat and low-carb crazes are tossed aside while GMOs and gluten are embraced in breakfast.

The nutrition studies on breakfast are all based on observational studies and not peer-reviewed clinical trials, but we do know that the breaking of the fast will fuel your tank, improve your heart health, lower diabetes risk and reduce brain fog. Morning is the time your body is most insulin sensitive and when it uses sugar most efficiently — this is why it’s a good idea to get fiber into the first meal to help lower cholesterol.

Breakfast was the first meal most of us learned to make, as busy parents gave kids a chance to take care of themselves. Who didn’t open the cereal box and pour a ton of milk into a bowl? Convenience is still the biggest driver when it comes to breakfast, and it turns out that advertising was invented to sell cereal (according to Heather Arndt Anderson, author of Breakfast: A History).

And what would any discussion of breakfast be without mentioning coffee? Our coffee craze might have started with the Boston Tea Party. John Adams, one of our founding fathers, wrote a letter to his wife: “I have drank coffee every afternoon since and have borne it very well. Tea must be universally renounced.” I agree.

With this in mind, I went on a journey around town sampling many breakfast spots — some old favorites and some new, but sticking to my favorite basics.

One old favorite that still delivers a delicious meal and provides interaction every morning with the community is The Marina Variety Store. No one asks; they just start by pouring you a good cup of coffee. You can get takeout, but who doesn’t want to gaze on the water view? There are always locals to discuss current events during the first meal. Yes, you can get a crab cake benedict and crispy gator tail but the grits and eggs are standouts.

Millers All Day has survived where other businesses in that location failed because it’s good and it’s ALL DAY. The okra and tomatoes are excellent, but I don’t pass up the Miller’s Plate either.

Thinking of a morning walk on the beach? Head to the Isle of Palms with its beautiful beach and then to Acme Lowcountry Kitchen for sustenance. Long a purview of anyone nursing a hangover headache, Acme serves the best of the basics. Order bacon and you will get a serving the size of which could feed a family, and the grits are to die for. Cooked in cream and butter they could be a meal unto themselves. I count myself a grits connoisseur having been raised in south Georgia, and these are highest on my list: stone ground and cooked low and slow.

Headed north of the crosstown is Dap’s, a casual breakfast and Westside neighborhood gathering spot. Enjoy one of the breakfast sandwiches seated on the outdoor patio — I thoroughly recommend the breakfast club. I was dubious at first about the rubbed turkey instead of bacon, but it was a delicious and healthier substitute that didn’t feel like a sacrifice, especially since it was accompanied by a topping of bacon whipped cheese. The Bloody Mary chips are a treat! Also, those pancakes passing me looked extra good.

The breakfast sandwich at Dap's is even better than it looks.

A perennial favorite is The Daily on Upper King. My go-to menu item that is totally off course from my “usual” is the breakfast burrito. For a heavier option, try the bacon breakfast sandwich — and then skip lunch, as you won’t need it. There are plenty of healthy options as well and the avocado toast is always good. Don’t forget the cold brew!

Yearning for a true diner experience? Head to West Ashley and the Early Bird Diner. There’s always a line, but it moves fast. This 13-year-old establishment serves up chicken and waffles the way they should be along with French toast Texas style, and you can get a burger for breakfast if that is your thing. I head for the basics here and it never disappoints.

A hidden jewel tucked behind Earth Fare in South Windermere is the Three Little Birds Café. A sweet little place with excellent service serving breakfast all day, the motto of this 14-year-old establishment is Peace, Love, & Pancakes. My fave here is the Eggs in a Basket with fried eggs in the middle of Tuscan toast, just like my grandmother made for all her grands. The grits are outstanding and there are eight different kinds of pancakes.

Going to Folly Beach? Stop at the Lost Dog Café. As they state, “Lost Dog Café is to Folly as a biscuit is to gravy.” The second-best part? Bring your dog! Added to all the wonderful breakfast basics is the awesome cinnamon roll. Go ahead; you can work those calories off later with a swim at the beach.

The best of the basics at The Junction Kitchen and Provisions.

On your way to the airport and want a hearty breakfast? Stop at The Junction Kitchen and Provisions. The BELT (bacon, eggs, lettuce and tomato) and a buzzed doughnut could start you on your trip feeling happy and satisfied, and their grits are the creamy, buttery, low-and-slow deliciousness I look for.

Go back to the old or seek out a new spot, and have a wonderful start to a summer day in the Lowcountry.

Best Breakfast Bets

Marina Variety Store Restaurant: 9 Lockwood Dr., Charleston

Millers All Day: 120 King St., Charleston

Acme Lowcountry Kitchen: 31 J. C. Long Blvd., Isle of Palms

Daps Breakfast & Imbibe: 280 Ashley Ave., Charleston

The Daily: 652 B King St., Charleston

Early Bird Diner, 1644 Savannah Hwy., Charleston

Three Little Birds Café: 65 Windermere Blvd., Charleston

Lost Dog Café: 106 W Huron Ave., Folly Beach

The Junction Kitchen and Provisions: 4438 Spruill Ave., North Charleston

After 25 years in the technology field, Kathleen Parramore earned an MSc in nutrition from University of Bridgeport in Connecticut and then a degree in culinary arts from the Culinary Institute of Charleston at Trident Tech. She is a writer, consultant and dinner party caterer in the Charleston area.


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