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The business of breakfast

April 16, 2019

So many people tell me that the only time they eat breakfast is when they’re on vacation. City life can be unsuited to a leisurely morning meal, so we settle for cold cereal or perhaps a 48-oz., 4,500-calorie Caramelato ChocoVenti Triple Mochaccino Frappolata Zippotino (leaving room for heavy cream, of course) at You-Know-Who-Bucks drive-thru.

But not at the beach! Some of my fondest childhood memories involve fidgeting in line at the long-gone Avenue Restaurant, inhaling the heady mix of ocean breeze, bacon and hot coffee. Does anyone remember Garrison’s Olde English Doughnuts, near where Chip Hearn’s The Ice Cream Store is now? Very convenient from the old Carlton Hotel (no A/C in those days, so you could smell ‘em cooking around 6 a.m.).

You can’t throw a Pop-Tart around here without hitting (and probably denting) a place that serves breakfast. Sunday brunches are a favorite, and Blackwall Hitch, Blue Moon, Back Porch Café, G Rehoboth and Victoria’s make for relaxing, upscale experiences. You also can’t go wrong at Bethany Blues Lewes, Café Azáfrán, Crystal (even without the old red awning), Mariachi, Big Fish Grill, Robin Hood, Fins on the Highway, Dave & Skippy’s, Sammy’s Kitchen, Egg, Royal Treat, Dewey’s Sunrise and The Starboard. And don’t forget Lewes’ iconic Surf Bagel (Taylor Pork Roll!) and Petru Cornescu’s Honey’s Farm Fresh, sporting a new look and even better food since the ownership change.

It’s a rare week when I don’t get an email asking about the old Cultured Pearl building on Wilmington Avenue. Tony Nomikos had a pretty good run with his Olive Garden-esque Tuscan Grill, and the subsequent false start of Ambrosia left the building dark for several years. Well, in a few weeks we will see a new concept in that space: Breakfast Guru.

At the age of 17, Zimbabwe-born owner Dennis Kangayi immigrated to the United States to become a computer engineer. After achieving that goal at the University of Kansas, he realized that sitting in front of a glowing screen might not be his life’s dream. His college experiences in the restaurant business brought him to the Cape Region where he got firsthand experience in the fast pace of drive-thru breakfasts as GM of Ocean City’s Burger King and the McDonald’s in Bethany Beach. It was during that time that he met Luis Contreras, the new GM of the soon-to-open Breakfast Guru. Luis comes to the beach with lots of experience that includes J. Paul’s restaurant in Washington, D.C. – the iconic neighborhood bistro that’s still going strong after 30 years.

Dennis’ wife is one of the driving forces behind the new concept; expanding the range of dishes that can be called breakfast. They’re particularly excited to offer their Belly Up Sandwich (smoked brisket with pepper jack, topped with a fried egg), the signature Pancake Benedict (use your imagination – and add a dash of chimichurri) and the Campfire Delight. I’ll leave that one as a surprise (hint: think french toast meets camping treats). Lattes, cappuccinos, squeezed-to-order juices, organic teas and milkshakes dominate the beverage menu, soon to be enhanced by alcohol in a few months.

So there’s no shortage of breakfast spots here at the beach. Morning treasures still lurk behind unassuming storefronts and big-chain signs. George Stakias dishes up traditional breakfast fare at Goolee’s Grille. And with a little prodding, more than one local will admit to scarfing IHOP’s pancakes, steak & eggs at Bob Evans, an impossibly fresh bear claw from Panera, grits-laced dishes from Cracker Barrel, that chicken/egg & biscuit from Chick-fil-A, or an early-morning kaiserschmarrn and cold-brew coffee from Kaisy’s Delights.

Of course, no post-sunrise Boardwalk walk would be complete without Gus and Gus’ Place. They’ve survived decades of hurricanes and nor’easters, so the Food Police are no match for these guys. Quickie breakfasts with scrapple and bacon are their thing, and fried chicken and cheesesteaks are the sleepers there. Not for breakfast, you say? You’re at the beach, for goodness’ sake!

Breakfast by the ocean is a big deal, and I’m sure I missed a few places. Do some exploring yourself – and don’t miss the new Breakfast Guru. Dennis and Luis hope to turn the key by Easter.

  • So many restaurants, so little time! Food writer Bob Yesbek gives readers a sneak peek behind the scenes, exposing the inner workings of the local culinary industry, from the farm to the table and everything in between. He can be reached at byesbek@capegazette.com.