If you were to look through the massive accumulation of notes in my phone, you’d see my list of must-try breakfast joints near the very top. Me and breakfast? We go way back. From dad’s crispy skillet potatoes to mom’s buttery pancakes, with as much cereal as one child can physically consume crammed in between, breakfast has long been a love of mine. I’m always on the lookout for places to add to my list. Just two days after meeting Gregory Collier, Chef and owner of The Yolk Cafe in Rock Hill, SC, I made the voyage south to try out his breakfast wares.
From any seat in the family owned and operated restaurant you can see Chef Greg at the helm in the open kitchen and his wife, Sabrina, assisting customers. The restaurant has the feel of a diner with its vinyl booths and classic metal swiveling bar stools. The menu, however, rings a different tune. Take, for example, the Valencia omelet (my first choice), which is made with zucchini, squash, roasted tomato, and mozzarella or the fun-guy egg white omelet with mushrooms, herbs, and pungent asiago cheese. Just these two options alone include five ingredients you won’t find at a run-of-the-mill diner. A greasy spoon, the Yolk is not. We’re talking steel cut oatmeal, chorizo chili, and crispy capers here!
The daily specials board reads of breakfast brilliance. Some recent examples, for your enjoyment:
with feta cheese crust, artichokes, spinach, fontina, and piquillo peppers,
with a kalamata chip and a caramelized onion béchamel
Whole Wheat Guinness Pancakes
with fig jam and blackberry whipped cream
Roasted Garlic Spaetzle
with mushrooms, butter braised sunchokes, and asparagus pesto,
topped with a fried egg
With spring finally gracing the Carolinas with her presence, The Yolk has plans to host locally-sourced dinner parties two to four times a month. The dinners will consist of four to six dishes and prices will range from $45-65 per person. To stay in the loop, check out The Yolk Cafe on Facebook.
This weekend, I stopped into E2 Emeril’s Eatery. I haven’t been to E2 in nearly a year (check out my review of the grand opening here), and the timing for the reunion was perfect because they just rolled out their spring menu. It was a three-hour-long dinner, during which I ate an embarrassing amount of food. I also chatted with E2’s Chef Brian Mottola about the importance of a good pizza crust. Let it be noted that E2’s single pizza offering, the Steak and Blue Cheese, passed my crust examination. The pizza is garnished with sliced grapes, and the saltiness of the meat and cheese created an awesome contrast against the grapes’ hot bursts of sweetness.
Of course, I had many other favorites, first and foremost the New Orleans style mussels. The mussels are served in a bowl, mounded over a bed of crawfish, andouille sausage, corn, potatoes, and roasted garlic. The broth was fantastic–smoky and a little spicy, perfect for dunking the house cornbread. The andouille sausage was a real standout, some of the best I’ve had. E2 offers an appetizer plate with two links of andouille and two links of the homemade boudin (blood sausage). It was my first time trying boudin (pronounced bu-dan), and the New Orleans specialty was spicy with a very heavy iron taste. I’m told it is an acquired taste (I’ll work on it!). If you’ve never tried blood sausage, this appetizer is a perfect opportunity–if you end up not liking the budin, you’ll still have two links of that awesome andouille and a bit of black eyed peas, peppadew, and caramelized onions to satiate you.
The shrimp and grits were incredible. Pancetta, tomato, corn, and mushrooms paired with the creaminess of the Anson Mills rice grits (AKA the grits of the gods) created one truly comforting, vehemently satisfying dish.
E2 has an extensive list of handmade cocktails. Two of my favorites are the Prickly Moon (moonshine, prickly pear juice, hibiscus syrup, lime juice, and maraschino liqueur served in a mason jar) and the Old Fashioned (Maker’s Mark, brown sugar, maraschino cherry, orange, slice bitters, and soda water).
Also uptown is one of Charlotte’s best kept secrets: Hazelnuts Creperie. Located in the lobby of 200 S Tryon Street, it’s a small café open 8am-3pm Monday through Saturday (yes, Saturday too!). The menu is quite large, with over THIRTY different crepes, plus a build-your-own option. There are eggy breakfast crepes, sweet and savory, and tons of vegetarian options. Two of my favorite condiments, Sriracha & Nutella, are on hand and incorporated into several of the crepes.
My favorite crepe (so far) is the Chipotle Veggie: mushrooms, black beans, cheddar, lettuce, tomato, onion, chipotle aioli, and ranch. You have the option of adding protein to any of the crepes, and the choices include bacon, turkey, ham, chicken, and tofu.
I’m drooling over the sweet crepe selection as I type… how about a Nutella & S’mores (Marshmallows, Chocolate Chips & Graham Cracker Crumbs Smothered With Nutella) or the Chunkster (Peanut Butter, Banana, Chocolate Chips, Mixed Nuts & Maple Syrup)? I think we could all use a post-lunch treat, don’t you think?