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A&E >  Food

The Garnet Café: A breakfast gem in Coeur d’Alene

Kirsten Harrington Correspondent

If you are thinking about having breakfast at the Garnet Café, here’s a piece of advice: Eat before you go. Or at least have a snack. The wait at this popular Coeur d’Alene breakfast spot can stretch up to an hour.

That’s not to say the food isn’t good – it’s outstanding. The menu is straightforward, breakfast favorites done right with a few unexpected twists. Ham and eggs share the menu with spam and eggs, “everyone’s favorite,” the menu claims. If the number of empty Spam cans decorating the café is any sign, the dish is popular.

The Garnet Café was full on a recent weekday morning with a healthy waiting list, but my companion and I snagged seats at the bar. We were offered coffee immediately, but passed it up for a Bellini, a sweet, tangy blend of peach nectar and Prosecco, which arrived in a generous wine glass for $6. Like the rest of the menu, the price seemed very reasonable.

You won’t have any trouble finding the Garnet Café even though it’s in Coeur d’Alene’s Midtown neighborhood, away from the lake. Just look for all of the cars and the crowd gathered outside. The converted cottage has an inviting, homey look with flowering planters hanging over the outside deck and a fireplace inside.

The menu is divided into sections, covering basic breakfast combos, omelets, and “other things.” The Bonner omelet (all of the omelets are named for Inland Northwest venues) is a vegetarian’s delight: a light, hot omelet flavored with herbed goat cheese and filled with lightly sautéed spinach, eggplant, zucchini and other veggies. Vegetables make their way into a number of breakfast items, including the mushrooms, red peppers and onions that add extra flavor to the Northwest potatoes that accompany the egg dishes.

The Garnet Café somehow manages to make typically heavy dishes taste light, without the “greasy spoon” heartburn that can follow a traditional breakfast. The biscuits and gravy leans more heavily on fresh herbs than sausage for flavor, and even the thick slices of applewood-smoked bacon are lean and meaty rather than greasy.

Spaghetti is a rare find on a breakfast menu, and the Garnet Café does it right. The pasta is tossed with sun-dried tomatoes, roasted garlic, fresh basil and a dash of red pepper. Fresh parmesan and a dollop of herbed goat cheese melt into the pasta, creating a plate of creamy, garlicky goodness that will change the way you think about breakfast. If you’re still not convinced, keep in mind that the spaghetti comes with two eggs (any style) and toast, enough food to fuel you until dinnertime for $9.

Speaking of toast, the Garnet Café serves thick slices of grilled La Brea bakery bread. The rosemary toast with the Garnet Café’s signature lemon curd and raspberry preserves (try both together) is not to be missed.

The interior of the café wasn’t designed for easy accessibility, but the servers don’t seem frazzled by constantly having to navigate through groups of waiting diners to get their orders served. The dining room is a buzz of activity, and the service is brisk and focused. On a busy Sunday, there was still no sign of our breakfast 30 minutes after we’d ordered, but I appreciated the fact that our waitress apologized for the wait.

The mood at our table improved greatly once the food arrived. It’s pretty easy to be forgiving with a belly full of French Toast ($7) stuffed with three kinds of berries and sweet cream cheese and topped with enough vanilla whipped cream to just about cover the plate.

I didn’t hear any complaints from the other side of the table either, as my younger son polished off a generous portion of scrambled eggs with bacon, simple but satisfying and very modestly priced for $7. But maybe that’s because I was too focused on my Sockeye salmon, which was lightly grilled and glazed with orange marmalade for a pleasing smoky-sweet combination ($11).

At first glance, pork tenderloin sounds more like a lunch or dinner dish, but the Garnet Café’s version adds sweetness with a maple apple pecan sauce and serves it with eggs and toast (that heavenly La Brea bakery bread again) bringing it into the breakfast arena ($11). I liked the sauce, but my husband found it too sweet and we both agreed the pork was slightly overcooked.

When we were getting ready to leave, my 8-year old summed it up tidily. “It’s a long wait but I think it’s worth it.” Just remember to have a snack before you go.

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