Burger for Breakfast

I'm one of those diners who tend to get in a rut. I find a favorite menu item at a favorite restaurant and I order it over and over. At the New York Coffee Shop, when I'm breakfasting half-awake, I only have to engage a small part of my brain to mumble the familiar mantra of "waffle with home fries."

But there come times when habits need to be altered, if only temporarily. So it was that on a recent Saturday morning I indulged in a 10 a.m. cheeseburger at the New York Coffee Shop. I didn't really have to twist my own arm. Secretly, I could eat a cheeseburger for breakfast most mornings. And because NYCS doesn't serve "real" French fries, I was still able to order my beloved home fries. After all, what's a cheeseburger without fried potatoes?

I surveyed the meat patty, thin and imperfectly shaped, just the way a diner burger ought to be. I studied the garnish of reliably fresh iceberg lettuce and solitary tomato slice (could use two slices, I thought); I eyed the pickle spear (how do they expect me to put a spear inside a bun, I thought). Hmm, what's missing? I asked myself. I opened my mouth to ask for that fancy jar of mustard I had spotted on other tables, but before I could do so, out popped the very jar from the waitress' pocket, and down it plopped in front of my plate. "Ba-tampte Delicatessen Style Mustard," the label proclaimed, "means tasty."

Now I was satisfied. And I remained so through the devouring of my cheeseburger, with its slice of American cheese perfectly fused into the craters and over the nodules of the meat patty. Ah, I sighed, there's at least one grill cook in this town who knows how to impart drippiness sans greasiness to a burger. And I continued to remain satisfied through the munching of those divine home fries, round and crinkle-cut, jumbled with brittle bits of browned onion. Home fries? I only wish I could get fries like these at home. As I ate I remembered to give silent thanks to the waitress who, on one visit, suggested I order the home fries cooked crispy. Since then, I've managed to escape the mushy orange pap that passes for fried potatoes when no special instructions are given.

Now that I've strayed from the path of predictability, I can feel comfortable returning to type. I'll leave it to my husband to order a garlic and a blueberry bagel, baked fresh in the adjoining kosher bagel shop. (The bagel shop's counter sports a sign informing customers who might be confused by other, upstart New York bagel shops, "Don't be misled! This is our only location.") Me? I'm already dreaming of the inch-tall, airy-crisp, golden Belgian waffle I'll be having for breakfast next time around. -- Kelley Blewster

New York Coffee Shop, 9720 Hillcroft, 723-8650.

New York Coffee Shop: charbroiled cheeseburger, $3.20; waffle, $2.75; home fries, $.85.


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