Confession time: Although I drive by it nearly every day -- sometimes as often as four times a day, even -- I've never eaten at the Chatter's off Washington Avenue. I freely confess that nothing about the place has ever seemed intriguing or appealing to me, from its bland blue building to the Office Space-esque name.
But maybe I've been missing out on solid breakfasts all these years at the Chatter's I've so often dismissed. Because the second location of Chatter's Cafe on Eldridge, in far West Houston, offered up one of the most pleasant breakfasts I've enjoyed in a long time.
I hadn't even intended to stop there, either. My parents and I were heading to Pecan Creek Grille -- another rock-solid breakfast spot just up the street -- and we happened to pass Chatters. Something about its cheery exterior and flung-open doors in front of a completely empty parking lot appealed to me. It was as if the restaurant was a hopeful dog at the pound, willing you with all its might to take it home.
I'm a sucker for stray dogs -- anyone will tell you that. But Chatter's is no stray dog; it's a sturdy purebred of a place. I just can't figure out why no one's welcomed this place into their lives yet.
I had two minor quibbles with our breakfast that morning, and one was the pair of poached eggs atop my mother's Eggs Benedict. One egg was nicely poached, the other was nearly hardboiled. Nevertheless, the citrusy Hollandaise and crusty English muffins left nothing else to be desired.
We overwhelmed our waiter with coffee requests that morning -- one latte, one cappuccino, one drip coffee -- but he juggled it expertly, bringing out each one made to order. They weren't anything to look at, but the coffee itself was good and you could tell there was at least a modicum of expertise put to use.
"Are your coffees okay?" the young man asked us, that same hangdog look of hope in his eyes. They were -- they were very okay, and we told him so. A huge look of relief swept across his face, and his chest puffed out slightly as he said, "You know, I used to be a barista. I'm really glad to hear that." He did warn us, however, that he's the only one who knows how to make a coffee or a latte or a cappuccino here.
I thought wistfully that maybe Chatter's will build itself a tiny coffee program out here on the west side, using the waiter as its keystone. What an attraction that would be for the restaurant...
My father, with his drip coffee, was meanwhile finishing his breakfast croissant in record time and even ate all the fruit in his fruit cup. And why not? The fruit here is legitimate fruit, not the gnarly nub-ends of old honeydew melons and white-fleshed watermelon you see so often elsewhere. Chatter's serves juicy red strawberries, plump grapes, bright orange cantaloupe and more, a welcome change from the norm.
And I was just as happily polishing off a plate of eggs and home fries, although here we come to my second quibble of overcooked eggs. How I'd hoped for a pair of lazy yolk rivers flowing out of my eggs and onto the seasoned potatoes below. There was no flow to these eggs, however, leaving me to lean on ketchup as my backup instead. Despite this, the home fries and the bacon were both the ideal combination of crispy and soft in all the right places. I wasn't unhappy by any means.
As we left, my father recognized the general manager from his days as GM at Hungry's on Memorial Drive. The GM remembered my father, too, and asked about my older brother -- who waited tables at Hungry's in high school -- as they shared a warm reunion, the same warmth that radiated from the entire restaurant.
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In the parking lot, my mother and I stood staring at the empty patio and the now-empty dining room. We'd been Chatter's only customers that Sunday morning, and neither of us could believe it. If I lived closer, I'd make Chatter's one of the standards in my rotation. As it is, I don't -- but there's always the Chatter's on Heights Boulevard to check out...