There is something about expensive oatmeal that just makes me cranky. Even steel-cut oats are relatively cheap -- and rolled oats are practically free -- so when I pay $5 for a bowl of oatmeal, no matter how delicious and no matter how fresh the fruit on top is, I am just kind of annoyed.
I know what you're thinking: Don't order the oatmeal. Let me say, proactively, thanks for the tip.
The thing is, I really like to eat as healthily as possible even when I'm eating at a restaurant, and at breakfast that often means opting for oatmeal. Oh yeah, and I freaking LOVE oatmeal. I feel bad writing this -- like I'm bagging on Empire Café, which I am honestly not trying to do; it's not like they invented expensive restaurant oatmeal. As a matter of fact I loved their version, and thought they cooked it perfectly. There wasn't a gummy bite in the entire generous portion, and the milk was super-hot, which was heavenly against the cold, fresh fruit. In fact, the portion was so big that I couldn't finish it, so I have no complaints there. I certainly got plenty of oatmeal for my $5.
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Empire uses a top-quality brand of Irish oats (McCann's), and a review of the breakfast menu reveals that every item falls well below $10: dishes start at $3.95 (the oatmeal, a hot polenta cereal, or the Empire granola mix with fruit), with the most expensive being a fresh seasonal fruit platter with yogurt and honey roasted pecans for $8.25; every omelet and frittata is under the $8 mark as well. Taken as a whole, and taking quality into account, Empire has a menu that offers an overall value.
But it's tough to see the forest for the trees, when one of the trees is a $5 bowl of oatmeal.