Breakfast at Whole Foods

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Creamy, delicious cheese grits on a breakfast buffet? From Whole Foods, no less? The answer is a resounding YES.

The grocery store at 2955 Kirby already has my favorite salad bar in town (who else offers things like spelt and no-oil balsamic vinaigrette so good it'll make you forget Ranch dressing ever existed?), but I had no idea they had a breakfast bar until clued in by a friend last week.

Next to a warming table holding little foil-packaged breakfast tacos in the prepared foods department is a steam table filled with all manner of breakfast items: French toast, regular pancakes, blueberry pancakes, migas, scrambled eggs, black beans, borracho beans, hashbrowns, salsa, bacon, turkey sausage, tofu scramble and those lovely grits (among many other items). Skip the tacos -- as nice as they are -- and head for that buffet.

The principle is the same as loading up at the lunch steam table or the salad bar: Grab a brown paper box and load it up. The cost is $7.99 a pound (where else are you going to get your breakfast by the pound?). It's as simple as that. Watch the handles on the spoons and tongs, as they get pretty hot. And dig in deep to the cheesy migas; aside from the cheese grits, they're the tastiest item on the buffet.

I noticed the pancakes were individually wrapped in thin sheets of Saran wrap. "To keep them from getting covered by the beans?" I mused aloud to no one in particular. A Whole Foods employee helpfully chimed in: "We used to put them out unwrapped, but they dried out too quickly," he explained. "The plastic wrap keeps them moist and fluffy."

He was right. Back at my office, the blueberry-studded pancake tasted like it had just come off the griddle. In fact, everything I'd picked up was good: the bacon was crispy and thick, the migas were alternately cheesy and cripsy, the turkey sausage was meaty and well-seasoned and the cheese grits were wonderful under the slightly hard top layer (which forms on all grits when left out). The only miss were the homestyle potatoes, which were mushy and tasted of freezer burn.

Admittedly, I wish I had the time to make this stuff myself at home in the mornings. But if you're in a rush and your alternatives are the drive-thru at Burger King or a Special K bar you have ferreted away in your desk, Whole Foods's delicious breakfast buffet can't be beat.

And on days when you have a bit more time, it's nice to relax over breakfast in the sunny cafe with a cup of coffee, enjoying that morning lull before the store transforms into the typical maelstrom of River Oaks housewives and clueless hippies around noon.

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