Not Such a Wallflower 

Breakfast Cafe Gets the Point

Utopia Café

3308 SE Belmont

235-7606

There's no angle on the Utopia Café. It's not a good place to take Grandma, it's not great for a date, it's not healthy, it's not vegan, it doesn't have great ambiance and they don't allow dogs. It's just really good food.

If you haven't been there before, the Utopia is a nearly invisible little café sandwiched in between a bunch of storefronts on the busy part of Belmont. If you had just spotted the place, it would be easy to assume the Utopia was another generic fancy restaurant not worth getting excited about. But in actuality, it's high time you got excited. (If not about the Utopia, then about the fact that girls are starting to wear skirts again.)

The Utopia's breakfast is, no exaggeration, one of the best in town. Many of the items are heart stoppers, involving butter or bacon, but the ingredients are used in a smart, seductive manner; the Utopia is not pandering to the glutton. The Utopia--even on Belmont--also manages to avoid sucking up to the vegetarian, with only a few tofu items on the menu, and not a single piece of fake meat served.

The Bacavo scramble is one of the cafés most alluring items, combining bacon, tomato, avocado, and blue cheese in modest quantities to create the kind of tangy, creamy, crunchy, salty dish you long for after a late night partying. The Corned Beef Hash is similarly enticing, with a mix of big tender chunks of corned beef, potatoes, onions, green pepper, and basil sautéed in a rich buttery sauce and topped with an egg. It's fantastic, and after eating it you won't be hungry until dinner. Lighter items like the requisite Tofu Scramble, tossed with zucchini, mushroom, and tomato etc., and the Veggie Sauté, made with potatoes, veggies, and feta, are undoubtedly well executed and tasty, but I prefer the hedonism of the richer dishes, especially on Sunday.

The item that really makes the Utopia's fare stand apart from the rest, however, is the potatoes. Being that potatoes are usually 1/3 to 1/2 of your breakfast, it's unsettling when they're soggy or mushy or overcooked or straight from a plastic Ore-Ida bag. The Utopia's potatoes are magical. They're cut into big chunks and both boiled and fried (I think), and altogether perfect. Some bites are crisp and crunchy, some are soft and flake apart, but all are so well cooked, salted, and seasoned, you won't even need ketchup.

Since you won't be skipping the potatoes, you'll have to order a pancake a la carte for something sweet, and in this case, the blue corn pancakes are dense, unconventional, and tasty. The blueberry pancakes are also great.

So next time you're caught in that breakfast quandary, avoid the crapshoot and head to the Utopia for something good. Then go get a wheatgrass smoothie if you must.

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