I don’t actually like looking at food on Instagram (I keep trying to eat my phone), though I often need to for this column. I mostly use Instagram to look at cute and funny dogs. So imagine my delight to find the Instagram account of a restaurant serving my favorite meal—breakfast—and posting pictures of various dogs next to their sidewalk sign, also featuring a dog.
The restaurant is Little Griddle, and the dog on the logo is insanely cute, sitting with a gold spatula in its mouth. Inside, the place seats only 25, but despite being able to comfortably carry a conversation with any table from the central service station counter, Little Griddle’s chatty, friendly staff (led by co-owner Yossel Gyorgak—that’s his dog on the sign) commit to full table service. It’s a welcome touch, and it means the line, when there is one, isn’t crowding the inside of the restaurant.
The place is clearly family-friendly, but while there are often babies and children around, it hardly feels aimed at them. With big front windows dolled up in bright and airy white, blue, and gold, the room feels much bigger than it is. Gorgeous hanging plants surround the central service station, adding to a vibe that feels clean and light.
So it’s cute enough not to feel like a minimalist retail space, and minimal enough not to feel like a day care, despite the dog logo and stylized toonish paintings on the walls (all by artist Brenda Dunn). Similarly, without offering any cloying definition or mission, the menu ranges from biscuits and gravy to breakfast salads, with many slight detours, like a huevos rancheros-cum-Benedict or North African/Middle Eastern mainstay shakshuka along the way.
But, despite its idiosyncrasies, the cutest thing on the menu is the little cast-iron skillet some of the dishes are served in. The shakshuka comes in one: eggs baked in warm and warming tomato and red pepper sauce, deeply spiced and spiked with feta ($9). (The other skillet is bacon and spinach hidden under a roof of parmesan and panko, $14.)
That “huevos benedictos” (piled with avocado, salsa, cotija, cilantro, pork shoulder, and, yes, hollandaise, $13) isn’t the only nontraditional Benedict—in fact, there’s no ham Benedict here, just a “Florentine” with spinach and tomato and a southern-inflected chicken thigh and collards option. The chicken thigh isn’t fried, but it is on a biscuit, and the pimento hollandaise subtly, spicily justifies its novelty ($10). (Word to the wise: The eggs are poached medium, so if you want those yolks to run all the way to the plate, ask for them a little softer.)
There’s a vegetarian bent to the menu, evident in that default spinach and tomato Benedict, and a vegetarian mushroom gravy that’s thick, sagey, and peppery in all the right ways. Coupled with the dense, honey-sweet, and crispy-edged biscuits, I’d put it up against most of the biscuits and gravy in town ($9, with two eggs).
There’s oatmeal, too, and a breakfast salad, both with seasonal fruit. Many of the dishes come with a toned-down version of the salad. With a poppy seed dressing and chopped hazelnuts, it’s the rare side salad that feels light enough not to take over, but substantial enough for a brunch plate. And those biscuits can hold a lot more than gravy: Their sweetness makes them a great foil to the sandwich version of the huevos, with lightly spicy pork shoulder and chipotle aioli (but no eggs, $10), while a pepper jam keeps the sweet biscuit in check on a simple egg-and-cheese sandwich ($6, $9 with bacon).
It’s the polenta, though, that will keep me coming back for more. Poached eggs in a nest of braised collard greens, over polenta studded with hazelnuts and walnuts, topped with just a couple slices of mildly hot peppers—everything is happening in this bowl. Minimally seasoned, each element’s flavors gradually seep into the polenta cleanly, and to the last bite it never feels muddied or out of balance ($10).
This is the key to breakfast, and especially brunch: managing a complex plate of food that’s filling but not nap-inducing, neither bombastic nor understated. And to do this with personality and style is only really possible with a heaping dose of beaming sincerity—the kind, perhaps not coincidentally, found in really good dogs. This may not be the most common metaphor in food writing, but Little Griddle is the “goodest boy” of brunch places.