Nestled next to Starbucks on NE 28th, Navarre is a cozy, unobtrusive space with high ceilings, mismatched chairs, and bowls of plums and tomatoes lining the counter. Long a dinner favorite for their unpretentious yet elegant tapas-style meals, Navarre has recently begun offering breakfast and lunch seven days a week. Unlike their dinner menu, which features an ever-changing lineup of Portuguese- and Spanish-inspired items, breakfast and lunch are pure Americana.
Breakfast is honest and substantial; there are few frills here, just a standard menu containing elemental combinations of protein and starch. Five bucks will get you two eggs, potatoes, and toast, or you can build your own omelette from a list of ingredients including five types of cheese, chorizo, ham, mushrooms, braised greens, and more. The Benedict is straightforward and well executed, showcasing thick, sweet slabs of ham. Another excellent meaty option is the buffalo and eggs; if you've never tried buffalo, this dish is a safe intro to the lean, tender meat.
The fried-egg sandwich is rudimentary in construction: egg, bread, and cheese. But I had mine with goat cheddar for an unusual twist on an old standard. There are also mix-and-match side dishes, which could comprise a meal in themselves: hard-boiled eggs, French toast, radishes and butter. Lighter appetites will be satisfied by the surprisingly filling pain d'épice, a dense slice of spiced bread topped with honey and goat cheese, and served with jam.
Lunch offers more variety than breakfast; though the menu is sandwich-heavy, there's an ever-changing specials menu that brings in seasonal side dishes. There are four hot subs on the menu (meatball, sliced pork, sausage, and chicken), available in half or whole sizes. Egg salad, grilled cheese, and PB&J also turn up on the sandwich menu. For the sandwich weary, there are several salad options, plus French fries with steak or clams.
Of the lunch offerings I've sampled, the Carolina pulled-pork sandwich is the one I'll be coming back for. The sandwich is disarmingly simple: nothing but tangy pulled pork topped with a simple slaw of bright-purple cabbage that's been lightly dressed in oil. The result is memorable and delicious.
Navarre also offers a Philly cheese steak (with Cheez Whiz!), which my boyfriend, a Pennsylvania native and sandwich-lover, promptly proclaimed to be "the real deal." I'm generally anti-Cheez Whiz, and pro-vegetable (there are no peppers or onions here, just meat and "cheese") but I found that if I closed my eyes while eating it, I could appreciate the sandwich's creamy/salty appeal.
The sandwiches are served à la carte; while all are substantial portions, I can't help but feel a fundamental aversion to paying $2 for a side of French fries. Another drawback is the lack of beverage options: I usually end up drinking water, since there are only a few bottled sodas available. (There's an ample wine selection.) The water glass stays full, though; I've heard horror stories about Navarre's staff, but I've had nothing but pleasant, attentive service.
Since they've been pretty slow every time I've gone there during the day, I'm going to assume that the word of their daytime offerings just hasn't gotten out yet. Now you know, so get on it.