Second story bistro
208 NW Couch, 827-5113

There aren't a lot of suitable places on the West Side to eat breakfast. Often, I end up waiting in a line of 4,000 people at Byway's, or feeling like a leper wearing sweat pants at some posh cafe. Now, however, there's the splendid new Second Story Bistro in Oldtown.

Located above Jazz de Opus, the space is bright and airy, and the food is remarkably well-priced. The atmosphere is like a classy, wood-filled, remodeled kitchen, yet the prices hardly surpass those of a greasy spoon. Breakfast is in the $5-10 range, and even the swankiest dishes are no more than $8.50. The SSB serves breakfast and lunch, and the owners promise that dinner is coming soon. The food is mostly French, including a lot of Northwest ingredients, and is consistently good. For example, Second Story seems to know that the best omelets come from careful choice of ingredients, rather than dumping every vegetable known to man in a vat of eggs together. Case in point: the spinach, pancetta, and parmesan cheese combo is an elegant choice of a few strong, compatible flavors.

There are three kinds of Eggs Benedict, all of which are served on a toasted croissant, with potatoes. Of course, the standards are available--Canadian Bacon and Florentine--in addition to a heart-healthy filet mignon variety. The most important element to a good eggs benedict is the hollandaise, of course, and this hollandaise is top notch. It's thick, creamy, and consistent, with no diluting ingredients like sour cream or mayonnaise. Plus, they know how to poach.

The menu also includes five simple, sweet breakfasts, including buttermilk pancakes with warm maple syrup, Belgian waffles with seasonal fresh fruit, and sourdough French toast. There are usually a couple seasonal, unconventional specials--such as a recent tasty, filleted and breaded razor clam dish with two eggs, which despite pan-frying, was remarkably non-greasy.

Second Story has a surprising absence of new restaurant kinks and great prices. Who could ask for anything more? The SSB!