To paraphrase Christian Krautkramer, the Cardinal's food critic emeritus, people don't always have time for breakfast, but when they do, they should make the most of it.
Most people didn't lose touch with breakfast all of a sudden; it took a slow, steady descent from bacon and eggs to oatmeal to the occasional bowl of Chex to Pop Tarts and, by the time one gets to college, really nothing at all.
Still, there are those occasional Sunday mornings when one wakes up from a night of debauchery and feels'empty. Usually you can corral some friends who feel the same way and address this the only way that'll work: with breakfast.
2089 Atwood Ave.
Monty's, located directly across the street from the Barrymore Theatre, is a sort of interesting combination of a retro diner and an upscale restaurant. There's plenty of Formica and aged kitchen appliances, but it's new, shiny Formica and the appliances have been transformed into art, highlighted by squiggly neon tubes. It all looks very ambitious (and it works, for the most part), which is probably why it's usually packed with WORT types and aging emo kids.
The food's good enough to back up such a crowd. Eggs and pancakes are granted as much attention as classier menu items like eggs Benedict; a particularly picky friend once declared that Monty's has the best eggs he's ever had.
Monty's really shines in the more ambitious dishes, like the Mediterranean Sunrise, a mix of tomatoes, artichokes and capers served with eggs over an English muffin. There's a heavy emphasis on fresh vegetables that you won't find at this hour anywhere else in the city. The huevos rancheros is superlative, set off by a great fresh salsa and beans that have enough spice to not be just obligatory. Damn good pies, too, if that's your thing. Monty's is one of very few restaurants that will reward curiosity this early in the morning.
1511 Monroe St.
Unless you're brand new to the area, you've probably heard of Mickie's, and it's probably a safe bet that on any given weekend morning there's only two degrees of separation between any student and someone enjoying a meal at Mickie's. A true Madison institution for over 40 years, this is the single best place to go for breakfast in the downtown area, if you're willing to put up with a wait and somewhat cramped quarters.
Mickie's has all of their mid-century menus on display, and while the prices aren't as low as they were in '53, they're still some of the lowest you'll find. An order of three pancakes goes for around $3, and they're some of the best in town, both light and flavorful. Many variations are available; the buckwheat and the cornmeal are two of the best. Of the omelets, the chili cheese is the most satisfying, and all of the malts and shakes can't be beat.
5518 University Ave.
There are a lot of things not to love about OPH (the long waits, the car you need to get there, the $15 you'll probably drop), but there's way more to love: the fresh-squeezed orange juice, the entire menu page dedicated to pancakes and the pleasantly full feeling that will follow you all day. Definitely a weekend endeavor, but one of the best one you'll encounter.
Sources close to Cardinal Food indicate that OPH serves breakfast items other than pancakes, including a tasty Spanish omelet, but we've been unable to verify this because, truly, no one comes here to eat anything but pancakes.
And what pancakes they are, in both size and taste. In addition to the buttermilk variety, OPH offers such variations on a theme as Hawaiian pancakes (stuffed with pineapple), wheat germ pancakes and pancakes filled with bacon, which is less of an acquired taste than one might think. OPH house specialties include the apple pancake, piled high with baked apple slices and a cinnamon glaze. Add some fresh-squeezed O.J., free coffee refills and you've got yourself one fine way to start the day.
638 State St.
One of the best first-date restaurants downtown, Sunroom Caf?? is also fine option for the morning after. If you're not particularly hungry, the muffins are fantastic and the fruit's always fresh, but there's plenty for heartier appetites, including eggs, pancakes and waffles. It's reasonably priced, so you won't have a hard time doing the classy thing and picking up the check.
Both buttermilk and wheat pancakes are available, either plain or with the addition of various fruit; the banana wheat are very well done. Of the numerous omelets (including a make-your-own option), the Florentine, with spinach, feta cheese and mushrooms and the sundried tomato, with chevr?? and basil, are the best. You can't lose with a side order of Sunroom's oven-roasted potatoes.
231 State St.
One minute, Radical Rye is another casualty of the Overture Project, and the next it's got a spiffy new interior, a bar upstairs and an expanded menu. The Rye started serving breakfast this summer Saturday mornings, and apparently it was such a hit that it's now a morning standard.
If you've got a few minutes in the morning, you can get a real breakfast for the price of a McDonald's wake-up call. Combine any of the Rye's numerous vegetables, meats and cheeses in an omelet, or enjoy some pancakes, although they're of the Hungry Jack variety. Try Lord Graham's English Toast, a variation of French Toast that involves a liberal application of batter applied to the Rye's freshly-baked honey wheat bread.