A Cavalier Attitude Toward the Most Important Meal of the Day

There seems to be something about offering breakfast in a hotel.  I’ve stayed in numerous hotel across Canada and the United States and can make a few  general observations about the most important meal of the day:

1. Free breakfast usually involves a large common room populated with sports teams, messy haired kids wearing butterfly wings and hungover parents.  Some will settle for a cold boiled egg and plain bread because the line up for the waffle machine and the toaster is too long.  If you do get the the waffles, it’s a complex process of pour, fill, rotate and wait.  While waiting, you look around and make conversation with a family member, a stranger or the orange juice carafe  in an effort to avoid the jeers and dirty looks of the 15 people in line waiting for Belgian deliciousness. Kids are allowed to have free reign at the breakfast apparatus confirmed by the crunch of fruit loops beneath the feet of morning zombies.

2.  For those who prefer to eat a croissant while blow drying their hair, there is the room service option.  Fifteen bucks will get you a choice of baked goods (with preserves of course), a shot glass of orange juice, a carafe of house coffee and a individual tub of Activia yougurt delivered sometime between 6:45-7:00.  An extra 10 dollars will get you a “hot” breakfast with some eggs supposedly kept warm by the use of a plastic cover.  Either way, the tray ends up on the floor outside door and the faint smell of ketchup fills the halls along the walk to the elevator.

3.  For those adventurous enough to leave their quarters, breakfast at the hotel restaurant is a third option.  Similar to an amusement park, the convenience of proximal eating comes at a premium.   The biggest decision is the choice between the $30 buffet which allows for the dried fruit and nuts as well as the bacon, the $15 continental buffet which the excludes pork products and the premade eggs benny or the a la carte menu which frequently involves a double take at the prices.  That said, at least there’s free refills on the coffee.

Attached to the Hotel Zetta in San Francisco, the Cavalier offers breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Intrigued by it’s honorable mention in this years James Beard nominations, I wanted to experience at least one meal so I went for breakfast, especially given its proximity to the convention centre. It is constructed to look like a high end pub one may frequent after a game of polo or a fox hunt.  It’s a small menu with 4 or 5 standard morning items.  I opted for the breakfast sandwich consisting of eggs, crisp bacon, pepper cress and a mustard dressing for $13.  I was promised the crispy potatoes  were worth it so I added them for another $6.  I finished off the order with a $4 stumptown decaf coffee. The sandwich was delicious; all the components from the bun to the red onion, cress and mustard condiments hit the mark.  The potatoes, as promised, complemented the sandwich and the coffee was probably the best I had in San Francisco.  That said, it ended up being a $23 breakfast.


The breakfast Sandwich ($13) with fried potatoes ($6) and Stumptown coffee ($4)
The breakfast Sandwich ($13) with fried potatoes ($6) and Stumptown coffee ($4)

My Take 

I’m not saying that I expect to get a breakfast sandwich combo at a hotel for the price of an egg McMuffin combo.  Don’t get me wrong, the food was delicious and the service was pleasant but $23 is a little steep.  I would have liked to try lunch of dinner to assess the vibe (it was a bit dull and sleepy during the morning hours), but one can only hit so many places while in town. Maybe James Beard wasn’t  a morning person but hell, at  least there were free refills.

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