Restaurant review: Eggs? Bacon? Rolls? Sweet

  • Article by: RICK NELSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 26, 2007 - 3:47 PM

Rise and shine with a yummy breakfast at the Good Day Cafe.

They had me at the caramel rolls.

One of my life's minor quests has been to find a worthy reincarnation of my happiest childhood food memory, my grandmother's caramel rolls. When Hedvig Nelson died, so did her recipe, a product of purely instinctual baking that, unfortunately, was never recorded for posterity. I haven't known the bliss of a Hedvig caramel roll since the mid-1970s, and in the intervening years I have failed to encounter anything that came even close.

Until now. One whiff of the caramel rolls at the Good Day Cafe and I thought -- no, hoped -- they might be a contender. With a single taste I knew I was in the presence of grandmotherly baking greatness: a warm, lightly yeasty, lavishly gooey, pecan-studded wonder, crying to be torn apart by sticky fingers and inhaled with abandon. Talk about a harbinger of good things to come. We're constantly being bombarded with the message that breakfast is the Most Important Meal of the Day, but follow-through among restaurants is often indifferent at best. Not at the Good Day, which hoists breakfast up to a pedestal, treating it with the respect it deserves but so infrequently gets.

The goodness begins with a genre-defining quiche, a deep-dish wonder built on a flaky, golden crust, its decadent custard filled with a can't-miss combo of roasted tomatoes, caramelized onions and plenty of fragrant basil. Omelets, made with obvious expertise, are similarly first rate, prepared in a puffy soufflé style or following a more traditional folded model, filled with flavorful ingredients -- tasty herbs, fresh vegetables, mellow cheeses -- and served with teasingly addictive grilled potatoes.

Lumpy crab cakes capped with poached eggs and a smooth hollandaise headline a don't-miss Benedict roster; I'm also partial to the wild mushroom and tomato-guacamole variations. Avocado, ham, Cheddar, fried onions and a fried egg, all layered between brioche, will permanently erase any Egg McMuffin thoughts. Even classic egg dishes seem to have a spring in their step, including a crisp, savory corned beef hash topped with poached eggs and a smartly grilled steak finished with béarnaise and paired with any-style eggs.

The light, jaunty waffles are crowned with a hefty dollop of thick whipped cream. There are four French toast variations, each more decadent than the last, although the real overkill is reserved for the apple soufflé pancakes, a plate of oven- baked pancakes slathered in buttery, cinnamon-coated apples. It tiptoes toward parody in its enormousness, but at the Good Day, where the portions are uniformly generous, quantity does not have an inverse relationship with quality. It's a refreshing equation.

This is a detail-obsessed operation. Orange and grapefruit juices are fresh-squeezed. The kitchen turns out a dozen beautiful breads. The über-rich hot chocolate gets even more sinister as a pudgy house-made marshmallow slowly melts into the dark cocoa heat. I'd love to greet every day with a slab of the sizzling bone-in ham, the smoky, extra-thick bacon and the ultra-crispy hash browns. Granola has heft and bite, and the buttery toast comes with fruity house-made strawberry and huckleberry jams.

The roomy setting, designed by Cue Inc. of Minneapolis, exudes all the right morning wake-up attributes, right down to the comfortable booths, tons of a.m. sunlight and a perky Fiesta Dinnerware color palette.

Pastry chef Paul Connor and his staff follow up those stellar caramel rolls with other crowd-pleasing sweets. Piping-hot beignets are so light that you wonder if they even had a passing acquaintance with a deep fryer. A daily pie special is a good bet (get it with a scoop of tangy house-made vanilla gelato); ditto the gigantic slices of moist carrot cake. The bakery counter boasts, among many slice-of-Americana treats, the peanut butter cookie to end all peanut butter cookies.

Lunch continues to follow breakfast's well-engineered diner upgrades: a fantastic pan-roasted steak sandwich, a textbook Reuben, spice-rubbed rotisserie chicken, a comforting turkey-and-fixings platter, a curried-up Waldorf salad and more of those excellent crab cakes, along with a repeat of several of the morning menu's egg dishes and a half-dozen salads, including a delightful hint-of-summer toss of greens, mozzarella and basil. It's all fine, but it sure has a tough act to follow, especially in a world where pulling off a standout breakfast is a rarity but producing a reliably good lunch isn't. A to-go counter and coffee bar should be operational shortly, and dinner service might be in place by Memorial Day.

The Good Day occupies some storied local restaurant real estate, the former home of My Pie and CocoLezzone, two dining landmarks owned by brothers David and Rick Webb. David now owns the Good Day, and Rick, the force behind Ciao Bella, Zelo and Bacio, has a hand in its operations. Their Winfield Potter's was one of my favorite restaurants in the 1980s, and from the looks of it, this latest Webb Brothers venture is poised to occupy a similar berth -- at least as long as they keep those caramel rolls coming.

 

Rick Nelson • 612-673-4757 • rdnelson@startribune.com

  • GOOD DAY CAFE

    3 out of 4 stars

    Location: 5410 Wayzata Blvd., Golden Valley, 763-544-0205.

    Hours: Breakfast 7 a.m.-11 a.m. and lunch 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday; breakfast 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.

    Atmosphere: Sunny, casual and inviting.

    Service: Fast, attentive and cheerful.

    Sound level: Boisterous when half-full, conversation-limiting when packed.

    Recommended dishes: Caramel rolls, quiche, fried egg sandwich, omelets, apple soufflé pancake, steak sandwich, pesto salad, crab cakes, peanut butter cookies.

    Price range: All but two breakfast dishes under $9. Lunch sandwiches $6.50 to $11.50, salads $4.25 to $13.50, entrees $9.50 to $14.50.

    **** EXCEPTIONAL *** HIGHLY RECOMMENDED ** RECOMMENDED * SATISFACTORY NO STARS UNSATISFACTORY

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