May 12th, 2004 Audrey Van Buskirk | Food Reviews & Stories
 

Breakfast Row

Genies and Detour transform Division Street into a morning attraction.

     
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CROSSING THE BAR: BREAKFAST AT GENIES
IMAGE: MATT WONG
Breakfast can be a messy business. You're barely dressed, possibly unshowered, and if you've remembered to brush your hair, it's a good day.

That sort of demeanor goes well with the typical grub served at breakfast joints: giant sloppy omelettes oozing cheese, stacks of toast dripping with butter and jam, and plate-sized pancakes floating in a sticky mess of syrup.

But two cafes along Division Street's eastside food row offer casual breakfasts worth getting cleaned up for--even if you don't actually need to do it.

First, there's Genies: a new, friendly place, decorated with cheerful Jetsons-y colors and eclectic local art. If you need to wait for a table--and you almost certainly will on weekends--you're welcome to grab a mug and help yourself to some Stumptown coffee.

The breakfast and brunch menus offer a variety of omelets and scrambles ($7-$7.50), several versions of eggs Benedict ($7-$7.50), and two hash options ($7 and $8.25).

If you've wondered whether organic ingredients offer a difference in taste, Genies' eggs offer an answer. The tender texture seems different, and the flavor is fuller as well. Portions are reasonably sized, and you can taste the individual mushrooms in the three-mushroom omelette with shallots and chives ($7) because the eggs aren't overwhelmed by cheese. There's a great scramble with smoked tomato, spinach, onion, feta and artichoke heart ($7.50), each part adding to the distinct flavor yet coming together beautifully.

Genies has a full bar (except for espresso) and a lengthy cocktail list, so you can order a spicy Bloody Maria ($5) or a mimosa ($4.50) with your eggs--or if you're in extreme need of an eye-opener, try the Montana Breakfast: Bud and tomato juice ($4).

Owner Philip Ragaway says he has been surprised since the place opened last December by the number of customers who order drinks in the morning, some of whom are workers just finishing graveyard shifts. Another surprise, he says, has been the number of vision-impaired customers--so many, in fact, that the cafe now offers menus printed in Braille.

For lunch, you'll find an array of sandwiches on Grand Central bread ($5-$8.50) and a daily soup ($3.50) and salad ($5.25). A recent salad featured nut-crusted goat cheese and sweet baked beets. Genies also offers a terrific meaty burger ($6) with a grainy mustard sauce, served with thin fries or a salad.

Travel about 20 blocks east on Division and it's hard to miss Detour, thanks to the cafe's lime-green exterior. Inside, where the colors are crisp white and soothing robin's-egg blue, you'll find a few tables partitioned off for privacy, but the overall space is open enough that you might feel inclined to talk to strangers at a neighboring table.

The breakfast offerings may seem slim but aren't, actually; they just require your creativity. Two selections--potato skillets and frittatas ($5.50-$6.75)--are made to your order from a list of 18 ingredients. The eggs (the menu claims the hormone-free eggs come from uncaged chickens) make a fine foil for goat cheese, portabellas and spinach or for smoked salmon and cream cheese. With the creamy yellow organic potatoes as a base for the skillet, selected ingredients are artfully blended--I ordered a tasty mix of bacon, cheddar, onions and red pepper--and served in a pretty earthenware bowl.

Detour's house-made cardamom bread, slightly sweet and densely textured, is well worth its carbs. It's delicious plain and decadent as French toast, dipped in creamy custard, baked and topped with fruit and syrup ($5.75).

There are also breakfast sandwiches--the original involves two scrambled eggs with tomato and basil plus your choice of pepper bacon, salmon or avocado ($6.50)--served on potato focaccia bread, which is chewy but dry, so you'll want to ask for extra cream cheese.

For lunch, the menu offers a variety of salads ($6.50-$8) and sandwiches ($5.25-$6.75), and made-to-order individual pizzas baked on thin, crisp crusts, with 20 toppings to choose from ($6.50-$8.50). If you're feeling low on sodium, choose the Greek salad with feta and wonderfully salty olives, served with a light lemon dressing ($5.75).

Consider claiming one of the wooden tables on the tree-shaded front patio, since Detour's service can dawdle a bit, but pleasantly so. You can eat breakfast, sip excellent espresso and watch the traffic fly by on Division. If you don't leave feeling better than you did when you arrived, you might want to just head back to bed.


Genies Cafe1101 SE Division St., 445-9777. 8 am-4 pm daily. Credit cards accepted. $ Inexpensive.

Detour Cafe3035 SE Division St., 234-7499. 8 am-4 pm Wednesday-Monday. Credit cards accepted. $ Inexpensive.

Philip Ragaway, the owner of Genies Cafe, also owns the Shanghai Tunnel, Bar of the Gods and Tiny's Coffee.Ragaway is negotiating changes to Genies' liquor license to expand the cafe's hours through dinner. The change could happen as early as next month.

Detour celebrated its third anniversary in February and is owned by two couples: Marcus and Lisa Cicconetti and Scott Krombein and Becky Doggett.

 
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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