I can make a pretty good breakfast–that is, good for me. I will not claim to be skilled at any sort of fancy breakfast creations. I can make plenty of things that are tasty, or, at least edible, and at this point I’m very close to completely mastering the egg sandwich (often eaten for lunch or dinner as well, because I CANNOT get enough of them, it seems). I am incapable of making pretty pancakes or omelets. I’m trying to remember a time when I made breakfast for someone else that would be worth mentioning. As far as I can tell, there aren’t any.
This is why many of my best breakfasts happen when I go out. I don’t often go out for breakfast with a buddy. It’s too hard to gather people in the morning, especially a weekday morning, when the only people who could go with me aren’t even awake. (Or are in a different zip code.)
So I go out to breakfast. Or grab something on the way to work.
More often than not, this breakfast comes from Cafenation. They are one of my very favorite independent cafes in Boston (and everywhere else, but I’ll admit there are many I haven’t tried in other cities. In fact, most cafes in other cities I haven’t tried. Totally beside the point), because everything they offer is delicious. Their coffee is really good. Their chai is delicious. All their espresso drinks are amazing (I’m sure there’s the off drink once in a while), generally speaking. They have a pretty wide selection of teas, which I’m sure are also good. I’ve only tried the iced ones.
And the food? Well, duh. Delicious. Always. This morning I had the spiced apple and brie crepes, which were generously stuffed and dusted with powdered sugar. I had them before, probably three years ago, and it seemed about time. They have the standard cafe breakfast fare of bagels with various options for fillings/toppings (depending on if you eat it open-faced or not), tasty muffins and scones, and the full espresso bar you’re most likely hoping for. Then they have their omelets and crepes, good portions, fair price. I’ve tried one of the omelets with salsa and black beans, a bit like huevos rancheros, I guess. They also have a weekly special cream cheese flavor, in addition to the permanent selection, and jalapeno bagels. Who else has jalapeno bagels? Ok, probably a lot of places, but still.
Then there’s the lunch options. They have a small sampling of salads and soup, the latter of which changes by the week or day (I don’t know, I don’t get soup very much), and a nice list of sandwiches on your choice of bread. A few of the sandwiches are vegetarian options. Many of the breakfast items are vegetarian, and you can order them for lunch as well. The sandwiches are served with a good portion of mixed greens–more than just a token side salad, but not so much that it takes your attention from the sandwich. They also give you their housemade balsamic dressing, which is sweet and different and even if you think you don’t like balsamic dressing, I’d recommend you try it.
Bonus: They have one of the best day-old bread selections I’ve ever seen. Very rarely is the stuff more than just a little bit stale, but most likely it will keep for several days. They portion it well, too. I can get a half-dozen bagels, two muffins, and a scone for $3. There are times when I don’t buy bread at the grocery store for two or three weeks because I can get better stuff for less money at Cafenation. However, it’s often gone by midway through the day, so if you really want a good selection, you should go in the morning. It varies from day to day, too, as you might imagine. Sometimes they have a nice big pile, others, just a few bags. It’s a bit of a hit-or-miss sometimes, but definitely worth it.
In addition, the staff are generally very friendly, and if it’s not busy will even have conversations with you about things like tea. Sometimes they even remember my name. I go there a lot. You should go there, and tell them I sent you. It won’t get you anything special, and most of them probably won’t know what you’re talking about, but tell them anyway.
Cafenation, 380 Washington St., Brighton, MA
*I’m just going to start off by saying: No, this is not a post about why you shouldn’t eat sandwiches. The only reason I’d ever say that is because it would mean MORE FOR ME!! I love sandwiches and when people say they are just “not really a sandwich person,” that’s weirder to me than when people say “I’m not a dessert person.” They just have to be crazy, right? Sandwiches are delicious. That’s the only logical explanation for not liking them.
This is, in fact, simply about how much money it costs to buy a sandwich.
You used to be able to get a pretty good sandwich for about $5. I don’t remember details, but I remember it happening. It was a really long time ago – which is my point, but we’ll come back to that.
Add a beverage, and you had a meal for 6 or 7 bucks. Not bad, really. And, like I said, I love sandwiches, so for me it was GREAT!!
If you wanted a really fancy sandwich, the most you were likely to pay was 7 or 8 dollars. I never went to REALLY fancy places, so I don’t know, could have been more there.
…Now, if I go out and buy a sandwich, it’s usually closer to $7 for a basic one, more for a more complex one. So, add the price of a drink to that, and you’re approaching $10.
Let’s be honest here. A sandwich is only as good as its ingredients. Fresh meats and veggies and really good bread are the most significant aspects of this. Now, just think a minute. Usually, if you’re ordering from a place that’s using really top quality, fresh ingredients, All but the most simple sandwiches are going to be upwards of $8. Local businesses are often more expensive, presumably because they aren’t getting super-bulk discounts on their ingredients… (you’d think buying locally would cost less, but for some reason it often seems to cost more.) And if you decide you want a latte or a fancy tea with that, that’s $2-5 more. Get a smoothie as well, and congratulations, you just spent too much on lunch.
This is not laid out in the simplest way, so I’ll just say it outright: when I go to some of my favorite cafes and delis for a sandwich meal, I’m spending almost $10 without any extras. Add a drink, it’s about $11-12. Leave a tip in the jar, it’s $12-14 (I usually give no more than a dollar for counter service: delivery guys and waitress/waiters get way more). That is approximately twice as much as what it used to cost.
I’m not including fast food in this account, because I really don’t eat at fast food places much anymore. It wasn’t even a conscious choice. More of a simple lack of desire to eat at places like McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Subway, etc. I know you can get pretty cheap meals at those places, but since I don’t want to go there, I’m not even thinking of it as an option for anyone else. Just, ew.
Even at Au Bon Pain, which I still like, if you get a sandwich and a coffee it’s usually $8 or 9. Not as high as the delicious places I like to go to, but still a few dollars more than what a meal used to be. It seems the only cheap sandwiches these days are breakfast sandwiches, which I tend to only want for breakfast.
There is still one option for cheap sandwich-based meals, of course – diners! And diner food is ok, often even good, but how many diners do you know that are using the best quality bread and all-local ingredients? …probably not many. If they are, their prices are probably higher.
The takeaway here, in case it’s not clear, is that sandwiches cost more now. Deal with it.