To be honest, I must have been out of my mind to go to that restaurant the first week it was open. But I wasn't there to review the place I was in the neighborhood with Bob and Alexandra, and we just wanted something to eat on a Saturday morning, you know? I assumed that owner Gregg Johnson, a veteran restaurateur who also runs the successful Osteria Il Centro just down the street, would have the place running pretty slickly right off the bat.
That day, though, the computer wasn't working, the kitchen crew was overwhelmed and the dining room was seriously short-staffed. The few pitiful servers who were there had been poorly trained; ours had never waited tables before and looked like he was ready to walk out before I was.
I really should have been more forgiving because this wasn't my first time at the rodeo, as it were. I've worked in a couple of pancake palaces, and the breakfast shift is one of the toughest to pull off even when everything's going smoothly. Morning diners usually arrive before they've had a cup of coffee to settle their nerves; they're hungry, impatient, frequently humorless and, if it's a Saturday or Sunday, probably hung-over.
One hard-bitten longtime waitress told me her secret to surviving this brutal shift: "I treat 'em all like I'm their loving mother. I smile at them even when they bite my head off. The breakfast crowd is like a pack of snarling wolves. If they detect weakness, they'll pounce."
When I did go back to Eggtc. (it rhymes with etcetera and is not pronounced, as a party-loving pal of mine insists, ecstasy), Johnson had fired most of the neophyte serving staff and replaced them with professional waitresses who knew the art of juggling many demands from several different tables. I've returned several times over the past three months, and each time I've been more impressed with Johnson's shrewd move to turn the space occupied for 30 years by the old Jake Edward Bar-B-Q into a slickly designed bistro serving only breakfast and lunch.
After all, the nearby Country Club Plaza isn't exactly glutted with spots to grab a morning meal. Both the Raphael Hotel and the InterContinental serve breakfast, but you'll pay a premium. The Mixx stopped serving light morning fare last spring. Thank goodness for the Classic Cup, which serves exceptional breakfasts, and Winstead's, the closest thing the Plaza has to a diner.
When Johnson came up with the Eggtc. concept, he had no idea that the breakfast trade was so damned hard. It looks like an easy meal, but, as Johnson quickly discovered, a majority of customers have culinary eccentricities when it comes to breakfast. Most of them involve unusual directions for cooking eggs. "I had never heard of runny scrambled eggs before," Johnson told me.
That's when I had to tell him that my only lingering complaint about Eggtc. is that the omelets tend to be dry and overcooked instead of fluffy and moist. An omelet left on the grill for even a couple of seconds too long can turn to rubber. "Get your kitchen crews some decent whisks," I rattled on, "and use milk."