Eggs, coffee, and salty conversation
Some meals can bring you back vividly to your childhood, perhaps because your sense of smell and long-term memory are centered in adjacent areas of the brain. I experienced breakfast déjà vu recently at Elite Restaurant, a tiny, humble Eastie diner that cooks a lot like my mom did: pancake mix from a box, toast made from Market Basket bread, Mrs. Butterworth and whipped oleo/butter blend on the table. There's even an accordioned crepe-paper Hallmark centerpiece in the window. One difference is that, when I was a kid, I didn't have aunties around who swore like sailors, as the nice ladies at the other end of the nine-stool counter do here. The Elite is a working-class greasy spoon, the kind of joint where there's always a cop or state trooper picking up a big order for his buddies, and F-bombs casually work their way into every conversation.
A huge, bottomless mug of good filter coffee ($1.20) is a promising start. Nothing's fancy here: cream is served out of a paper coffee cup passed around the counter. The short whiteboard menu starts with a giant three-egg omelet ($6.99) of the hearty, heavy school, with American cheese and either ham, decent pork breakfast sausages, or strips of well-crisped bacon. Or you can get two eggs with ham, sausage, and bacon ($5.99), unremarkable (likely canned) corned-beef hash ($6.99), or a chewy eight-ounce sirloin ($8.99). These plates include standard-issue homefries and toast, of which scali is the least Wonder bread–like option. Pancakes ($4.25) are a stack of three: big and filling, perhaps a little underdone or in need of more browning on a hotter griddle. French toast ($4.25) starts from that same lamentable supermarket bread.
Folks needing to take their breakfast on the run may opt for egg sandwiches ($4.50) with American cheese and bacon, ham, or sausage, though I'm not sure how you eat the accompanying home fries in your car. Bagels ($1.75) and muffins ($1.50) appear to come from the same commercial-bakery supermarket aisle as the bread for toast ($1.25). Aside from coffee and tea ($1.20), your other drink options are cans of soda and a few juices like V-8 ($1.25). In short, despite the ironic name, the Elite delivers a solid if not particularly from-scratch breakfast at decent prices without polish or pretense. Give me breakfast at an old-timey, independent neighborhood joint like this over a shiny national-chain outlet any day.
Elite Restaurant, located at 350 Bennington Street, in East Boston, is open Monday–Saturday, 6 am–noon. Call 617.567.9278.
: On The Cheap
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