December 21, 2011

Boise's Best Breakfast: The Egg Factory (Review)

Before I begin to discuss the food served at The Egg Factory (6882 W State St Boise, ID 83714 (208) 853-2037, with two other locations in the Treasure Valley) let me take a minute to address hyperbole.  I'm not a fan.  Perhaps it's because I have young kids at home, but I don't really care for it when people casually say that things are "the best," "the greatest," and the like.  I don't get a sense for how good something is if you run around like Gordon Ramsey, saying that everything that passes your lips that you don't actively hate is "the most amazing" whatever-it-is.  I just want this to be clear when I pronounce The Egg Factory Boise's best breakfast.  To be fair, I haven't eaten at every single restaurant in Boise, but I have eaten at perennial "Best of Boise" winner Goldy's, hangover staples like Merritt's and The Capri, chic coffeehouse/eateries and truck stops.  The Egg Factory tops them all.

The only area in which they are lacking (so far as I can tell, anyway) is in the image department.  It's almost too professional.  Every time I drove past it over the last year, I saw the large, colorful sign, with a chicken motif on the window and assumed it was a chain restaurant, and a generic one at that.  Through the windows I could see bright yellow paint and even more chicken decor.  It isn't that there is anything wrong with the sunny look of The Egg Factory, it just didn't sit well with my personal prejudices.   I ignored The Egg Factory and continued to stick with the previous "Best Breakfast in Boise," Northern Lights Cafe.  It probably would have continued that way if it weren't for this blog.  Since Wife doesn't do Facebook herself, it is left to me to friend her rather large family and give her updates on what they are doing.  In return, a few of them have been kind enough to become part of my readership, and when I contemplated breakfast places online one of her cousins promptly recommended The Egg Factory.  That might not have been enough, except she went beyond simply saying it was good and told me one reason why-the cooks at The Egg Factory make their own chorizo.

It was only a couple of weeks before that information enticed me to making a stop.  Mother-in-Law wanted to borrow my daughter for the day, and since she needed me with her to be able to pick up Girl from her mom's house, it was decided we would meet up for breakfast beforehand.   Wife and I arrived first, and had some time to take it all in.  While the pastel coloration of the interior had turned me off from the outside, it turned out to be a pleasant environment to wake up in, and the early morning dining crowd seemed to be in bright spirits.  A fair number of the customers seemed to be regulars, which I took as a positive.  I was also impressed when the waitress delivered my menu.  It was a good thing that the in-laws had gotten lost, because the laminated sheet I was given may as well have been a novella.  There were easily a hundred options, and if you take into account how accommodating the staff is regarding customization that number increases drastically.  When the rest of our party arrived (several cups of coffee later) I had merely narrowed down the options-I was far from deciding. 

Father-in-Law took no time deciding what he would have.  Biscuits and gravy, with an over-medium egg and "factory potatoes," which are just diced and fried potatoes with a custom seasoning blend.  The egg was fried perfectly, which many consider to be the defining test of a breakfast restaurant (especially, one would think, if the restaurant had "egg" in it's name) but I was more curious about the biscuit.  A good biscuit is hard to find.  The one at The Egg Factory was just shy of the pinnacle (those would be the biscuits at the Sunrise Cafe, just across the street) but it was damn good all the same.  It had a fluffy interior, well suited to soaking up the lush sausage gravy, but enough crags on the outside to stand up to the sauce and not wilt or become soggy.  The gravy itself was everything one could hope for.  It had large chunks of actual sausage, was well seasoned, and neither overly oily or lacking in the flavor punch that fat provides.  My father-in-law was a trucker for many years, and knows his biscuits and gravy, and we were both more than impressed with what The Egg Factory had to offer.

Mother-in-Law is a daintier eater than any of us, but was intrigued by the egg crepes.  The Egg Factory serves traditional crepes, with the expected fruit fillings, but they also had a section of the menu devoted to these savory variations, which are essentially small omelettes rolled in a crepe.  She chose the "Garden Delight" variety and replaced her toast with lemon poppy seed pancakes.  This was one aspect of The Egg Factory that really impressed me-you can substitute pancakes for toast at some restaurants, but if so they might limit you to a single flapjack, or even if they do give you two you are limited to the basic item.  The Egg Factory has a large selection of custom pancakes and they are all available as an alternative side.  It's a good thing, too, because pancakes play a large role in my enthusiasm about this restaurant.  The lemon poppy seed pancakes taste exactly like the muffin of the same name, and instead of coming with maple (or some synthetic "butter-flavor" syrup) it came with house-made lemon syrup, which both tasted and felt like a classier version of the filling of a Hostess fruit pie, and I mean that in the best possible way.  Both Wife and Mother-in-Law felt that the house syrups were a bit too sweet, but I blame that on the fact that they handled them like you would regular syrup; the pancakes themselves have so much flavor that you need to have a light touch with the syrup, but this is not a bad thing.    The truth is, the pancake was so vibrant that it completely outshone the main dish.  The Garden Delight crepe was adequate, and that was it.  Of all the things we ordered, it seemed the most exciting as written on the menu, but large slices of mushrooms that hadn't really been cooked (a choice I'm guessing was intentional, to emphasise freshness) dominated each bite, even over the lovely hollandaise. 

Wife's eyes were fixed on omelettes from nearly the moment we sat down, and in the end it was she and not I who went for the homemade chorizo, in the form of the Enchilada Omelette.  In addition to the chorizo, it features avocado, onion, tomato, two different cheeses, and a homemade chipotle enchilada sauce.  In a word, simply fantastic.  I have to admit, in omelette form I couldn't pick out the homemade essence of the chorizo, but that is mostly because the smoky sauce defined the plate.  Not only did it make for a great omelette, but I wouldn't mind using their sauce on actual enchiladas.  The cooks managed to get all that great chipotle flavor into each bite without it being spicy or overwhelming, and after taking my complimentary "you have to let me, I'm a blogger" bites of her breakfast, I was reluctant to slide the plate back over to my wife.  The scariest thing is that the omelette wasn't even the best thing she was having.  Like her mom, Wife swapped her toast for a pair of pancakes, but rather than lemon poppy seed, she picked the monthly special-eggnog.  Growing up, I always looked forward to the time of year when eggnog would begin to appear, but as I've aged I've grown less tolerant of things that are that rich.  I still loved the flavor, but barely more than a shot glass worth was too much.  Miraculously, these pancakes held every iota of eggnog's essence without the worry of drinking (essentially) a glass of heavy cream.  Treading yet again into hyperbole territory, they out-eggnogged eggnog.  This too came with a customized syrup (rum) that the ladies at the table found overly sweet; again I would disagree, but if you happen to arrive at The Egg Factory and find them offering these seasonal treats yet again, I would still recommend skipping any syrup at all-they are too good to put anything other than a small amount of butter on them. 

Quite literally the best pancakes I have ever eaten.
Finally, I took advantage of the flexibility of our waitress to change the Rio Grande Scramble (scrambled eggs and potatoes all mixed up with the other ingredients) to a "Spudsation" (said ingredients and fried eggs served over fried potatoes.)  The Rio Grande features more of the same great chipotle sauce that graced the Enchilada Omelette, but with green chiles, onions, and carnitas.  At first I was disappointed because I was expecting the carnitas I was used to from Los Betos, which were both crisp and juicy chunks of pork, but the meat was flavorful and fork-tender, more like the meat in a pot of ham and beans but with better spices, and I enjoyed it quite a bit.  Besides, according to the description of carnitas on Wikepedia, it's The Egg Factory and not the Mexican restaurant that got it right.  My meal was spicy and savory, and while I was envious of what my wife was eating that was due to the quality of her food and not anything lacking in mine. 
Beyond what the four of us ordered, the gigantic menu offers an entire section of Benedicts, a good variety of waffle and French Toast options, half a dozen grain or fruit options for dieters, and a reasonable lunch menu.  There is nothing out of the ordinary about the drink menu (though I've been hearing a rumor that they may add shakes soon,) but the fresh squeezed orange juice is sublime, and our waitress did an excellent job of keeping our coffee hot despite the fact that the place busy the entire time we were there.  As a bonus to those of you who have kids or whose inner child still lives, even the hot chocolate has a complimentary refill.  So if I haven't made it clear enough, The Egg Factory has straight-up great food, an excellent waitstaff that is accommodating to whatever special requests you might throw at them (at least at the State Street location),  and a wonderful atmosphere in which to enjoy your breakfast.  They manage to deliver the flair and creativity of the pricier downtown restaurants at the cost (and with the portions) of the greatest greasy spoons, which is why The Egg Factory is literally Boise's best breakfast.  Go there soon, go there often, and tell them "Catfish's Dishes" sent you. 

The Egg Factory on Urbanspoon

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