I aspire to be the kind of person who can eat breakfast at En Croûte every morning.
It’s not my greatest aspiration, mind you, but it still feels maddeningly out of reach. Like being able to run a mile or have a civil conversation with my parents about politics.
But a daily at breakfast at En Croûte is more about a state of mind than it is anything else. One needs a breezy quality to match the breezy striped shirt I imagine myself wearing. And a schedule as stretchy and forgiving as the waistband on the linen pants I’m picturing. I also feel like I would probably call people “darling” a lot.
Not “darlin’.” “Darling.” There’s a difference.
That’s not how the staff or management of En Croûte picture it, I’m sure. They’re just a charming little cheese shop/bakery/bistro/wine bar tucked back in the heart of Nichols Hills’ culinary district. (Okay, it’s not much of a district. Just west on Avondale Drive from Western Avenue and you’ll see Trader Joe’s, The Hutch, Pops, CoolGreens, Provision Kitchen, Saturn Grill, St. Mark’s Chop Room, En Croûte and the soon-to-open Osteria.)
But if you take a look at the menu, you’ll see there’s a lot to “darling” about.
This is not a brunch review, though you’ll find some of the dishes also appear on the brunch menu. The fact that they’re available Tuesday-Friday is kind of insane though, right?
Like, if I said, “I’m having a lobster omelet this morning,” you’d assume it was Sunday. And possibly that I was on a yacht, heading toward the Maldives where I would meet my fellow billionaires to hunt the most dangerous game: honest politicians.
But you can just roll into En Croûte on any old Wednesday morning at 8:42 a.m. and say, “Maine lobster omelet ($16), please,” and they’ll straight up make you one.
As the name might lead you to believe, the food here isn’t your usual diner fare. This omelet is of the French variety — thin, achingly tender and delicious — with creamy lobster filling and topped with flavorful Boursin cheese on top.
On the side you get lightly dressed romaine hearts, which give the entire plate a nice balance between deep decadence and sweet freshness. I’m not usually a salad-for-breakfast guy (or a salad-for-anything guy, honestly), but this was lovely.
You can also grab a cup of coffee (the drip is exquisitely smooth) and a croissant, if you’re being very European. Or you can be an American pretending to be European like me and order Chelsea's Baguette ($6) and slather it with butter and jam and pretend like you have a friend coming but really it’s just you and that bread, barrelling over the edge of a delicious cliff like Thelma eating a buttery Louise.
Chelsea Berry is En Croûte’s pastry chef and bake-master general. Her desserts are divine, but I think I’d be happy just gnawing endlessly on crusty loaves of bread and dipping them into a bottomless bucket of butter flecked with sea salt.
Like an idiot, though, I ordered Chelsea’s Baguette as an appetizer — you know how you always like an appetizer before breakfast? — for the main course: a Dutch baby pancake covered in fried chicken, maple syrup and house-made pickles ($16).
A Dutch baby is a pancake that curls up at the edges, forming a kind of sweet bowl of tender dough. It’s got a nice chew to it, as well, and isn’t as cake-y as some pancakes.
You can get it with chocolate ganache and bananas ($12) or macerated berries and cream ($14), but fried chicken, pickles and syrup is so much more decadent, right?
The chicken was salty and crispy and perfectly juicy. Cut it with the side of your fork, scrape up a chunk of Dutch baby and spear a piece of pickle and you’ve got the sweet, sour, crunchy, chewy delight that’ll send your tongue into spasms of joy.
But this really is something to be shared, which sort of blows up my breakfast-every-day-at-En-Croûte plans. It’s hard enough getting myself to that plateau, much less trying to make friends with someone else who can and will meet me there each morning.
I guess I’ve got some dreaming left to do. In the meantime, I’ll just stop in to En Croûte for breakfast when I can. Something tells me it’s going to be around for a minute.