Do we have to even say it? All right, sure — Sylvia Louie is a morning person.
As a founder of the Westchester Breakfast Club, we’d expect that. But she rises even earlier than her fellow members, and if she had things her way, they’d be out sampling eggs, bacon, waffles and pancakes at 8 a.m. sharp.
But, she says, “the earliest I can get everyone together is 9:30. On weekends, it’s kind of tough.”
From left front, Andrew Louie of Queens, Sylvia Louie of Ossining, Reid Aronson of Briarcliff, Shelley Gazes of Briarcliff and back row, Jeffrey Louie of Elmsford and Patrick Gallagher of Ossining pose for a photo at Half Moon in Dobbs Ferry April 17, 2011. ( Carucha L. Meuse / The Journal News )
Somehow, they’ve soldiered through, eating breakfast at more than 50 Westchester restaurants in about a year and three months, and chronicling them all on their blog, westchesterbreakfastclub.com. The club consists of Sylvia and her two brothers, Andrew Louie and Jeffrey Louie, and their friends, Shelley Gazes, Patrick Gallagher and Reid Aaronson. (Sorry, membership is not open to the public. But you’re welcome to comment, and make recommendations on the blog.)
Here’s how it works: Louie and whichever of the other members can attend visit a place, and then each writes a short review, all in the same blog post. At the end, Sylvia Louie writes a one-sentence wrap-up that summarizes the takeaway. It always starts with “The czar says …”
“We look for a variety of foods,” says Louie. “And we each individually have different takes. I look for something exciting — fresh ingredients, good quality food and cooked well.”
More, and their top five pics, after the jump.
Her brother, Jeffrey, looks for good potatoes and coffee, and her other brother, Andrew, tends toward poached eggs. Aaronson is after more of a “holistic totality of the breakfast experience,” he says. And Gazes, who admits to being “somewhat less adventurous,” gravitates toward the classic scrambled eggs, potatoes, toast combo.
“I could, at this point, give a pretty solid rundown of which places have the kind of scrambled eggs I prefer (well cooked and firmer, like at Le Provencal Bistro in Mamaroneck) and which places prepare the eggs not to my liking (loose and runny, like at Juniper in Hastings),”?she writes in an email. “But I’ll mix things up with an omelette (like the delicious one I had at Stanz) or a breakfast burrito. And, every once in awhile, I’ll go the New York breakfast route and get a bagel-lox platter (like I got at Terra Rustica in Briarcliff, our first visit to Flying Pig in Mount Kisco, and most recently at Half Moon in Dobbs Ferry). I guess my breakfast choices could be summed up as classic. I’m looking for a good, hearty, well-prepared classic breakfast.”
“I will never order pancakes if a restaurant doesn’t have real maple syrup,” he says. “Every restaurant with pancakes on their menu should offer real maple syrup. My mission in life is to make that a reality.”
As for Sylvia Louie??She’s the adventurous one.
For example, on their trip to Karumba Cafe in White Plains, Louie ordered mangu — mashed plantains — with a scrambled egg, fried salami, fried cheese and a side of maduros, which are fried sweet plantains. At Sam’s of Gedney Way in White Plains, she got the breakfast pizza. (She liked both.)
On all the blog posts, you’ll see both sweet and savory dishes — plenty of French toast, plenty of eggs — and even though the club sometimes goes to brunch rather than breakfast, they generally try to stick with “breakfast-y dishes on the menu,” says Louie.
Their first meeting was by chance. On her brother Andrew’s wedding day, she and Jeffrey decided to have breakfast with Gallagher and Gazes at the Wobble Cafe in Ossining.
“We decided it was very nice, and we’d make it a weekly event,” says Louie. They invited Reid and Andrew to join, and formed a club. (All of the members went to Briarcliff High School, though they became friends after graduation.) “Now it’s a means for us to get together once a week. Even with email and the Internet, it’s hard to catch up on things, and we all love breakfast.”
And if you read their posts, you see who loves what kind of breakfast. Louie may be a morning person and an adventurous person, but waffles? Not her favorite.
“Pancakes definitely,” she says. “French toast occasionally. I’m not a big waffle person.”
5 favorites of the?Westchester Breakfast Club
These five places passed the WBC’s “Second Visit Test,” says Sylvia Louie, one of the founders. “We have places where we loved them the first time and we go back and it’s not as great,”?she says. But these five passed with flying colors.
26 Chatsworth Ave., Larchmont. 914-833-9760.
What’s special: Omelettes, omelettes and more omelettes. Each is made with the highest quality ingredients and includes unique combinations such as bacon, arugula and goat cheese; ham and brie; and apple and cheddar.
Who should go? Couples. It’s a good brunch date spot.
When to go? Full Breakfast is served until 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Sunday brunch available 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. until June. Seating can be hard to come by.
What to order? Try the roasted corn, pepper, onion and goat cheese omelette with raisin nut toast — and thank us later.
How’s the coffee? Good. Regular coffee is self-serve, with some specialty coffee drinks made to order at the counter.
21 Campwoods Road, Ossining. 914-762-3459.
What’s special: The family-friendly environment and homey feel of Wobble has brought us back several times. The walls are covered with kids’ colorings, and trivial pursuit cards are provided at every table as a fun distraction. Loser buys!
Who should go? Families and anyone in search of good food at a cheap price.
When to go? Try to get there before 10 on weekends. Otherwise, it’s open at 7 a.m. Tuesday to Friday and 8 a.m. on weekends.
What to order? Migas (meat or vegetarian), pancakes (with real maple syrup), potatoes au gratin, and brioche toast. And on weekends, try the frats (homemade donuts).
How’s the coffee? Adequate but nothing special. A step above diner coffee.
436 Mamaroneck Ave., Mamaroneck. 914-777-2324, leprovencalbistro.com
What’s special: A taste of France in the heart of Mamaroneck.
Who should go? It’s a little pricey, but still a great spot for a special family gathering or to celebrate a special occasion over brunch.
When to go? Sunday Brunch is served from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
What to order? The star here is the duck confit hash, served with a poached egg and a mesclun salad. Be sure to order some extra brioche toast to soak up the sauce.
How’s the coffee? The coffee is tasty, and tea comes in individual teapots.
The Black Cat Cafe
45 Main Street, Irvington. 914-231-9060, blackcatchef.com.
What’s special: Combines the casual, quaint vibe of a privately owned coffee shop with freshly prepared, high-quality hot breakfast food made to order.
Who should go? Small groups — the staff and kitchen were not equipped to handle the hungry, six-member WBC in a timely manner.
When to go? Breakfast starts at 7:30 a.m. Monday through Friday, and at 8:30 on Saturdays and?Sundays.
What to order? Try the vegetarian breakfast burrito or a cup of their steel cut oatmeal loaded up with berries, bananas, and walnuts. Delicious and healthy!
How’s the coffee? Some of the best we’ve had. Made from beans from the Tarrytown-based Coffee Labs Roasters.
39 Chestnut St., Dobbs Ferry. 914-305-2336, thecookeryrestaurant.com.
What’s special: An Italian influenced menu that focuses on sustainable products and demands repeat visits.
Who should go? Everyone with a little money in his or her pocket.
When to go? As early as you can. It’s popular. Brunch is served 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays .
What to order? On the prix-fixe menu, start with the appetizers of either the fresh mozzarella or the crostini with fresh ricotta, chow down on the pork and potato hash for your entrée, and finish off with the bread pudding or the pumpkin tortina for dessert.
How’s the coffee? Not as memorable as the food.