5 Places to Live Like a Local at Breakfast

Cereal milk is not just for breakfast at Waffle Champion in Oklahoma City OK (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

“Cereal milk” (the best part of your morning bowl?) made in-house at Waffle Champion in Oklahoma City OK. They toast cereal, then soak it in milk, add some brown sugar, then strain it. (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

One problem with staying at a hotel that serves a free breakfast is that you may feel compelled to eat it – “I already paid for it, right?” – rather than wander a little further afield for a better experience.

Sure, if you’re time-crunched or there are transportation issues, do what you’ve gotta do, but if you want a better start to your traveler’s morning….to feel like you’re actually getting to know a town….go eat breakfast where the locals eat.

Although I’m not a morning person, it’s been worth it to roll out of bed and make time to eat at the places below….

Waffle Champion in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Flip the menu – one side is sweeter offerings, the other more savory (think bacon, egg, and cheese, or fried chicken) and all of it is delicious.

I had the Blueberry Sunrise waffle: blueberry-thyme compote, lemon goat cheese spread, with an oat crumble sprinkled on top.

Blueberry waffles plus espresso pecans for breakfast at Waffle Champion Oklahoma City (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Blueberry waffles plus espresso pecans for breakfast at Waffle Champion in Oklahoma City’s Midtown (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

When I asked if they could add pecans, the answer was, “Sure! Are espresso pecans all right?” Um, YEAH, duh.

Waffle Champion is located in the OKC Midtown neighborhood; parking is available on street or in the back, but follow the signs carefully, as you’ll be sharing spots with local apartments and the customers for other nearby businesses.

Sidebar – If you’re in the southern end of Oklahoma City, it’s worth a short drive a little further south to University of Oklahoma “Boomer Sooner” territory to eat at The Diner in downtown Norman, Oklahoma.

Billy’s Downtown Diner in Bethlehem or Allentown, Pennsylvania

A big breakfast at Billy’s Downtown Diner (the Bethlehem location) was a highlight of my trip to the Lehigh Valley area. The food was fresh, fast, and imaginative.

Owner Billy Kounoupis greets breakfast patrons at Billy's Downtown Diner in Bethlehem PA (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Owner Billy Kounoupis welcomes you to Billy’s Downtown Diner in Bethlehem PA (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

I had the Tonga Toast – “Sourdough bread dipped in our own French toast mix and topped with fresh strawberries, bananas and walnuts. Draped with low fat vanilla yogurt and dusted with cinnamon,” and my dining companion Mike had the Lil’ Havana Omelette – “Slow roasted pulled pork in authentic Cuban seasonings with grilled ham, Swiss and Pepper jack cheese wrapped by three fluffy eggs and topped with diced tomatoes.”

Divine.

Don’t miss a side trip to nearby SteelStacks see how they’ve made an arts magnet out of the rusty old Bethlehem steel plant.

Frank’s Diner in Kenosha, Wisconsin

Two visits to this town. Two breakfasts at Frank’s Diner in downtown Kenosha.

Batting 1.000 so far.

Just ordered breakfast at Frank's Diner in downtown Kenosha WI (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Waiting for breakfast at Frank’s Diner in downtown Kenosha, WI. Look at those giant orders on the grill! (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

I did order the same thing both times, which isn’t terribly adventurous, but at least I varied the routine by sitting in a booth the first time and at the counter the second.

Mostly, I learned that I can’t finish a “short stack” of pancakes at Frank’s, but the “no stack” – one very large pancake – works out well, especially with a side of their excellent sausages.

You’ll find plenty of other local independent places to eat in Kenosha, so try them all.

The Breakfast Club, Etc. in Lake Placid, New York

This meal plus bantering with friendly waitstaff was key to my recent perfect morning in Lake Placid, New York, in the middle of the Adirondacks.

I lingered over their listing of six different versions of eggs Benedict on the Breakfast Club, Etc. breakfast menu, but finally went with the apple, sausage, and Brie rösti served in a hot skillet on a bed of home fries, plus a big mug of coffee, of course.

Skillet rösti at The Breakfast Club Etc in downtown Lake Placid NY (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Skillet rösti at The Breakfast Club, Etc. in downtown Lake Placid NY (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

You might want to plan on more walking to burn all that off – here are some easy one- to two-hour Adirondacks hikes to help you along.

Magnolia & Kerbey Lane Cafes in Austin, Texas

It’s hard to overstate the charms of a place that is open 24 hours, and that includes breakfast whenever you want it.

Bleary-eyed visitors to the Austin City Limits music festival or SXSW (South by Southwest, which includes interactive, film, and music festivals) have long turned to either a Magnolia Cafe or Kerbey Lane Cafe when they’re trying to find a local breakfast in Austin, Texas.

They are two different businesses, but both are no-fail reliable for good food, much of it locally-sourced.

Pancake specials at Kerbey Lane Cafe Round Rock TX (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Pancake specials at Kerbey Lane Cafe Round Rock TX (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Even better, there’s now a Kerbey Lane right on Interstate 35, north of Austin in Round Rock.

Hit it up on your way into or out of town for migas, chilaquiles, lots of different kinds of pancakes, the famous Eggs Francisco, or keep it simple and pig out on a big order of Kerbey queso and chips.

Honorable Mentions

Try the no-frills Russell Street Deli for breakfast in Detroit, Michigan; it’s one of the many things to do at the Eastern Market.

If you miss breakfast at Cafe Pony Espresso, try one of their excellent sandwiches for lunch while exploring St. Joseph, Missouri.

My fellow PT blogger Mike was impressed by Matt’s Big Breakfast in downtown Phoenix, Arizona, and our editor Tim shares mouth-watering ways to start your day with an enjoyable desayuno in Mexico.

What are your favorite local places for breakfast, especially when you’re traveling? Give them a shout-out down in the comments.

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