More area restaurants are specializing in ‘a great way to start the day’—breakfast

John Quinn believes that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. That’s not surprising, considering that it’s his bread and butter, so to speak. He’s the owner of Quinn’s Café in Hockessin, which serves breakfast and lunch.

“It sounds cliché, but breakfast is a great way to start the day, whether it’s with family, friends, or clients,” says Quinn, who purchased the former Kim’s Kafe in 2011. “You have a good meal with great service, good food, and a great atmosphere.”

Bobby Pancake (Really, that’s his name!), a cofounder of High 5 Hospitality, agrees. “Breakfast at a restaurant is a treat,” he says. “It’s a way for families to get together. It’s a way to knock out a meeting before going to the office. It’s a quiet place to work on your computer outside the office or home, and it’s a way to get a group together.”

Seeking to capture those demographics, High 5 Hospitality recently added an Eggspectation location to its stable, which also includes Buffalo Wild Wings, Limestone BBQ and Bourbon, and the Stone Balloon.

Eggspectation’s lengthy breakfast menus includes waffles. Photo courtesy of Eggspectation

In the Christiana area, Eggspectation, a Montreal-based chain, is in good company. Nearby are two other new chains specializing in breakfast: Turning Point and First Watch. 

Close to Christiana Hospital and Christiana Mall, the trio is well-positioned to capture new markets. According to the National Restaurant Association, 55 percent of consumers say they would order breakfast items more often if restaurants offered them throughout the day. Among millennials, the percentage rises to 63 percent.

But pulling off a big breakfast business takes more than a short-order cook and a waffle-maker. Breakfast foods have become increasingly diverse, and so have diners’ appetites.

Anytime You Want It

Going out for breakfast is nothing new, particularly on Saturday or Sunday. As a result, many restaurants, like Kid Shelleen’s Charcoal Grill & Saloon and the Trolley Square Oyster House, offer weekend brunch.

A restaurant that specializes in breakfast, however, serves it every day and, often, all day. Many small, independently owned cafes in the area have expanded on the concept. Take, for instance, the intimate De La Coeur Café et Patisserie near Trolley Square, which gives breakfast the French treatment.

The restaurant closes at 3 p.m., which is a hallmark of the smaller breakfast eateries. Quinn’s Café, for instance, is open until 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and until 2 p.m. on weekends. “The hours are a bright spot,” says Quinn, who previously owned a pizza business. Meghan’s in Glen Mills is open from 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. In Hockessin, Drip Café stays open until 4 p.m. However, the cafe is also a coffee shop with a variety of espresso-based drinks. The hours appeal to those who want a late-afternoon latte.

Like many restaurants with limited hours, Drip Café offers one menu featuring breakfast and lunch items. If it’s in print, you can have it, says owner Greg Vogeley. That means you can order a club sandwich at 7 a.m., and at the end of a shift, some hospital workers do just that.

Vogeley has toyed with adding a dinner. “But I fell in love with my phone not ringing in the evening,” says the busy restaurateur, who now has a location, in Newark.

Lucky’s Coffee Shop in North Wilmington opened in 2007 intending to offer breakfast, lunch and dinner. But customers quickly put the restaurant in the breakfast box, partly because it’s available all day—a prerequisite for a restaurant highlighting omelets and waffles.

“We’ve always been more of a breakfast place than anything else,” acknowledges Manager Matt Tyrawski, who’s been with Lucky’s from the start. “Even when we were open for dinner, the biggest sellers were breakfast meals.” Currently, Lucky’s owners are looking at creative ways to capitalize on the evening traffic.

Hank’s Place in Chadds Ford made the leap to dinner. The establishment, known as much for its outdoor landscaping as for its breakfast, is open until 7 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, and until 3 p.m. on Sunday and Monday.

Hank’s Place owners and husband and wife Anthony and Kate Young take a coffee break at their restaurant in Chadds Ford. Photo Butch Comegys

Anthony Young, who owns Hank’s with wife, Kate, says Fridays are big family nights. “Mom and dad come in and get an entrée —horseradish-crusted salmon—and kids get pancakes or French toast.” Hank’s is a BYO, and there’s no corkage fee.

For the most part, the Christiana chains putting breakfast front and center have followed in the limited-hours format. First Watch closes at 2:30 p.m.; Turning Point at 3 p.m. The exception is Eggspectation, which is open until 9 p.m.

Offering a large menu with morning, afternoon and evening selections can be challenging, Pancake acknowledges, particularly around lunchtime.  “You can be humming along with breakfast orders, and someone will order a burger or chicken parmesan,” he says. “It can throw the kitchen for a loop for a minute or two.”

Any Way You Want It

Eggspectation’s lengthy breakfast menu includes chocolate-cocoa waffles topped with orange mascarpone cheese, as well as smoked salmon Benedict with Philadelphia cream cheese and hollandaise.

These are the kinds of dishes that appeal to diners who consider a restaurant breakfast an indulgence akin to dessert. The more unusual, the better. Drip Café’s caramel-apple-bacon pancakes made news in People magazine and on Fox 29’s Good Day Philadelphia.

Many breakfast-oriented restaurants also have selections to attract health-and-wellness buffs. First Watch, for instance, serves smashed avocado on whole-grain toast with extra virgin olive oil, lemon and high-grade Maldon sea salt. It comes with eggs from cage-free hens. The restaurant’s “A.M. Superfoods Bowl” is coconut milk-chia seed pudding topped with bananas, berries, blackberry preserves, and house-made granola.

Offering dishes for the diet-buster and diet-conscious helps a restaurant accommodate the low-carb, keto, paleo, and gluten-free consumers, of which there are many.  But even restaurants that keep it simple with familiar dishes have found that breakfast is a flexible meal.

At Hank’s, Young has seen an uptick in the number of diners skipping potatoes and toast. “It’s easy for us to accommodate,” he says. To be sure, since many low-carb dieters are big on protein or fat, they can load up on the bacon, sausage, or eggs—of which there is no shortage.

Caramel apple pancakes at Drip Café. Photo Anthony Santoro

The Right Price

There is a limit to the amount people want to pay for breakfast in a restaurant. “If I served some dishes six hours later, I could charge more for it,” Vogeley notes. “I do feel constricted, at times.”

Because Drip Café offers specialty coffee drinks, the bill can creep up for the consumer who has several lattes and a substantial breakfast to boot. Says Vogeley, “All of a sudden you’re at $20 and people are like, ‘Whoa, what just happened?’”

Diners often see only affordable ingredients on breakfast menus. They don’t consider all the other expenses that a restaurant incurs, from labor to flood insurance, Young says. Food costs fluctuate—even milk and eggs. And as any savvy consumer can attest, quality ingredients have a higher price tag. Hank’s uses real butter on the grill, not a liquid substitute, and the scrapple is made by a local butcher.

For small restaurants like Meghan’s, ownership is a hands-on effort, says Laurie Skelley, a partner. “Owners have to work if they want to make a profit,” she explains. “We try to keep our food costs down without messing with the quality.”

Since starting Meghan’s more than two decades ago, Skelley has gained more competition. Just down the street, Whole Foods has a morning breakfast bar with prepared foods, and Avenue Kitchen—a sleek restaurant—serves breakfast all day, every day. Going south, Metro Diner last year opened a third Delaware location on Concord Pike.

Meanwhile, quick-casual restaurants—which have counter service—are also breaking some eggs. El Diablo Burritos’ new Market Street restaurant, for instance, serves breakfast.

Skelley’s business might dip when the new places open, she says, but it quickly rebounds. “Eighty percent of our customers are regulars,” she says. “Half the time people sit down and don’t even need to tell us what they want to eat. We know people by name. I’ve watched kids come in here in baby seats, and now they’re driving here.”

For these customers, pancakes come with a side of sentimentality, which is another reason why the morning meal is so important.

“Breakfast,” Vogeley concludes, “is comfort food.”

Breakfast Places

Quinn’s Café
7288 Lancaster Pike, #2, Hockessin
239-7440 |

507 Stanton-Christiana Rd, Newark
842-2515 |

Turning Point
3204 Fashion Center Blvd., Newark
738-4326 |

First Watch
74 Geoffrey Drive, Newark
894-4030 |

De La Coeur Café et Patisserie
1836 Lovering Ave., Wilmington
660-7178 |

1117 Smithbridge Rd., Glen Mills, Pennsylvania,

Drip Café
144 Lantana Square, Hockessin,
60 N. College Ave., Newark,
565-4685 |

Lucky’s Coffee Shop
4003 Concord Pike, Wilmington
477-0240 |

Hank’s Place
1625 Creek Rd., Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania,
610-388-7061 |

Avenue Kitchen
509 Wilmington-West Chester Pike, Glen Mills, Pennsylvania,
484-800-8070 |

Metro Diner
5600 Concord Pike, Unit 5614, Wilmington,
426-2226 |

Kozy Korner
906 N. Union Street, Wilmington
658-0812 |

Hollywood Grill
1811 Concord Pike, Wilmington
655-1348 |

Pam George
Pam George has been writing about the Delaware dining scene for more than 15 years. She also writes on travel, health, business and history. In addition to Delaware newspapers and magazines, she’s been published in Men’s Health, Fortune, USA Today and US Airways Magazine. She’s the author of “Shipwrecks of the Delaware Coast: Tales of Pirates, Squalls and Treasure,” “Landmarks & Legacies: Exploring Historic Delaware,” and “First State Plates: Iconic Delaware Restaurants and Recipes.” She lives in Wilmington and Lewes.

    More in:Food & Drink