Updated: Sunday, August 14, 2016, 3:01 AM
We might as well start calling it Breakfast Street. Because if there's a road in Philadelphia that does the morning meal better than Fourth Street, I haven't found it.
You can start with a breakfast tamale at Cafe Chismosa on North Fourth at Poplar, head down to Cafe de la Maude for a Lebanese foul moudamas platter of hummus, favas, and scrambled eggs, then pop right next door to Honey's Sit'N Eat for an enfrijoladas breakfast burrito.
And then waddle south. Do the power brunch at Famous 4th Street Deli, making deals over hand-sliced lox and corned beef-scrambled egg. And save extra room for the Hungry Pigeon, where the perfect small-batch croissants and a sublime breakfast sandwich with fresh sausage on a house English muffin make it my current breakfast favorite. I even love the vegan quinoa porridge bowl topped with granola.
A little farther south, you can go full-on vegan at edgy Grindcore House, where the sandwiches are named for anarchists and the cappuccino is steamed with coconut milk.
In normal times, that would be more than enough for any a.m. glutton. But we are in a golden era of breakfast choices. And the recent arrival of the Dutch has gifted us with yet another cheery excuse to trek farther south down Fourth Street for an early-day meal, one illuminated by eggs as orange as a rising country sun, a laid-back spirit, and a rare update to flavors of the Pennsylvania Dutch.
Is that smoky-sweet Lebanon bologna crisped in dark cubes and folded with cream cheese into an omelet? It's a hot breakfast twist on the usually cold roll-ups that are a fixture on Pennsylvania Dutch holiday buffets.
Or what about the zuurvlees, a "sour meat" beef stew tanged with cider vinegar and clove spice ladled over home fries beneath a double bull's-eye of two fried eggs? No, that occasional special is Euro Dutch, reimagined from its usual presentation over french fries in the southern city of Maastricht.
This double Dutch identity - rooted in both Pennsylvania and the Netherlands - is a reflection of the co-chef-owners, Berks County native Lee Styer, who runs dinner-only Fond on East Passyunk Avenue, and Joncarl Lachman, who owns Noord, the Dutch-theme BYOB right next door.
How these already busy neighbors came to join forces on a breakfast cafe is a natural progression of a friendly competitive relationship fueled by late-night munchies and alcohol. The two chefs and their crews, it seems, frequently found themselves after work in 2 a.m. omelet battles (with plenty of Champagne flowing.)
"When it came to classic rolled plain French omelets, Lee always won," concedes Lachman.
When an opportunity arose to take over a recently renovated but short-lived BYOB called 4th and Cross (its name was also its location), the two chefs could not resist. The neighborhood around Dickinson Square, right between Pennsport and East Passyunk, is one of the city's fastest-growing zones for redevelopment and gentrifying youth, the ideal demographic - late-rising and often working from home - for brunch.
They painted the corner room a breezy white with soothing tones of periwinkle blue, installed artsy photos of milk bottles by Lachman's partner, Bob Moysan, added church pew banquettes, tuned the music to Led Zeppelin, and filled the coffee pots with Rival Bros. Revolver.
As for the menu, Lachman and Styer aren't trying to reinvent breakfast so much as improve on the basics with good ingredients, a few creative winks, and scratch preparations. And it begins with those eggs, collected from Deep Roots Valley Farm in Mohrsville run by a farmer friend of Styer's from high school. You can have them on a Dutch-Dutch open-faced egg sandwich called a uitsmijter, with grilled rye, pickles, salad and guanciale from Lansdowne's 1732 Meats, or whipped into American-style omelets (half-moons with a little pan color) folded over truffled mushrooms and taleggio, among other choices. I'm not sure those eggs will appeal to everyone once poached to a tie-dye pink in red vinegar and beet juice, but with a nice hunk of grilled flat-iron beef beside them, the plate makes for one of Philly's more distinctive steak and eggs dishes.
Even better, when it's available, is the decadent hash made from pork belly. If you've had it, you'll know Styer's pork belly at Fond is still the city's best - a brick of tender flesh edged with a side so sheer and crisp it cracks with the delicacy of a crême brûlée. Minced into unctuous smaller bits here with potatoes and topped with two more of those eggs, it's a brilliant second use for the trimmings of a famous entrée.
My favorite dish, though, is the Dutch's eggs Benedict, which sets those eggs beneath a silky white flow of bechamel-creamed chipped beef over unique English muffins made with aromatic rye by Noord chef and bread master Jonathan Yacashin.
The Dutch makes a solid lunch, too, including a trio of fresh cold salads (mustardy potato, tarragon chicken, lemony tuna), and a bulging club sandwich on marbled rye made from house-roasted turkey. Next time, I'm going to try that grilled watermelon and feta salad with oregano vinaigrette.
But breakfast is where the Dutch's soul is. And with chef Kevin Watters mostly running this kitchen daily, it's no surprise the buttermilk waffles are also great. Aside from his current night duties at Fond, he worked previously at waffle-obsessed Chhaya Cafe. And one he made here this summer, its ridges crisp, its interior fluffy, its dimpled grid slathered with strawberry-rhubarb compote, was smartly declared "one of the best ever" by my 17-year-old waffle expert.
I wish I could say the same about the Ana Banana pancake, a blueberry-studded flapjack topped with bananas that was outstanding around the edges - but too dense and doughy at its buttermilk heart. I was also split over one of the cafe's most distinctive specialties: the Dutch baby, a battery cross between a pancake and a popover that's roasted in a cast-iron pan.
The sweet one sparked with lemon and powdered sugar was far too eggy and undercooked. But the savory version was irresistible. Studded with Port Richmond kielbasa and crunchy green scallions, and curling-up brown and roasty around the edges, this was the kind of dish that could get me up early and set me on my way: destination Breakfast Street.
The Dutch (two bells out of four)
1527 S. Fourth St. (at Cross Street), 215-755-5600; thedutchphilly.com
South Philly's already bountiful breakfast-lunch scene has gotten yet another charming new entry in this cheery blue-and-white cafe near Dickinson Square, a welcome collaboration between two star-chef pals from East Passyunk - Lee Styer of Fond and Joncarl Lachman of Noord. This is breakfast as you know it, from waffles to farm-fresh eggs, but with quality ingredient upgrades, a nod to traditional Pennsylvania Dutch flavors (as well as some real Dutch specialties), and a fun, relaxed vibe that channels this fast-rising neighborhood's youthful new spirit.
MENU HIGHLIGHTS Ring bologna eggs Benedict; steak and eggs; buttermilk waffle with fruit compote; Ana Banana pancakes; crispy Lebanon bologna and cream cheese omelette; house salad trio; club sandwich; savory Dutch baby pancakes; Maastrichts Zuurvleef (sour meat special).
BYOB A seasonal mimosa and a bloody Mary mix are offered, so bring your booze of choice. Usually, though, good Rival Bros. coffee is drink of choice.
WEEKEND NOISE Was not busy when sound was measured, but levels hovered in the reasonable decibels for easy conversation. (Ideal is 75 or less.)
IF YOU GO Breakfast and lunch served Tuesday through Sunday, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Closed Monday.
All major cards.
Not wheelchair accessible. (There is a step at the entrance, and another step to get to the bathroom in back.)
Street parking only.
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