My dining companion on a recent visit was ecstatic. "I haven't had corned beef hash that's correct in ages!" she said recently. Indeed, the hash was outstanding, with crisp-edged potatoes and juicy strings of corned beef, not the usual mushy mess.
Corned beef hash ($9.99) turns out to be a specialty of Breakfast House. It isn't cheap, but you get lots of identifiable beef and, if you like, the poached eggs in a separate bowl. Breakfast House uses Niman Ranch meats.
As it happened, we ordered another of chef/owner John Hsu's specialties, French toast. The combo gets you two slices of toast with two eggs, two strips of bacon and hash browns or country potatoes ($8.99). A French toast fanatic may prefer four slices ($7.99).
Hsu uses mildly sourdough bread in thin slices that soak up the flavor of the egg batter but emerge toasty, not soggy. If "thin" and "buttery" can go together in a sentence, it could be about this French toast. You can also have French toast made out of raisin bread. Real maple syrup, warmed, is $1.60 extra.
Hsu was a breakfast/lunch cook before opening his own place in San Carlos, My Breakfast House, which has a playroom for kids. Breakfast House Palo Alto opened April 11. Hsu said he does not have plans for more locations.
Breakfast House Palo Alto tops out at $11.99 for crab cake eggs Benedict. At the low end you can get one large fluffy buttermilk pancake ($2.99) or two eggs with toast and potatoes, fruit or cottage cheese ($5.99). Breakfast is served from 7 a.m. till closing time at 2:30 p.m.
The lunch menu also is available all day, except that they don't use the fryer until 11 a.m., which is nice because the place doesn't smell like French fries at 8 a.m. Lunch does have a few more healthful options among the salads, soups and sandwiches. There is a veggie burger, but nothing fancier than Cobb salad and no pastries or house-baked bread.
Children are more than welcome. The children's menu sticks to standards: hot dogs, grilled cheese, chicken nuggets, cheeseburger and a happy-face pancake (bacon strips as the smile, sausages as the eyes). There is one family-size restroom for all, cheerfully decorated with cartoony dinosaurs and space creatures.
Hsu refreshed the former space of Cafe Sophia with bright colors, a sparkling planked floor and a high ceiling. The restaurant is a sea of tables, easily moved two- and four-tops for different size groups. On a weekday at 9:30 a.m., there were people on laptops, meeting friends and doing work — and enough distance away that we didn't hear each other's conversations. It could be noisy if full.
On a quiet morning, service was friendly and efficient. A sign up front offers: "Please sit down at any clean table."
Palo Alto Breakfast House
2706 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto.
Hours: 7 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday. Closed Monday.
Credit cards: yes
Parking: adjacent lot
Outdoor dining: no
Party and banquet facilities: no
Noise level: low
Bathroom cleanliness: very good