In researching for this column, we searched far and wide to find a selection of brunch spots to review. However, there is one whose reputation far precedes it. This week, we ventured to Willimantic for That Breakfast Place.
That Breakfast Place is located about 15 minutes from Storrs, right near Main Street. We managed to get there around 9:45 a.m. The restaurant was already filled by that time. There was a five minute wait for a table, with most if not all seats filled (or quickly refilled) for the duration of our visit.
One highlight of our visit was the community seen in the restaurant. Despite being close to two college campuses, we were pleasantly surprised by the restaurant’s customer range. From seniors in college to senior citizens to families with kids, they all filled the restaurant with chatter and breakfast orders.
Heightening this feeling of community was the set-up of the restaurant. The restaurant is small and open. The space does not feel cramped, but instead intimate. The teal walls and quirky breakfast wall hangings fit the space. The specials were written in colorful markers on whiteboards, which complemented the wall decor.
We were seated near the coffee pots, very welcomed for two tired twenty-somethings. There were various distinctly flavored coffees available. We ordered a coconut hot coffee and a banana hazelnut iced coffee. The hot coffee was poured almost immediately, and the ice was brought over after. The coffee was of decent quality, boosted by the novelty of the flavors. We were informed that they rotate semi-regularly. The coffee was $2.25 hot with refills and $2.95 iced.
The menu was filled with breakfast and lunch basics, as well as a plethora of specials. For consistency, we ordered an egg-and-cheese sandwich on a bagel with a side of a smashed baked potato — more on that in a moment. For the specials, we picked out the chipotle crab meat omelet and a side of blueberry guava toast, made from one of their special homemade breads. We were informed that both the bread and specials menu rotated weekly.
The food came out after about 15 minutes — we were not prepared for what was to come.
The egg-and-cheese was adequate. It was not very well-seasoned, but it was of a good size for the price. The bagel was much better than the egg. However, the smashed baked potato — named for it being a baked potato smashed onto the grill — was a pleasant surprise. The outside was satisfyingly crispy, while the inside had a bit of fluff. This paired really well with both ketchup and hot sauce, and it was just fun to conceptualize.
We were hesitant about the omelet. Crab meat for breakfast? These hesitations instantly left once we got a good look and smell of it, though. Even for the price, this dish was gargantuan: The omelet, four pieces of toast and two hash browns could have easily been enough for two. The omelet itself was packed with filling.
The ingredients complimented each other very well. The avocado, onion, potato and tomato all gave their own flair to the dish without stealing the spotlight from the crab. The chipotle mayo and hollandaise sauce on top made for a savory spiced combination. This dish tasted like it was prototyped and perfected. It showed a clear mastery of flavors on the part of the chefs.
The service at That Breakfast Place was another high. Our server explained to us the different options and specials in depth. Our indecisiveness did not at all seem to trouble her, and she was very helpful. We also witnessed other servers conversing with guests, engaging with children and just generally being a welcoming presence. While some may find this atmosphere a bit overwhelming, it felt very genuine and kind to us. At the end, when we forgot a leftover box, one of the servers caught us before leaving and gave it to us.
If there was a downside to note, it was the price. After tipping, we spent $40, extremely expensive for the area. However, the omelette was enough for two and would have been around $10 per person if the plate-sharing fee was factored in. We got a lot of food for that cost.
That Breakfast Place has extremely high quality food and service. It is an excellent experience that very much deserves its popularity. You will feel at home here. We highly recommend That Breakfast Place: The experience is worth the drive, price, anything. This is a must-try place for anyone at UConn, Eastern or anywhere in between.
Peter Fenteany is the associate opinion editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.