Champions of Breakfast

Boston's early risers have never had better dining options. Behold, your new rules for sleuthing out the cream of the Cream of Wheat.

bristol lounge

Lemon-ricotta hotcakes at the Bristol Lounge. Photo by Kristin Teig.

It’s 8 a.m. – do you know where your hash browns are? Everywhere, apparently. Local trend pundits are heralding the Return of the Power Breakfast. Yes, we’ve noticed an uptick in the number of eateries serving early-morning menus, but not everyone’s fare is as compelling as their primetime lineup. Here, a few guidelines for making the most of this new breakfast bounty, “power” or otherwise.

1. Steer Clear of Gratuitous Lobster. Nothing gussies up a modest dish like adding a morsel of shell-fish and doubling the price. Just say no. If that’s the only “flair” on the breakfast menu, chances are it was born of expediency, not of the opportunity to showcase a chef’s lobster Benedict. This is not to be confused with the crave-worthy shrimp and grits on the new morning menu at Legal Sea Foods (Kendall Square only), a brand extension we wholly embrace.
Legal Sea Foods, 5 Cambridge Center, Cambridge, 617-864-3400, legalseafoods.com.

2. Too Trendy? Move On. Among the best of the a.m.-repast newbies, Back Bay Social Club front-loads its menu with chicken and waffles, which is all the rage in Chicago, L.A., and New York. It’s also the weakest item. Opt instead for any of the stellar “scrambles” – the one with chorizo and charred corn is superb – or the heavenly breakfast burger. In general, to determine where a kitchen excels, subtract aggressively faddish items (bacon chunks dubbed “pork belly,” slider variants, truffles), and see what’s left.
Back Bay Social Club, 867 Boylston St., 617-247-3200, backbaysocialclub.com.

3. Hotels Are a Mixed Bag. Hotel restaurants have long led the posh-pancakes movement, partly because they enjoy a captive audience. But how can you tell if the morning offerings are getting the chef’s love? Look for continuity between dinner and breakfast, avoiding steakhouses sans steak (KO Prime); brasseries with nothing Gallic beyond French toast (Miel); and locavore stalwarts slumming it with Eggbeaters (Henrietta’s Table, which puzzlingly serves one of the tastiest weekend brunches around). By contrast: the crispy banana-and-grain galettes with French salted butter at the Eliot Hotel’s Clio; the sirloin and eggs at XV Beacon’s Mooo; and the lemon-ricotta hotcakes at the Four Seasons’ Bristol Lounge.
Bristol Lounge, Four Seasons Hotel, 200 Boylston St., 617-338-4400, fourseasons.com/boston.
Clio, Eliot Hotel, 370 Commonwealth Ave., 617-267-1607, eliothotel.com.
Mooo, XV Beacon Hotel, 15 Beacon St., 617-670-2515, mooorestaurant.com.

4. No, Don’t Build Your Own. Breakfast at its best isn’t a souped-up omelet station, or an eggier trip to Fire + Ice. Leave the creativity to the professionals – especially before you’ve had your coffee.

5. The Crab-Asparagus Hash at the Ames Totally Kills It.
The star of the terrific hash menu at the Ames Hotel’s Woodward, this dish consists of bite-size bits of potato sautéed with asparagus tips, caramelized onion, spinach, crabmeat, and plenty of butter. It’s better than the lobster and leek version – but, well, you already knew not to order that (see Rule No. 1).
Woodward, Ames Hotel, One Court St., 617-979-8200, woodwardatames.com.