Houston, TX 77014
April 2004–I read an article about a young man by the name of Marcus Davis who three years ago this September opened a hip little breakfast and lunch restaurant. In the article, he talked about the usual blah, blah, how he got started, blah blah, how much money he’d invested, blah, and blah blah. What caught my attention was his menu. I’d been craving the famous Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles style breakfast since I left Los Angeles about a year ago. The Breakfast Klub serves an entrée with chicken and waffles, which is a west coast thing. They also served other combinations I thought were unusual like grits and katfish, a specialty Marcus said he got from another must go to restaurant on the east coast. No one should pass through Houston without getting their eat on at the Breakfast Klub.
One bright and early Saturday morning I decided to try out the Breakfast Klub with my cousin and his family, and my son. I’d told them about the article I read, and we were all down for a change from the Denny’s Grand Slam to something a little more soulful. “Is this it? Couldn’t be”, I looked at my cousin and he was thinking the same thing. Super Bowl XXXVIII rushed millions of dollars through to the outer edges of downtown to fund the forthcoming Metro transportation system; much needed street repairs, and overall city beautification projects. This region was undergoing the ominous intention called rejuvenation or in other words, getting a facelift. Looking at the Breakfast Klub sitting on the dusty corner of Travis and Alabama , gave life to the statement referring to Houston as an ugly city. However, in my personal defense of the fourth largest city in America , Houston is on the threshold of busting out of its cocoon into becoming a southern powerhouse. If this shabby building was supposed to house what I’d read about, the food better be off the hook! The sign on the billboard could’ve used more imagination to draw your attention. It was bright yellow, with the words “The Breakfast Klub” in black lettering, and a picture of a steaming cup of coffee on it. The parking lot looked like a 4.0 earthquake destroyed the driveway entrance. If you weren’t careful, you might pass the driveway, while eyeing the huge potholes and construction going on out front. The rubble made me a little skeptical, but the long line of people hanging out the door was a sign of good eating. A young woman hawked fashionable jewelry right outside the door. All the trendy ladies surrounded her table full of silver toe rings, big beaded necklaces and earrings; you know the stuff they sell at the booths in the mall.
The Breakfast Klub works like a counter style restaurant. You stand in a long line, browse the menu, order, pay, and then seat yourself. The menu was on plain black and white paper, and laminated. The interesting thing was that all the c’s on the menu were changed to k’s. Club became Klub and catfish became katfish. They also had lunch on the menu. The owner, Marcus, talked to us while we were in line and said “no one comes to the Breakfast Klub for the first time and not order the grits and katfish.” That worked for me, so that’s exactly what I ordered.
A green, contoured leather sofa sat off to the side of the entrance door, and has since my last visit been moved to a raised platform near the rear of the restaurant for the sake of expansion. Plywood stained to a smooth cherry finish serves as tables with plain wooden chairs for seating now takes its place near the entrance as well as the seating throughout the restaurant. The cherry plywood is also found on the counter, the self-service bar in the main dining area, where guests serve up their own supply of condiments and table settings. Right at eye level were various newspaper reviews and clippings featuring the Breakfast Klub and its proprietor, who was also making his way from table to table chatting with his guests as if we were all visitors in his home. The entrance way, is tinted a muted yellow and the color scheme drastically contrasts to a loud sort of mauve color in the main dining area. The rooms are topped with black ceiling fans on a black ceiling. The floor, a simple tarnished aged concrete with cracks running through it made unrecognizable patterns like a jigsaw puzzle.
The décor was totally afro-centric. All of the artwork on the walls was extremely cultural. The farthest wall of the restaurant where the green contoured sofa rested there featured electric and colorful black art by Nathaniel Donnett. A statement by the artist describing the scene followed each piece. If you follow the art the length of the wall you will run right into an unkempt office. I found the office to be a strange, but comfortable site, just sitting there with disheveled papers atop the desk, computer and all in a visible corner of the restaurant. It reminded me of home, complete with an office that doubled as a breakfast nook.
We chose a table in the middle of the room. The smell of the food was intoxicating. I impatiently waited while the servers brought out the food to the other tables. I eyed all the entrees rushing out of the kitchen; chicken and waffles, huge stacks of pancakes the size of dinner plates. I kept saying, “I should’ve gotten the chicken or steak, maybe an omelet” everything I saw looked delicious. I changed my mind about my selection every time someone walked past me. I’ve never been very good at making decisions, so of course I was battling myself over calling the waiter over make another selection. This place smelled like grandma’s house on Sunday morning. I watched as the waitress carefully placed the steaming hot, delectable food in front of me. I was thrilled about my choice; my food could’ve been featured on the cover of a magazine. Katfish cooked to a golden perfection, the smell alone brings knots and pangs of hunger to my growling stomach. I nibbled on a corner of fish, while they brought everyone else’s food to the table. The seasoning eased my aching palate for just a moment. Scrambled eggs with a heaping sprinkle of cheese, grits so buttery my mouth began to water. I could barely stand to say grace, I closed my eyes for a quick thanks to the Man, while the sound of the other patrons’ forks hitting their plates drove me insane. I’ve never in my life had Katfish that tasted so good, my Grandmother would be jealous and I’m ashamed for saying it.
While I ate, I checked out the atmosphere at this cozy little restaurant. The staff made me feel like part of the family. Somebody was always walking around, making sure we had everything we needed. Many of the other guests were lounging long after their tables were cleared of food. Everybody was in this spot: dashikis, the new retro Afros, backpacks, singles, couples, suits and jeans. Eclectic backgrounds of people were hanging out in the Breakfast Klub, all were tingling his or her palate to a fine dining experience as though they were at home.
I needed to clean up after I finished eating. I stopped to glance over a marquee of scheduled upcoming cultural events from last year. Comedy shows, plays, concerts, all of which had passed. The marquee was well overdue for an update. A messy array of business cards supporting mostly other small businesses from real estate to hair salon services sat on a small shelf. The door to the restroom put you inside a little corridor area. I was a little taken aback by the sight of all the graffiti sprawled across the walls, high and low. At first, I thought it could use a good paint job, but then I studied the writing further to find it was all praises and congratulations from friends, family, and guests. There were two doors for women and men. Inside the women’s restroom was more graffiti. I read some of the captions, people said things like “congratulations Marcus!” or “my color is showing, I need to lie down and go to sleep” or “this place is the bomb”. The entire restroom area turned into sort of a brag wall dedicated to the good time and good eats at the Breakfast Klub. With nothing to write with, I was unable to contribute my two cents. “Hey Marcus, thanks for the hospitality and wonderful food. I’ll be back!” For my family, the Breakfast Klub has definitely become a thing to do.