Mission Possible Café; Photography by Angelina Aragon

Breaking Bad

Written by M.V. Moorhead Category: Food Reviews Issue: February 2018
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Get egg on your face with these recently opened Valley brunch joints.

Downtown
Mission Possible Café
There are early birds, and there are those of us who couldn’t care less about “getting the worm.” Ergo, brunch – that midmorning hybrid suited for late breakfasters and early lunchers alike. If your tastes skew south of the border, then Mission Possible, a project of Phoenix Rescue Mission located near the state Capitol, will fit the bill. The star of the menu is the huevos rancheros ($7.95): two eggs any style, over a fiery salsa with cheese, beans and avocado relish. The chilaquiles ($7.95), featuring tortilla strips and eggs in ranchero sauce, is equally well-executed, if a bit spicier than I prefer so early in the day. The breakfast sandwich ($6.95) and the breakfast burrito ($6.95) are less potent, but no less tasty. From the lunch-ier side of the menu, the zesty yet hearty green chile pork soup ($7.95) or the pork tacos ($4.50; less on Taco Tuesdays) are both worthwhile, but the stars are Oaxaca crisps ($4.95), exquisitely crispy, crumbly tortillas topped with cheese, avocado and pico de gallo. All profits benefit vocational training for the homeless or those in recovery, so in addition to eating good, you get to do good, too.
Must try: The café’s gift cookies ($2) are a sweet and cooling treat with an iced latte after all that heat.
1516 W. Van Buren St., Phoenix, 602-688-6240, missionpossiblecafe.com

North Valley
ProteinHouse
“EAT CLEAN. TRAIN MEAN. GET LEAN.” So reads the wall at this mini-chain (seven locations nationwide) aimed at the fitness-conscious. The interior does indeed look a bit like an upscale health club, and there are plenty of guys in sleeveless, sweat-wicking T-shirts among the clientele. With my 50-something restaurant-reviewer’s physique, I felt a bit sheepish here, but the food was worth the visit. The “loaded” pancakes ($10.99) are made with whey protein and piled with any combination of strawberries, blueberries, bananas or coconut. I opted for all of them, slathered with maple syrup and agave honey, and they left me loaded. From the “lean bowls” lunch menu, The General ($12.99) agreeably combines bright crunchy asparagus, peppers, broccoli and tomatoes with ground bison and avocado. Bison – leaner than ground beef – is also the star of the PH burger ($12.49), topped with cheddar and egg whites and supported with lettuce and tomato. You can make the bun gluten-free for an extra buck.
Must try: The salmon burger ($13.99) – pairing the heart-healthy fish with avocado and a fine agave mustard – would be delicious even if it weren’t virtuous.
7077 E. Mayo Blvd., Phoenix, 480-502-5183, proteinhouse.com

South Valley
Early Baker
As the name suggests, the focus at this serene, spacious Ahwatukee spot is on the tempting array of cookies and other baked sweeties in the cases up front. But the menu also offers both breakfast and lunch options, great if you’re a late-riser in need of something heartier than a scone at 1 p.m. I chartered the baked egg boat ($9.95), with two sunny-side-up eggs aboard a cheese-bread vessel with a texture akin to a soft pretzel. By the time it’s been bathed in runny egg yolks, it’s highly unseaworthy and delectable. But lunch was even better: I was blown away by the rice pilaf pocket ($11.95), a delicate puff pastry enclosing basmati rice, ground beef and peas, with Greek salad and tzatziki sauce on the side. Filling as the entrées are, don’t skip the thick, savory lentil soup ($6) if they have it.
Must try: The Syrian-born Greek-Lebanese proprietor told me that the hummus ($6) was made from a 100-year-old recipe, and “we don’t Americanize it.” I was assured that if it wasn’t the best hummus I ever had, it was on the house. After one bite of the coarsely mashed stuff, it was clear that I couldn’t honestly collect.
4025 E. Chandler Blvd., Phoenix, 480-316-6334, earlybaker.com

West Valley
P.A.K. Crêpes & Coffee
The case can probably be made that crêpes are the perfect brunch food – they seem equally comfortable as a breakfast or lunch dish – or dinner, for that matter. Named for the initials of the owners’ three daughters, this modest, friendly crêperie does both of its specialties proud. From the sweet crêpe side of the menu, the Nutella ($5.25) with strawberries and bananas was a perfect, open-faced version of this classic, while the strawberries and bananas with cajeta ($5.25) was even better – crisp, sweet fruit, indulgently dressed in goat’s milk caramel. From the savory side, the ham and cheese with spinach ($5.25) was pleasing, though the chipotle sauce was distractingly strong for me. My favorite was the pizza ($5.25), complete with pepperoni, cheese and tomato sauce. The hearty taste of a good pie joined surprisingly well to the lightness of a fine crêpe.
Must try: One of the few offerings that’s neither crêpe nor coffee, the tosti ceviche ($10) heaps bits of shrimp, cucumber and avocado over nachos in a spicy, high-energy marinade.
7540 W. Indian School Rd., Phoenix, 623-849-8285

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