Remember the old Karol & Bill’s over on 16th Street? For many years, the mom and pop team of Karol and Bill would respectively serve and cook for their patrons, making breakfast and lunch for the neighborhood. Karol and Bill retired several years ago, and it seems the old way of bootstrapping a breakfast joint as a true mom and pop has gone the way of the wind around here. Enter Michael and Patty Sneed, the husband and wife team behind Daybreak, one of the best new restaurants to recently pop up in Gainesville.
Located in the historic Pleasant Street neighborhood and occupying the former Ruby’s Restaurant space at 308 NW 5th Avenue, Patty works the front of the house while Michael is in the kitchen. Together, they’re serving up some damn fine breakfast and lunch using locally sourced ingredients and making everything they can from scratch. It falls into the new generation of mom and pop breakfast joints that retains that old school hospitality, counter service, and a quality cup of coffee while giving more care to sourcing quality ingredients, and expanded items to include vegetarian/gluten-free options. It’s where that hot cup of coffee isn’t cheap watered-down bean water but freshly brewed and locally roasted from Opus Coffee instead, where the pork isn’t frozen cuts of sadness but is Berkshire pork from nearby Osteen Farms, and the produce isn’t wilted clumps of depression but organic and from Ward’s Supermarket. Don’t get me wrong, there’s something to be said about the charm and simplicity of a plate ol’ breakfast plate, but better ingredients make a better product…always.
I can’t say enough about how much they’re nailing this place and doing it mostly on their own. Polka dotted table covers with fresh flowers on the tables and DIY wooden shelving occupy this unassuming storefront that’s a few neighborhood blocks north of University Avenue and west of Main Street. The restaurant is small, so it can be difficult to find seating during peak hours, but the modest dining room and four-seat counter is a prime example of a restaurant who isn’t trying to overdo things and diminish the experience. By doing so, the service is kept fast, friendly, and attentive while the kitchen isn’t bogged down or overwhelmed. Patty in particular is a pro, and it shows in the way she speaks and attends to each table.
The food is a mix of classics and new school with most dishes ranging between $9.95 and $13.95. Everything I’ve had off the menu has been spot on. You’ve got your classic two-egg breakfast, biscuits and gravy, house-made brioche French toast, and varieties of omelets and pancakes. Then they get a little more interesting with Breakfast Fried Rice ($10.95 - peppers, mushrooms, onion, garlic, peas, sesame, soy, maple, egg or tofu scramble, all sautéed with brown rice and with a choice of tempeh, sausage, bacon, or ham), Duck & Goat omelet ($12.95 – house smoked duck, goat cheese, fried onion, toast, and potatoes or grits), and a Dutch Baby ($11.95 – oven baked pancake with lemon, powdered sugar, bananas, berries, and maple). My personal pick is the Daybreak Breakfast Cristo (as pictured top left), two thick slices of housemade brioche French toast holding two eggs, cheddar, bacon (or veggie sausage), maple, and a choice of roasted potatoes or grits. It’s a whole lot of food and is rich, satisfying, locally sourced ingredients executed perfectly. If you’re not a big ol’ fatty like me, I would suggest sharing it with a pal.
The lunch offerings are equally solid, highlighted by the Daybreak Burger ($11) made with two grass-fed beef patties from Greenway Farms in Alachua topped with baby greens, pickles, pickled onions, American cheese, and tomato on a toasted potato roll with a side of roasted potatoes. The Falafel Black Bean Burger ($11) with hummus, tahini, lettuce, tomato, pickles, and pickled red onions is equally flavorful for a healthier option. Other highlights on the menu include a Pimento Cheese & Chicken Sandwich ($11.95 – chicken breast, pimento cheese, bacon, sundried tomato pesto, and ciabatta) as well as a Quinoa Bowl ($15.95 – quinoa, black bean, corn, salsa fresca, goat cheese, sweet potatoes, cilantro with your choice of chicken, mojo pork, duck, shrimp, or tempeh). Salads, tacos, and some other classic sandwich options round out the menu.
Daybreak is what happens when two service industry veterans who have legitimate talent, create simple tasty food with quality ingredients. Since quietly opening their doors in October, their following has grown steadily, and are a strong contender to be my pick for best new restaurant of 2017. If you do make a visit, they’re open 7 AM to 2 PM Tuesdays through Saturdays. Parking is mostly on the street with a small lot across from the restaurant so be warned during peak hours. Now if I could get there for a slice of their Hummingbird cake some time…that would be swell.