MANCHESTER — The executive editor at Vermont News & Media issued a challenge: Find top spots for breakfast — for $20 per person or less in the Northshire. After discussion, some delicious breakfasts, and one false start — beware past visits and current Yelpers — our intrepid team has these recommendations:
The Little Rooster Cafe (near town center)
4764 Main St., Manchester Center, VT 05255
7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. (closed Wednesdays)
The cafe’s webpage highlights its European roots, but the cafe strikes me as a good ole’, down-home breakfast place. Yes, it has French toast, Belgian waffles and frittata, but it has American staples, such as flapjacks and avocado toast (no oatmeal or biscuits, though). My companion Madeleine opts for Flipp’s Famous Flapjacks with bananas — fluffy and moist — and a cup of standard fare coffee. My Ultimate Homemade Corned Beef Hash might not have hit that joshingly high Ultimate level, but it’s Pretty Darn Good: crunchy, flavored with peppers and rosemary. When I ask the server if Madeleine’s mild syrup is maple syrup, she pointedly asks if I want to talk to the guy who tapped it. (I don’t.) I don’t talk to the person who squeezed the orange juice either, but it is fresh and good.
You can also get alcohol for $10 (Bloody Mary, screwdriver or mimosa), but this would blow through our budget, so we pass.
2279 Depot St, Manchester Center, VT 05255
7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. (closed Wednesdays)
Bob’s Diner features traditional diner service at tables (indoor or out), with Wi-Fi. It’s on the road out of town, headed toward skiing or hiking. My teenage daughter opts for a strawberry milkshake — a breakfast move nonteenagers might not see coming, but a good move in a diner: It is rich, creamy and more strawberry-ish than her selection the previous week. Trying to get all her caloric intake packed into one meal, she orders pancakes, which are light and fluffy, accompanied by eggs and spicy sausage, and we spring for the $2 maple syrup. (She remains inert the rest of the day.) My Eggs Norway would have been even better had the eggs been runny to complement the Atlantic salmon. (The salmon needs something to swim in, passable Hollandaise sauce not withstanding.) Is the OJ fresh squeezed? The server says, “I squeezed the box,” so no — too much to ask of a diner, maybe. Overall, the breakfast is tasty and filling.
Bonnet and Main (near town center)
15 Bonnet St. (at Main!), Manchester Center, VT 05255
9 a.m. to 4 p.m. everyday
Counter service; food delivered to table
Note the opening time of 9 a.m. Connected to Northshire Books (open at 10), Bonnet and Main has a bookstore-lounge feel about it (no Wi-Fi, though). You grab a menu, order at the counter, pick up coffee drinks and wait for food to be delivered to your table. The portions are perfect for me, not a heavy breakfast-eater. Madeleine’s huevos rancheros features fresh peppers and tomatoes, and her maple latte is yummy. My BLT breakfast sandwich has a welcome dash of chipotle mayo, the cappuccino frothy and smooth.
For the money, breakfast at Bonnet and Main is the best deal: excellent, tasty breakfast sandwiches. Beware, though: these sandwiches squirt at will, threaten clothes and laugh at your dignity. If it’s a business breakfast, stick with coffee or ask for a safe food option (chocolate cake?).
If you’re not starving and can wait until 9, your best bet is Bonnet and Main Cafe. It has tasty food options and the best coffee, and it’s the cheapest of the three. If you’re looking for a hearty breakfast with table service, go to Bob’s Diner or The Little Rooster Cafe (unless it’s Wednesday). Bob’s has Wi-Fi; The Little Rooster is closer to the center of town and has fresh squeezed orange juice. If your breakfast must have alcohol — and some of us have been there — you must go to The Little Rooster.
One false start, surprisingly: Up for Breakfast. On a Friday morning, there was a line. The place was cozy, and the staff friendly. But the Eggs Benedict featured a slab of bland ham and a pasty sauce, and the Red Flannel Hash was only so-so. So — no-no.