You can tell the first-timers by the look of amazement bordering on terror that crosses their faces when a waitress—who’s tried to warn them, but would they listen?—sets down their orders: two cakes. Two kamikaze pancakes represent a death wish, while a single signifies nirvana on a plate (actually, overflowing it and threatening to take over the table).
Egg and I
2828 Lyndale Avenue South
Critter of habit that I am, it’s the only thing I’ve ever ordered at the Egg and I. No matter how light the eggs, how crisp the bacon and healthy the fruit, forget it. Otherwise fellow diners would bear witness to a big, blubbery case of buyer’s remorse.
The kamikazes come in four options. I’ve stuck with multigrain, which masquerades as healthy. But you can also order them crafted from buckwheat, sourdough starter, or the original buttermilk version Into this heavenly batter goes a plentiful mix of walnuts, blueberries and banana slices—See? I told you it was healthy—which, after tanning on the griddle for a scant minute or two, traces a path to your table. Here, no one’s watching, so you’re free to paint it with plenty of the syrup waiting there—or, for a few pennies more, baptize with the pure maple version made by proprietor Eric Grutbeck’s brother in Wisconsin.
The kamikaze’s suicidal descriptor is a mystery to Eric, who was a kid in junior high when his mom, who worked as a waitress at the Black Forest, decided to open her own breakfast spot—more civilized hours, right?—back in 1980. She invited the Black’s cook to join her kitchen, and he’s the one who invented this carb-lovers masterpiece.
As a single mother, she was well aware that launching her own enterprise represented a huge, huge risk. Counselors at the St. Thomas School of Business advised her that “maybe” it might work, so she put her house up as security for a bank loan. Three Lyndale locations ( small, larger, largest) later—and, since 1989, a branch in St. Paul’s Midway District—business is still bouncing to the tune of more than one thousand breakfasts a week.
How many kamikazes? Well, just cast your eyes around the Formica-topped tables, crowded with a demographic that defies a pigeonhole: students, business folks, retirees, actors, musicians, construction workers … and cops, like the ones that educated the nouveau owner on her first morning: “Cathy, it’s not safe to make change from an ice cream bucket on the counter.”
The original buttermilk version that’s starred on the menu ever since opening day back in 1980, a million cooks later hasn’t changed one iota. Why mess with perfection? In fact, it’s likely that there’s a city ordinance forbidding tampering with its tried-and-true recipe. Many of the same waitresses have been around for 25 years, and they’d rat on you if you dared. So would the cadre of regular customers who claim similar seniority. As the fading billboard in the parking lot proclaims, “You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll come often.” Sure, the menu gallivants all over breakfast staples, from eggs, over-easy, scrambled or as building blocks for many an omelette, plus bacon and muffins and more. But you’ll order the kamikaze if you’re smart. The menu offers two as an option. But trust me on this: One’s enough to get you into heaven.