Breakfast Brackets Round 2: Bryant’s vs. the Arcade

Posted by Holly Whitfield | January 28th 2010 3078 0

Welcome to round two of the Breakfast Brackets, where the herd is thinned and all bets are off. Today, two Memphis breakfast stalwarts, Bryant’s and the Arcade  stand before me. Only one will continue on in the hopes of becoming Memphis’s best breakfast spot.

Bryant’s

3965 Summer Ave
Memphis, TN 38122

Order: Potato pancake, one plain biscuit, orange juice, berry cobbler

Berry Cobbler from Bryants, Memphis, Tenn.Biscuit and Potato Pancake from Bryants, Memphis, Tenn.

Biscuit and Potato Pancake from Bryant's, Memphis, Tenn.

Orange Juice: When you order OJ at Bryant’s, the guy behind the counter will quickly produce a styrofoam to-go cup full of juice from somewhere under the counter. The juice was thin, a little pulpy and very refreshing. (7 points)
Food: When I’m able to order whatever I want, the combinations tend to get a little weird. Today, I had a potato pancake, a biscuit and a tubful of berry cobbler that was sitting on the counter.
I know, I’ve had the potato pancake and biscuit already. I just had to know if the potato pancake that I’ve been dreaming about since the last time I ate at Bryant’s was real. Good news – it was. When I pressed down to cut it with the edge of my fork, it oozed grease.
The biscuit was fluffy, sourdoughy, and crunchy in all the right places.
And then there was the cobbler. It’s served as a big purple mess in a plastic tub. Upon closer inspection, the mess is made of blackberries, juice and crust. It’s fruity and doughy, but not overly sweet. They’ll warm it up for you if you ask nicely. (9 points)

Bathroom: While I was waiting for my breakfasting partner in crime, Stacey G., I checked out the bathroom. It’s small, tidy and very utilitarian (much like the rest of the restaurant).  (7 points)
Service: When Stacey and I were talking about the service at Bryant’s, she mentioned being kind of stressed out about breakfast before she even got to the restaurant. As I mentioned, Bryant’s is cash only and they’re somehow able to move huge crowds of people through the line so quickly that you barely feel like you’ve waited.
The downside to this is that you have to know what you want when you get to the counter. There’s no dilly dallying or gawking at the menu. Get in line, place your order, then go sit down, because chances are, your food will beat you to the table. The people working the counter are very friendly, but Stacey is right – you have to do some prep work before you eat there. (5.5 points)

Atmosphere: The vibe at Bryant’s is kind of hectic, at least until you sit down. There are a lot of people rushing around, getting to-go orders and trying not to get in the way of the fleet of waitresses or other customers. The space has personality, but it’s entirely efficient. (6 points)

Price: My meal was about $6.50, which is not bad for how full I was when I left. I’ve got my leftover cobbler sitting on my desk, mocking me. (9 points)

Total: 43.5 points

Bryant's Bar-B-Q & Breakfast on Urbanspoon

And the challenger:

Arcade Restaruant

540 S Main St
Memphis, TN 38103

Order: Sweet potato pancakes, fresh fruit, OJ, and coffee

Sweet Potato Pancakes and Fruit from the Arcade, Memphis, Tenn.

Sweet Potato Pancakes and Fruit from the Arcade, Memphis, Tenn.

Orange Juice: The Arcade’s OJ is served in a cool hourglass-shaped glass. It’s tart, thick and had a fine layer of pulp across the top. It was tasty, but a little too thick for my liking. (6.5 points)

Food: I ordered from the a la carte section of the menu, where you can get four pancakes for $4.  The sweet potato pancakes were just like regular pancakes in look and texture, but they tasted richer and sweeter. I think there was cinnamon involved. They’re billed as a “Food Network favorite”, which I tend to take as a challenge. In this case, the pancakes live up to the hype.

I was a little disappointed in the fresh fruit. The orange and melon slices were delicious, but there were a ton of pear slices that weren’t quite ready for prime time. (7 points)

Bathroom: Much like the rest of the Arcade, the restroom is charmingly retro. The ladies  had huge mirrors to make it feel a lot bigger than it is. It was super clean, but dimly lit. (6 points)

Service: It took a few minutes after I sat down for the server to make her way over to the table, but after that, the service was consistent, friendly, and just attentive enough. I did have to wait a few minutes to pay the check at the counter, but the waitress that rang me up noticed that I was there and said it would be just a second. I always appreciate that. (7 points)

Atmosphere: I was at the Arcade on a Monday morning, and it seemed really quiet. A radio played softly in the background and the few groups that were there were chatting quietly. There were quite a few people having breakfast with their newspapers. The whole experience was unassumingly old school.

I should have sat at one of the booths that have been memorialized in the names of famous Memphians. Rufus Thomas and Elvis have booths bearing their names, and there’s a table in the back that’s labeled as “Punk Smith’s Table since 1955.” I’m not sure who Punk Smith is or what he did to deserve it, but I like him. (8 points)

Price: My meal was $11. That seemed a little high, but still reasonable. (6 points).

Total Score: 40.5 points

Arcade on Urbanspoon

It was close, but it looks like Bryant’s is moving on to the Final Four. It will face off against the winner of the Barksdale / Blue Plate match up.


Author: Holly Whitfield

I write about what’s going on with Memphis music, food, arts, events, sports, people, and culture. Memphians love Elvis and barbeque with a passion that must be seen to be believed, but there is so much more to this place.

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Comments

  1. leak says:

    bryant’s wins hands down, but you have to love the history of the arcade.. brother junipers owns all though, homemade chorizo egg and cheese biscuits!

  2. Marc Diaz says:

    I’m glad Bryant’s won in that challenge – IMHO – that was a no brainer. I agree the ordering at Bryant’s can be intimidating for newbies – but the people are very nice and are always helpful (very “un-soup naziish”). Of course, it’s your contest, but I think a breakfast match should be judged on the staples plus anything special they might have – your sampling at Bryant’s would hardly help most people who enjoy breakfast evaluate Bryant’s. My experience at Arcade is always hit and miss, and usually miss. Food doesn’t come hot (maybe because the place is freezing in the winter), if you come early for breakfast, you’re bound to get some leftovers, and the value (ratio of quality and portion size to price) is poor.

    I agree with “leak” above – the Brother Juniper’s is probably the best Memphis has to offer for breakfast, but Bryant’s is the best just regular ole breakfast (and they open early).

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