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morning excursions

Taking your children to breakfast

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Breakfast, on the other hand, is the original short-order meal, complete with coffee to get parents going in the morning. Eggs can be fried or scrambled in just minutes. Pancake batter can be poured on a griddle, then the cakes flipped and turned out on a plate in the same amount of time it takes to add cream and sugar to your coffee. It's the perfect meal to eat out with your child.

Sarah even has her own breakfast rituals. She can plan all during the week for her daddy to take her for a bagel. My husband usually negotiates with her to go out one morning. And don't bother ordering one of those plain bagels with boring white cream cheese for her. She wants an asiago cheese or sesame bagel, topped with sundried tomato or vegetable cream cheese. Add in some fresh-cut fruit and juice or milk, and it's a nicely balanced meal.

Sarah and I usually go out for breakfast every few weeks. Ask Sarah where she wants to go and her usual response is Jimmy's, tucked in a West End strip mall and featuring a cast of regulars. The waitresses always greet my daughter with a smile, and they pretty much know our favorite dishes to order. The best deal is the All-American Breakfast, a steal at $3 on weekdays: two eggs; bacon, sausage or ham; grits or hash browns; and toast, biscuit or bagel. Even if the two of us share an order, we often leave a bit on the plate. A kid's breakfast — with almost as much food, particularly if you order the malt-tinged pancakes — costs only $1.95.

Even though Jimmy's remains the family favorite, we keep looking for other options. My husband grew up in New Jersey, where family-run diners stand on nearly every corner. Breakfast there is usually served all day, round-the-clock, and the selection of just omelets or pancakes can fill up a single page in a 20-page menu book.

Here in Virginia, our choices are more limited. Family-dining restaurants — places like Shoney's, Denny's and Friendly's — provide a functional meal, but it's still formula dining. Bagel joints, pasty shops and coffeehouses fill targeted niches, rather than offering a traditional breakfast. Friends recommend different local spots, such as Westbury Pharmacy and Karen's Diner, that provide a neighborhood feel and flavor similar to Jimmy's. Then there are places like Baker's Crust, which seem to elevate breakfast into the brunch category every day — sometimes a little fancier than you want to experience with a 3-year-old at 8 a.m.

So our quest continues, but for now, you'll keep seeing us on our regular breakfast visits to Jimmy's. We're getting to be part of the regular scene there, and we enjoy the fresh-cooked and homemade tastes. My daughter enjoys ordering her own meal, and as for me, I get to sip a cup of coffee without having to clean a sinkful of breakfast dishes afterward. FS



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