Wolfgang's


(Grand Rapids, MI) — Many years ago—nearly a decade, if you can believe it—we had breakfast at Wolfgang’s in East Grand Rapids. The experience was claustrophobic, with many people waiting to snag a seat in the tight space, and our meal was less than memorable. Recently, we were challenged by Marty Primeau of Grand Rapids Magazine to give the cinnamon roll a try, so we bundled up for breakfast on a typical early Michigan March Sunday morning...

He Fed:

Across the street from Wolfgang’s, I can see people already inside, enjoying their meals. More vehicles pull up and disgorge passengers. There is a system: drop off your party so they can get a table, then go park the car. Unfortunately there are too many cars behind us, so we can’t do that but I do find a decent parking space in the lot behind the restaurant. It is about 8:30a on Sunday and that seems to be the sweet spot for getting a table; we are shown to a high-top immediately and not twenty minutes later, there is a crowd lined up in the entry.

Our server is a bright and cheery lady who is very prompt. The coffee is solid and delicious, freshly made with no “sitting on the burner” aftertaste. I treat myself to creamer. The waitress refills our mugs frequently. Steam collects on the windows, a reminder how cold it is outside and how warm inside. It feels comfortable and homey, though this section of the restaurant is laid out in a utilitarian fashion, with some nice artwork on the walls but otherwise unremarkable.

Of course we begin with the grilled pecan cinnamon roll. It arrives fast and hot, sliced into four pieces with grill marks on the edges. The frosting is buttery sweet, though I would have liked a whisper of citrus to lift the heaviness of it. Sprinkled with powdered sugar, the roll is just a tad dry. You really need to fork up some frosting to get a juicy mouthful. It’s very nice, overall, though not the best in Grand Rapids. (That distinction still belongs to San Chez, in my book. Sorry, Marty!)

The menu is packed with unusual, intriguing breakfast fare and I have a tough time figuring out what I want. I usually go for benedicts, but there’s a Hawaiian omelet that sounds crazy good. In the end, however, my fondness for spicy food wins out and I get the Jamaican Jerk Frittata. It’s a gargantuan plate of lightly fluffed egg, gooey cheddar, red onion, mushrooms, tomatoes, chicken, broccoli, and a perfect “infinity” of pineapple rings on top. The sauce is spicy and kind of like sweet-n-sour. I’m digging the hot/sweet dynamic. Seasoning is perfect. On the side, I ask for rye toast and receive marbled rye that has been pre-buttered. There is no butter on the table, but that’s fine by me. I dip the toast wedge into my breakfast sauce, mopping it up. Oh, man is that good!

My only complaint would be a bit of dried foodstuff on a side plate that didn’t come through the dishwasher completely clean. Not a big deal, by any stretch and hardly worth mentioning. Otherwise, I thoroughly enjoyed this breakfast, the great service, and the wondrous menu options. Now I see why Wolfgang’s is a tradition in East!
She Fed:

I’m not a fan of eating weekend breakfasts out, especially not in winter. My routine on Sundays is get up early for a hot date with the newspaper and espresso machine. That’s one pitfall of breakfast out—bad coffee. So many places serve such mediocre coffee. I just don’t see the point in getting up early to have unremarkable coffee and food that could be made better at home. (Even with a slight wine "headache", I can manage to have a pretty mean Sunday brunch on the table by 11a.)

So it is with trepidation that I agree to venture out, into the ice and cold for an early Sunday breakfast. Every time a gust of wind lashes my face I am reminded I could be curled up in bed with a cat, a latte, and my Kindle. Blurgh! We get to Wolfgang’s to find the parking lot a sheet of ice, but the sidewalks shoveled and salted. Even better, the infamous line around the block has not formed at this early hour. We are seated immediately.

Our waitress is endearing. We’ve got steaming cups of darn good coffee in front of us in seconds. We start with the grilled cinnamon pecan roll. It arrives almost immediately, a beast of a pastry. Served in fourths, the roll is soft with that heady smell of yeast that just screams homemade. It looks like the roll was baked just slightly shy of done, rewarmed to order on the grill, then drizzled with buttery icing and pecan bits. It’s a wonderfully delicious way to stave of hunger pangs as we peruse Wolfgang’s extensive menu.

I choose the Westsider, featuring three eggs, a grilled Polish sausage, and cheddar hash browns with grilled onions. (I believe they call this "scattered, smothered, and covered" in the South?) We’re just finishing the cinnamon roll when the entrees arrive. My hash browns are crisp and crunchy, just the way I like 'em. The melted cheddar and grilled onions are good, but a little overkill for me. I peel back the cheese and dig out the crispy potatoes. The eggs are perfectly poached, though I should have asked for just one instead of the three that come with the dish. The Polish sausage has been sliced lengthwise and grilled. The skin is crisp and the sausage has a nice zingy spice to it. My English muffin bread toast is slightly charred from the grill and pre-buttered; it’s nothing short of amazing.

The portions are Wolfgang’s are monstrous and insanely affordable. My Westsider cost $7.25 and could have fed two people easily. The service was top-notch and the menu is incredibly varied. I might have to re-think this "no breakfast out" policy of mine, if only to go back to try the Hawaiian omelette. (Come on, it’s got pineapple, ham and two cheeses!)

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