Over Easy, Scottsdale, Ariz.
Good breakfast places can seem to be a dime a dozen, but in reality, they’re really not that easy to find. That’s because while lunch, dinner and dessert can go off in almost infinite directions and work out perfectly, breakfast has more of a narrow scope. The concept of eating breakfast for lunch or dinner is a common one, but the reverse is almost never true, and most places won’t even serve lunch items before a certain time of day. As a result, no matter where you go for breakfast, odds are the menu is going to be built around the same core items in one way or another.
That means that in order to be a great breakfast place, you’ve got to be really good at what you do and you’ve got to be at least a little creative, because even the best bacon, eggs and pancakes can get lost in a sea of like meals if there’s no reason for them to stand out. Whether it’s by using fresh high-brow ingredients such as Brie or stuffing flavors into hash browns to make an already good dish better, the great breakfast places all find a way to separate themselves from the standard fare and make themselves a morning destination.
In the Valley of the Sun, the destination is definitely Over Easy, which has possibly the most perfect name for a breakfast place that I’ve ever seen. Since it opened in 2008, Over Easy has become the place to start your day in the East Valley, which includes the affluent Phoenix suburb of Scottsdale as well as Mesa, Gilbert and college town Tempe, and that’s mainly because when it opened, it had credibility before it had served a single customer.
That’s because in Phoenix, and especially in the East Valley, the name of chef Aaron May is about as good as it gets on the culinary scene. May has been the brains behind several top restaurants in Scottsdale and Phoenix, and with Over Easy, he simply wanted to try his hand at putting his creativity into the most important meal of the day and see what he could come up with to serve the Valley. Of course, given a background that includes a tapas bar and a burger that was named Arizona’s best before the restaurant’s landlord forced May out to convert the building into housing, expectations of what May could come up with were pretty high, to say the least.
As it turns out, the expectations were well-warranted, because it didn’t take long for May to prove the pundits right. Despite only being open for seven years, Over Easy has already earned national acclaim for some of May’s creations, including landing Food Network’s spot as the best breakfast in the state of Arizona. With those kind of credentials to its name, it didn’t take Amy and I long to decide that a stop here was a necessity when we headed out to the Grand Canyon State.
Figuring out what to get here, however, can be quite the challenge, because May has come up with a menu that features the perfect mix of creativity and quality. First, there’s the sweet stuff. How waffles, pancakes and french toast made it into the breakfast family is a mystery nobody will likely ever solve, but as long as they’re part of the menu, it’s important that they’re done well. In addition to the classics, Over Easy includes a strawberries and cream waffle (seems that it could be called a Wimbledon Waffle), blueberry pancakes with both powdered sugar and maple syrup and pancakes with candy mixed into the batter. The lineup also includes banana french toast with brioche as the bread, something Amy decided she had to try.
Truthfully, this is a pretty awesome combination. For starters, using brioche as the bread ensures that you’re already working with a sweet foundation even before you get to any of the toppings. When it comes to the toppings, Over Easy doesn’t skimp at all, going heavy on the syrup, bananas, nuts and sugar, creating an incredible taste that’s full of sweet flavor. The large amount of syrup and the egg-based brioche makes sure that every bite is soft and has the gooey and slick texture that a good French toast should have. What’s more, the bananas are caramelized and the pecans appear coated in powdered sugar, which only adds to the flavor. That’s how you take an ordinary dish and make it something special.
As good as the French toast is, however, you can find good French toast in a lot of places. Over Easy certainly succeeds in putting their own touch on a classic dish and making it memorable, but for something really different that you can’t find anywhere, the only direction to go in is that of the waffle dog.
What is a waffle dog? Basically, Over Easy has taken the corn dog and turned it into a breakfast food. Given that a corn dog is basically a hot dog wrapped in sweet cornbread batter, this isn’t as big of a stretch as you would think, but it certainly is unique and delicious. Instead of a hot dog, Over Easy uses a link of breakfast sausage, then dips it in waffle batter and fries it, finally topping it with powdered sugar and providing you with syrup to use as you see fit.
The taste is simply amazing. The idea of sweet and savory at the same time isn’t a new one, but when most people think of savory and sweet, sausage is not the first thing that comes to mind. However, given that other pork products have worked well with sweet elements (maple bacon bar, Monte Cristo), it stands to reason that sausage does too, and that’s exactly what happens. The tastes work with and play off each other, creating a perfect bite from start to finish that might seem weird, but is absolutely wonderful. What’s more, Over Easy allows you to order the waffle dogs as your meal or as a complement to your main meal by ordering just one waffle dog instead of the three that come with a full order.
As tempting as it might be to order three waffle dogs, going with one on the side is definitely the way to go, because that allows you the chance to experience one of Over Easy’s great entrees. After all, this place is called Over Easy for a reason, and that means that coming here and not ordering some kind of egg dish would be a major mistake. The best one just might be the restaurant’s namesake, the Over Easy. When a dish is named after a restaurant, that means one of two things: it’s either really bland, or it’s really awesome.
The Over Easy definitely falls in the latter category, mainly because of how fresh everything is in this dish. They start with the brioche that’s used in the French toast as a base, then add plenty of sauteed spinach and its natural juices to it. Once that’s done, the dish continues with plenty of bacon and scallions, providing texture, flavor and that little bite that a good dish usually has. The entire thing is topped by two fried eggs, of course coming over easy.
Man, was this amazing. The spinach is really the star of this dish, as it’s sauteed to perfection and works so fantastically with the flowing yolk and the toasted brioche. You’ve got all the bacon you could possibly want and plenty of scallions, so the ideal flavor of this dish is going to be present from first bite to last. This is how breakfast can be done when it’s done right, and there’s a reason this was the dish named Arizona’s best breakfast. If you like spinach and breakfast, you will love the Over Easy.
And if you love potatoes, as Amy does, then you’ll want to go for the Wolfpack, which takes breakfast as we know it and brings it to the next level. Much like the French toast, the Wolfpack isn’t the kind of dish that wows you with the fact that you haven’t seen it before. Instead, it wows you by being better than the familiar dishes you’ve had before. The Wolfpack has all of its components join together to create a great taste, and it does that in between two layers of hash browns. In between the hash browns, you’ve got bacon, you’ve got cheese and you’ve got eggs the way you want them. At least, you do somewhere under that pile of hash browns, which are awesome in their own right. It’s all cooked perfectly, and the flavors work together so beautifully.
Given their ability to make flavors work well with the special dishes, it’s not a surprise that they can also make the mundane ones outstanding. Amy’s mother and grandmother each chose to go for a less adventurous but still excellent choice in the two-egg breakfast, which features much of the same things as the Wolfpack, just in a more traditional form. It’s still an excellent flavor, and it’s still totally worth trying.
Really, there isn’t anything bad on this menu, and that’s something that really makes for a great experience to start the day. When it comes down to it, being a great breakfast place comes down to two things, quality and creativity. If you’ve got both, you can take something everyone is familiar with and create one heck of an experience. That’s what makes Over Easy such a gem in the Valley and a required stop in the Grand Canyon State.
Time to go: Breakfast, obviously. Over Easy’s focus is only on breakfast, and as such, they close their doors at 1 p.m. most days, staying open until 2 p.m. at some locations.
Wait during my visit: None. Scottsdale is a bit out of the way from parts of the rest of the Valley, so the wait isn’t bad.
Location: There are four locations in the area, we visited the location at 9375 East Bell Road in Scottsdale, Ariz, next door to a hockey practice facility operated by the Arizona Coyotes. Phoenix, Gilbert and Mesa also have locations.
Cost: Reasonable. Entrees average about $9 here, so it’s not bad at all for the quality. High-quality, mid-range budget.
Parking: Quite a bit. Being next to the Coyotes’ facility will do that.
Seating arrangement: Mostly tables and chairs or bar seating.
Website: Over Easy
Specialty items: Waffle Dogs, the Over Easy