Through all the fads, eggs and pancakes remain the definitive American breakfast dish
As with everything in this fast-paced world, the average American breakfast has evolved over time. One hundred and ten years ago, that kale-and-almond-butter smoothie you’re clutching in your Soul Cycle-sweaty claw would be replaced with a filigreed silver table fork, perhaps spearing a wiggly lump of jellied veal. Or, 42 years ago, you might have been choking down something called Crab Imperial Chesapeake in between slurps of Tab. Or, 31 years ago, you could have been double-dipping between bowls of Rainbow Brite and Mr. T novelty cereals. (You 80s kids sure knew how to start the day.)
Changes in the dishes gracing American breakfast tables over the years can be traced to a number of influences: the socio-economic and political landscape (like food rationing during the World Wars), breakthroughs in technology (welcome to the 1930s, refrigerators!), and the advent and evolution of pop culture (hello, 1950s “teenagers”!). But some trends proved lasting—even during the Great Depression, families still managed to fry up a plate of bacon, slap up some pancakes and brew a pot of coffee. You would be hard pressed to think of a more enduring, beloved American meal than this.
On the hunt for the perfect eggs and bacon breakfast without traveling stateside, we found ourselves at the BoatHouse Restaurant (40 Lily Road, APSC, 36 Thao Dien, D2) in Thao Dien, watching the Saigon River slide by on a glorious Sunday morning. Settled into our outdoor table, we perused their all-day breakfast menu and decided on the American breakfast (VND165,000) and blueberry pancakes (VND195,000). The American breakfast came with eggs (cooked to order), a hash brown and choice of ham, crispy bacon or pork sausages. Our sunny side up eggs arrived freshly cooked and soft in the middle while the hash brown was crisp and golden, but the bacon was the real star of the dish. The restaurant procures it from a small local producer, and it was smoky crunchy perfection.
Any proper American breakfast would not be complete without a cup of joe, and the BoatHouse offers a full selection of espresso drinks. Both the long black (VND55,000) and flat white (VND60,000) were excellent, with a smooth nutty flavor. The latter had that velvety texture prized by all baristas worth their beans.
Another essential component of an all-American morning feast is stacks of big, fluffy pancakes. Pancakes were a staple food for homesteaders and gold rushers as the US expanded to the West. In Alaska, those who went in search of gold became known as “Sourdoughs” because of their endless consumption of sourdough bread and pancakes. But what sets the modern American pancake apart from the rest is its fluffiness, achieved with leaveners like baking powder, which was first introduced in the 1800s.
The BoatHouse’s blueberry pancake platter, with plenty of butter and syrup on the side, was amazing. Each bite of fluffy pancake had a pop of juicy blueberry. And the truism, “Everything is bigger in America,” applied equally to our breakfast. Our flapjacks came with bacon, ham, or sausage to help soak up more delicious syrup.
We couldn’t leave without trying the BoatHouse’s famed extra large TET Bloody Mary (VND440,000). The drink, really a meal and drink combo, arrives in a glass so large that you need two hands to hold it. And somehow miraculously balanced on the glass are several garnish skewers of fried pickles, onion rings, pickled pepperoncini, cherry tomato, cheese, the aforementioned local bacon, house-made buffalo chicken wings and two cheeseburger sliders. Hallelujah!
Whether you’re recovering from last night, or just want to start the day off right, the BoatHouse’s river front location can’t be beat. Sitting on the terrace or inside the palm-thatched dining room, you can breathe fresh air and admire the greenery on the opposite shore.
IMAGES BY NGOC TRAN
TEXT BY MARTIN ZORRILLA AND SONIA GREGOR