Morning in America

April 15, 2016
By:Sarah Baird, Serious Eats

We asked some of our favorite food writers across the country, as well as some members of the Serious Eats staff, to tell us about their favorite go-to breakfasts—those early-morning meals they crave each and every day; the ones they’ll drive across town for; the ones they treat out-of-towners to whenever they come to visit. From build-your-own biscuits in the Big Easy to a great Turkish breakfast in Beantown, here are nine dishes that fill their plates and awaken their palates.

New Orleans: The Build-Your-Own Biscuit at Willa Jean

I believe a good breakfast spot should give you a feeling of complete optimism—a conviction that the next 12 hours of your waking life will contain nothing but happiness. Sure, it’s a tall order, but in New Orleans, Willa Jean does just that, and not only because they serve you a literally tall order—a stack of sticky buns—as soon as you are seated. The passion project of New Orleans pastry queens Kelly Fields and Lisa White, Willa Jean restaurant (named for Fields's grandmother) lets diners glide through that liminal period between “just barely awake" and “fully functioning human" with Southern-inspired poise. The space itself is a light-drenched natural alarm clock, but the food invites you to linger for a spell, hit the snooze button, and take your time: After all, a dish like crawfish gravy with slow-poached eggs cannot be rushed.

More than anything here, though, it’s the permutations of biscuit dishes that I find myself returning to over and over again. To be sure, the biscuit itself is a stand-alone dream: an overstuffed throw pillow of buttery, flaky, perfect puff. But then there’s the “build your own" option, which speaks to my Kentucky-bred, Louisiana-living heart with add-ons like pimento cheese, fried chicken (with Tabasco butter!), and sausage gravy. It’s enough to make a person want to eat an entire mountain of biscuits just to try them all. With a Willa Jean biscuit in my mouth, it’s hard to believe whatever the day has in store could be anything but glorious.