A bar for breakfast

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Many from Ferndale and beyond have fond memories of Delia’s, a homey place that served breakfast near Club Bart 1973-2001. Delia’s had a terrific everybody-knows-your-name atmosphere, even if they didn’t know you.

Luckily for us, Nicole Cass, who used to cook at Delia’s, is attempting to bring back some of the Delia’s morning magic a few doors down. Cass brought many of the former Delia’s staff with her to run the breakfast end of things at Club Bart.

So, especially for weekend breakfast, the place is jumping. It’s a young crowd, with a few families mixed in, attracted by the very reasonable prices — most omelets under $5, eggs Benedict for $5.50. With many good breakfast places charging in the $7-$8 range, to find breakfast prices for breakfast comes as a relief.

Add in the liquor license — you can order a mimosa or a Bloody Mary or, what the hell a boilermaker, with your over-easies — and there are more reasons to eat at Club Bart than reasons to stay home. (You’ll have to wait till noon on Sunday to imbibe, but Monday-Friday breakfast ’n’ booze starts at 7; it starts at 8 on Saturday.)

Club Bart is eclectically decorated with photos and prints: the Mackenzie High class picture from 1965, a big photo of Dexter Gordon, a painting of a kid boxer from long ago. My daughter said the carpet was the ugliest she’d ever seen (she’s too young to enter a casino), but I liked the retro leaf-swirls.

Oddly, at dinnertime I found the lack of a nonsmoking section a problem, even though few tables were filled. At breakfast, with the place jam-packed, smoke was not evident.

Jam-packing means a line, but we waited only 30 minutes on a Sunday at 11 a.m. The line forms alongside the kitchen, not out in the cold; there are chairs, and free coffee is served while you wait.

The normal breakfast menu is extensive enough — 13 omelets and 10 pancakes/waffles — but then Cass adds a goodly list of specials on the weekend. Cass says she likes to “take everyday foods and turn them into breakfast.” To that end she’ll serve a Black Forest chocolate waffle with brandied cherries and whipped cream; a mac-and-cheese omelet; or breakfast lasagna, carried over from Delia’s: noodles layered with potatoes, eggs, sausage gravy and mozzarella.

These fancy items tend to be popular on weekends, while during the week folks are thinking a little healthier: oatmeal pancakes, a 10-grain hot cereal and Carrie’s Loaded Omelet, which mixes the hash browns right in with the eggs. (OK, Carrie’s is not healthy, but it is popular.)

Two weekend specials I tried were very different but both heavenly: eggs Florentine and cinnamon roll French toast. The cinnamon rolls are made in-house, and they are even more wonderful with that eggy soakedness/lightness caused by their transformation into French toast. The Florentine sports a terrific lemony hollandaise and poached eggs done just right.

My waffle, unfortunately, was a disappointment — light and airy, but with no flavor. If you think of waffles as just purveyors of syrup to the mouth, you might not care, but I think they should stand alone. Nonetheless, Cass says her spiced-apple waffles are a big draw.

You can also go to Club Bart for lunch or dinner, of course, or you might go for comedy (Thursday), independent films (Monday), jazz, indie-rock, psycho-pop or surf. Even Exchange, a Motown-jazz-R&B revue, plays each weekend.

Lunch and dinner, however, are more run-of-the-mill: salads, sandwiches, steaks and ribs. Portions are large. I found the ribs pretty decent — you get five in a “rib snack” — although the sweet barbecue sauce was too much like ketchup for me. The 12-oz. Jack Daniel’s New York strip did have that good liquor-ish taste and was reasonably tender. French onion soup was sweet and dark and would have been a decent American version if the Swiss cheese had had any flavor. Caesar salad was very light on dressing, and the whitefish performed the remarkable feat of being 100 percent taste-free — perhaps the worst fish I’ve ever eaten in a restaurant. You might do better on burgers, a Reuben or a tuna melt on grilled pumpernickel.

It’s probably better than most food you’ll find in a bar, right? But the breakfasts are the reason to come home to Delia’s — er, Club Bart.

Jane Slaughter dines for Metro Times. E-mail letters@metrotimes.com.

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