Lunch for Breakfast

When it comes to breakfast trends, pancakes are passé and omelets are out. An increasing number of diners want to eat lunchtime favorites as their first meal of the day.

L’asso in New York City rolled out a brunch pizza when it opened its first location in Little Italy in 2004. The Ouvo Pie comes topped with Mozzarella, crispy pancetta, an egg, and scallions.

“Cracking an egg over a pizza is a classic Neapolitan technique,” says co-owner Greg Barris. “That’s where we got the original idea.”

The concept turned out to be so popular that the restaurant added two further breakfast-centric pizzas to the menu when it opened a second location in the city’s East Village earlier this year.

Now diners can opt for the bagel-inspired Smoked Salmon, which sports lox alongside capers, red onion, cream cheese, Mozzarella, and dill, or the Mégane, which features Brussels sprouts, bacon, Mozzarella, and rosemary.

All three pies are big hits with customers. Barris estimates that 75 percent of brunch diners end up opting for one or more of the breakfast pizzas. “It’s an easy order,” he says. “Most people are coming in with a large group, so they’ll just get one of each with a few breakfast items.”

They’re not the only ones turning an Italian classic into a breakfast staple. Just a few blocks away at Pulino’s, diners have the choice between six different morning pizzas at breakfast during the week and during brunch service on the weekends.

As well as savory options that focus on classic breakfast flavor combinations, there are also sweeter choices, including the Pere e Mele (honey roasted pears, ricotta, almonds) and the Nutella (extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, Nutella).

The humble hamburger has also been getting a morning makeover. Burger, Tap & Shake in Washington, D.C., rolled out a breakfast burger menu earlier this year.

There are only four options, including the straightforward Five Buck Chuck with pork sausage, egg, and American cheese, and the Southwestern-styled El Camino with chorizo sausage, black beans, egg, pepper jack cheese, and spicy sauce called XXX.

“We didn’t want to overwhelm diners with too many choices,” says co-owner Gus DiMillo. “And we wanted to keep it simple so we can efficiently produce them quickly.”

The breakfast burgers are available on weekdays only from 7:30 to 11 a.m. This capitalizes on the considerable foot traffic that comes by the restaurant, since it is next to a busy metro stop, a hospital, and a university.

“It’s not just about increasing customer base,” says DiMillo. “It’s about satisfying customers who might normally only come in for lunch.”

Right now, breakfast sales only account for a little less than 10 percent of the eatery’s total receipts, but DiMillo hopes that number inches up a little further as the concept gains traction with diners. He may not have to wait long.

According to Technomic’s 2011 Burger Consumer Trend Report, seven percent of diners indicated that they had eaten at least one burger for breakfast in the prior 90 days. In the same report, 23 percent of male diners indicated that they would like restaurants to sell burgers at breakfast.

So forget about frittatas and French toast—diners are looking to try P.M. favorites with an A.M. twist.  

By Nevin Martell





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