When I was growing up in South Philly, there were basically three options for breakfast: the Oregon, the Penrose, and the Melrose Diners. Just like the debate over who makes the best cheesesteak, everyone has their own opinion about which diner is the best. If you ask me, its the Penrose. Melrose is just gross. The Oregon is just average, but I do have a sentimental attachment to it. It reminds me of Saturdays with my grandparents. We would sometimes go there for breakfast in the morning before heading up to Center City, where my grandmother would drag my brother and I around Strawbridge’s and then take us over to my grandfather’s print shop where we would play with all kinds of paper. I always ordered French toast. My long hair would somehow end up in my plate full of pancake syrup and I would have that cloyingly sweet smell stuck in my nostrils all day. We used to get these big chocolate chip cookies from the bakery case that we’d save for an afternoon snack when we got home.
Breakfast remains my favorite meal of the day, so I’m glad that the choices in my neighborhood have expanded over the years. But, getting up early and out of the house on weekends is so difficult. This past weekend, Chester and I made it a point to get ourselves together so we could go to Sabrina’s Café, near the Italian Market (910 Christian Street). It’s definitely worth waking up early for.
It’s one of the most popular places in South Philly, and usually, there are crowds waiting outside for a table. The restaurant doesn’t take reservations, but they do offer day-of, call ahead seating. But, since it was 4th of July weekend, most people were “down da shore,” we just showed up around 10 a.m., and didn’t have to wait too long to be seated.
Like a lot of South Philly restaurants, it has a very homey feel. It’s tiny, so you get to share personal space with your fellow diners. There are tchotchkes everywhere. The furniture, utensils, plates, etc. are all mismatched. My coffee mug had dancing hippos on it. I thought it was awesome. (If my grandfather were there, he probably would have stolen it for me. I’m pretty sure that every soup spoon that he had at home was stolen on Saturday mornings at the Oregon). And, it’s loud. The portion sizes are ridiculous. It’s kind of like eating over at your grandmother’s house.
Sabrina’s has the best French toast ever. It’s made with thick slices of challah bread, and is so rich that I assume it’s dipped in straight up egg yolk and heavy cream. It’s stuffed with whipped cinnamon cream cheese and bananas.
In addition to their regular menu, they also have a rotating list of specials. That day, they names of the dishes were themed around the movie Grease. Chester had the Summer Lovin’ Special, which was bascially a burrito made out of pancakes. It was stuffed with more things that I can remember, including sausage, eggs, blueberries, and ricotta cheese, flavored with thyme and citrus. Sounds like a crazy combination, but the flavors came together in a way that actually worked.
We ate way too much. Luckily, we went up to Olde City after that and walked around awhile, so that kept the food coma from totally setting in.
If you’ve never been to Sabrina’s, wake up early and go (as a side note, they do serve their breakfast items all day, if you just can’t drag yourself out of bed). They also have a location in the Fairmount section of the city, and soon, there will be one opening in West Philly, right on Drexel’s campus. Of course, DU would get some decent food options, just as I’m leaving!