Saturday, April 27, 2013

Breakfast at Philippes


"The Italians had the Renaissance," says one of three old men clustered round the end of the long table in the front room at Philippes, 7:00 in the morning, talking about the world.

"Every modern invention we use now came from the Italians and the Jews." He's a handsome ruin, he is; straight nose, brown skin and noble brow, like an Aztec painted in a mural.

Across the table, a big Chinese man, tonsured like a fat old friar plants one massive hand on the red formica and shifts his bulk on the wooden stool. He'd come lurching down the stairs from Ord Street, cutting the breakfast line, but the counter lady in her prim blue uniform had waved him off. "No. Go on over there," she said, "you can't cut here."  Somehow, though, he snagged a cup of coffee; it steams before him.

Eggs over easy, corned beef hash and warm biscuits fill the cold void that comes with a too-early morning. Hot bitter coffee helps, too.

Later today the lines of customers will thread between the tables, shuffling their feet in the sawdust bellying up to the glass counters placing orders for french dip sandwiches, beers and plates of pickled beets, but now in the morning it's more relaxed, quiet, and you can park on the street outside.

Glasses tinkle in a plastic tub on the dish cart pushed by a woman wearing a folded paper hat, clearing trays and discarded plates, wiping spilled sugar. Two kids with knit caps elbow down over their chili bowls. A thin man, white-hair and glasses, winces like a cracked walnut over his Chinese language newspaper.

Over my shoulder, the old mens' voices contour up like cars cresting a hill then rolling down. "There's none of us getting the Nobel prize this year." 


Pumpkin Delight (Kimberly) said...

Love Philippes! Never been for breakfast, so I've only seen the crowded version. Looks yummy.

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

That overheard conversation is awesome.

Eggs over easy, corned beef hash and warm biscuits fill the cold void that comes with a too-early morning

As someone who works a lot of graveyard shifts, all I have to say is "Sob."

smalltownme said...

Can you get a french dip for breakfast? Mmmmmmm.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

We went there a couple of times when we were at water polo tournaments--I loved it and I am a HUGE french dip fan--I guess I should have thought about that when I decided to go full vegetarian.