Cafe Moose Brings Exotic a.m. Delights to Ballard
5242 Leary Ave NW, 784-5568
Mon 6 am–3 pm, Wed–Sat 6 am–9 pm, Sun 7 am–3 pm.
I suffer from what is known in the food-writing biz as ientaculum taedium or "breakfast malaise." It comes from being inundated with breakfast menu after breakfast menu boasting the likes of Denver omelets and various-sized stacks of pancakes. On Capitol Hill alone, there are a dozen places to get eggs Benedict for a morning brunch or breakfast, but nary a one has the huevos to risk offering a decent bagel and lox, let alone anything like blood pudding or huevos motuleños
This is what makes having breakfast at Cafe Moose in Ballard such a shock and such a pleasure. With a menu that contains traditional fare common to Jalisco, Mexico City, and the Yucatán, Cafe Moose makes a person grateful that breakfast doesn't always come with a side of hash browns. Traditional American breakfast is available, if you're so inclined, including various scrambles ($6.75–$8.25), corned beef hash ($8.95), even a fried-egg sandwich ($7.50).
But getting American breakfast at Cafe Moose is like going to a steakhouse for a Cobb salad. The menu is loaded with exotic options, from huevos ahogados ($7.95) and chilaquiles ($7.95) to, lo and behold, my beloved huevos motuleños ($8.95).
Once seated, the food is certainly worth the wait, but getting in can be a bit of a pain. There's no lobby to speak of, so while my partner Tara and I waited for a table, we were lined up against a wall so close to diners at the bar we could've taken swigs of their coffee. Swiping coffee from the customers would not have been such a bad thing, as Cafe Moose serves Malinal Coffee, a nice bean from the Malinal rain forest of Mexico, whose typical coffee robustness is given a nice cinnamon undercurrent by the roasters in Kirkland.
While waiting, we witnessed how much Cafe Moose has become a part of the neighborhood. Certain regulars were greeted with personal shout-outs from the staff, while others were met with preemptive cups of coffee before they could get a word out of their mouths. Observing this camaraderie was enough to distract me from the bright pink walls and décor consisting of Christmas lights.
Once we were seated and our food was delivered, all concern with odd paint jobs faded, as the size of our chosen breakfasts became apparent. Each of us received a dish with layer upon layer of food, each with its own shades of red, white, green, and deep violet. My own position on oversized portions depends upon my desire to eat anything else for the rest of the day. Suffice to say that I had had no further plans for eating on this Sunday.
Tara's choice of the sopes con huevos ($7.95) was a nice combination of corn masa cakes covered with a sweet yet tart salsa verde and a blanket of poached eggs that were daring any health inspector to raise a fuss. My huevos motuleños also hit the spot quite nicely, with the dark richness of the black beans matching nicely with the strips of crispy ham, the slices of sweet and creamy plantains, and bits of peas throughout.
Because the food sadist within me compelled me so, I also had a side order of homemade chorizo ($3.50). It was spicy, but not overly so, with the heat of the chorizo sneaking up on me, raising its capsaicin level bite by bite. If you want a special joy, wiping up the remnants of your breakfast with a piece of sausage delivers a most satisfying conclusion, with each spice of the sausage intermingling with the sweetness of the cilantro or the saltiness of the cotija cheese.
As we left Cafe Moose, I couldn't help but note how simple it all was; yet it was still the best breakfast I have had in some time. All it took was good ingredients, respect for the recipes, regard for the customer, and a little risk.