Food & Drink

It's Time for Oatmeal

No, Wait! You, Too, Can Appreciate One of the World's Most Underappreciated Breakfast Foods

It's Time for Oatmeal

Kelly O

HATERS MAY HATE But you have to admit, Macrina’s oatmeal looks great.

I cannot trust a person who does not like oatmeal. Rolled oats, steel cut, instant—whichever you prefer is fine, but to say you don't like it at all? Nonsense. If you do not like oatmeal, that is your own fault; do not blame the oatmeal. Oatmeal is offering itself to you, to do with it whatever you please. If you deny a warm bowl of oatmeal its proper fate, I can't help but wonder: What other greatness is this oatmeal-hating person willing to neglect out of sheer cluelessness?

I suppose an aversion to oatmeal is understandable. No thanks to association (and often conflation) with its sad brethren mush, porridge, gruel, etc., oatmeal has a bad reputation for being the lowest common denominator of breakfast food, often passed over for stacks of fluffy, syrup-covered pancakes or buttery eggs Benedict. Compared to those favorites, oatmeal isn't a treat, it's a chore that's eaten only out of necessity by those looking to lower their cholesterol or regulate their digestive system. Gross.

But do not think oatmeal is only for hippies and health nuts. Sure, its whole grains will fill your belly and clear your arteries (and, ahem, other things), but should you require your breakfast to be served with a side of guilt, oatmeal can do that, too! For example: Molly Moon's on Queen Anne serves a hot bowl of oatmeal topped with a scoop of ice cream every Saturday between 8 am and 1 pm all winter.

If you already love oatmeal, by all means, continue on your righteous path. But those of you who aren't yet convinced, hear me out. The next time you're out for breakfast (especially this time of year when, chances are, you're cold and broke), I implore you to give oatmeal another try. Here are a few good places to start.

Citizen (706 Taylor Ave N, 284-1015)

Looking over the breakfast menu at Citizen in east Lower Queen Anne, you'll be tempted to get the egg sandwich served on a savory biscuit, the French toast bread pudding, or the huevos rancheros. But you do not want those things! They're all very good, yes—Citizen's biscuits (made in-house) would be included in my last meal were I ever put on death row. But you must try their oatmeal ($5.95) at least once.

A generous but not overwhelming portion is served in a big bowl, with three little tin cups of walnuts, dried cranberries, and brown sugar on the side. There's also a little mug of cream. Citizen uses rolled oats (as opposed to steel cut—more on that later), making for a wonderfully creamy texture, not at all gummy. You know how sometimes oatmeal can get sticky and dense? This is not that kind of oatmeal. It's almost like velvet, with the oats, berries, and nuts bringing welcome contrasting textures.

Oddfellows Cafe (1525 10th Ave, 325-0807)

Yes, it's $7 for a bowl of oatmeal with seasonal fruit ($6 without, but you definitely want the fruit), but know this: Oddfellows on Capitol Hill serves up a huge bowl of oatmeal. More than one person really needs, in fact, but you will want to finish it all. Oddfellows uses steel cut oats, which means the grains are cut up into chunky little pieces instead of rolled flat, making for a chewy, tapioca-like texture.

It's served with brown sugar, butter (yes!), and the fruit, which can mean anything from banana slices and golden raisins (what they're offering now, in the dead of winter) to juicy chunks of strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries (making it a pleasure to eat oatmeal on a summer morning). To someone who is just starting or easing back into their oatmeal appreciation, this bowl can look giant and intimidating. Oatmeal aficionados, however, will be in heaven.

Cherry Street Coffee House (five Seattle locations,

Cherry Street's oatmeal ($3.95) is instant—they add water when you order it, then pop it in the microwave for a couple minutes. Not fancy. But don't let that steer you away. It may not be destination oatmeal, but it's quick and pretty tasty. You can order it with or without raisins and/or brown sugar (you'll want both), but what they don't tell you is that the oatmeal itself, whether you like it or not, is laced with tiny pieces of almonds. Terrific, for me—the almonds make for a nice nutty flavor, reminiscent of a bowl of warm granola, and add a little bit of crunch to the instant oats (which often lose any bite—instant oatmeal is essentially cooked twice). But the almond addition is not so terrific for my nut-allergic friend, who nearly made good use of her new EpiPen.

Like all instant oatmeal, Cherry Street's has a slight chalkiness that coats the tongue and only gets more pronounced as the oats continue to thicken in the hot water. But if you make good use of the free cream at the coffee condiment bar, then you can avoid a globular mess.

It's Tuesday-morning-before-work oatmeal, not lazy-Sunday-warm-your-belly-for-hours oatmeal. But it's still good.

Macrina (Belltown, Sodo, and Queen Anne;

Is there nothing that Macrina can't do? The bakery may be better known for its breads, pastries, and cakes, but its oatmeal is the best on this list. And one of the cheapest, too, at $4.45 a bowl. This is the kind of oatmeal that turns nonbelievers into believers. The generous serving of rolled oats—slightly thicker than Citizen's, still not at all gummy—comes topped with brown sugar, a handful of sliced almonds, and a mound of homemade fruit compote, which is a dense jamlike combination of blackberries and blueberries. It turns the oatmeal a gorgeous deep burgundy color. It also comes with a tiny white mug of freshly steamed milk. Cute!

When I was most recently there, at a quarter to nine on a disgustingly wet and windy weekday morning, at least five more oatmeals were ordered as I sat and ate my breakfast. "With all the fixins?" they'd ask. Oh yes. With all the fixings, all the time.

As you've no doubt noticed, most of Seattle's oatmeal offerings include variations on the classic fruit/nut/brown-sugar combo. At home, though, you can get really crazy. Experiment with rolled oats versus steel cut (skip the instant—if you're in a pinch, you can cook rolled oats in about two minutes in the microwave). Try cooking it in milk or cream instead of water. Pour on some maple syrup. Caramelize some apples or pears (or both!) and dump that on top. Go for something tropical! Pineapple or mango with a sprinkle of toasted coconut and dark brown sugar would be delicious.

Fill your bowl with spices—cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, allspice—and melt it all together with salted butter and just a touch of granulated sugar. Dust some instant espresso powder over chocolate chips and swirl it all together. Or melt peanut butter or Nutella into it. One morning last spring, I stirred two Cadbury Mini Eggs into a bowl of oatmeal and I think I saw God.

Oatmeal has no limits. If you and oatmeal are not getting along, it's you who's holding up what could be a glorious relationship. Make right your wrong. recommended

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Comments (37) RSS

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Renée Krulich (Nay) 1
I was really hoping this was going to be about The Oatmeal. My oatmeal expectations have been forever altered.
Posted by Renée Krulich (Nay) on February 8, 2012 at 10:30 AM · Report this
Megan already wrote about The Oatmeal over here (scroll down to the end)! So, now, just the oatmeal.
Posted by Bethany Jean Clement on February 8, 2012 at 1:01 PM · Report this
Add a little cinammon to the oatmeal while it cooks then stir in some vanilla when you take it off the stove. Let cool for at least a half an hour and serve with thick cream and maple syrup.
Posted by James Early on February 8, 2012 at 4:51 PM · Report this
GooseberryPie 4
Oatmeal is the morning's blank canvas. You can add whatever pigments you want to it! Brown sugar, blueberries, red currants, blackberries, golden raisins. Mix them all up with some local organic (cow or soy) milk, and you have your own, personalized breakfast. Long live oatmeal!

P.S. Try putting some molasses in your oatmeal. Just a tad! You'll never look at blackstrap the same way again!
Posted by GooseberryPie on February 8, 2012 at 11:48 PM · Report this
Ah -- the food desert that is Seattle. Out here in Madison, WI, we have the incredible treat of baked oatmeal with cranberries and pecans.
Posted by spudbeach on February 9, 2012 at 7:23 AM · Report this
jp 6
Oatmeal can even be delicious when served all savory-like. My favorite way to make it is with butter, salt, pepper, a little cheddar cheese and a sprinkling of capers. Yum!
Posted by jp on February 9, 2012 at 7:56 AM · Report this
Jackson Hathorn 7
Whenever I decide to make oatmeal for breakfast, I end up eating a bowl of maple syrup so I will have to visit these places and see what I'm missing out on.
Posted by Jackson Hathorn on February 9, 2012 at 9:03 AM · Report this
Snowy morning oatmeal nirvana: Snoqualmie Falls Lodge rolled oats, cooked NOT in water but in home-made Darjeeling Chai tea (thanks to Kelly Brainard for the recipe!).
Posted by SteamDawn on February 9, 2012 at 9:09 AM · Report this
Eva Hopkins 9
I cook my steel-cut oats in a half-&-half mix of water & lowfat milk. Slow cook, either stovetop, oven or nuke, & spice it in advance (allspice, pumpkin pie spice, ginger, vanilla extract). I make a whole bunch so then breakfast = goop in bowl, nuke the bowl, top with something else yummy (apples, nuts, maple syrup, bananas - whatever). The making one batch in advance & doling it out for a few days, thing, is what makes it a realistic breakfast on a workday for me.

Happy to see such a healthy grain getting some love.

Posted by Eva Hopkins on February 9, 2012 at 9:39 AM · Report this
Whole rye, oat, wheat, or triticale kernels, simmer for 30 minutes, strain, add honey and cinnamon. Mmm, yummy. And you have to really overcook it before the texture gets mushy.
Posted by ctmcmull on February 9, 2012 at 10:22 AM · Report this
Allyn 11
When at work I eat instant in a mug. But on the weekends, I love to put cinnamon and chopped apples and craisins in water to boil, add rolled oats, remove from heat and let them steep for a while. They end up soft and whole with a great gravy.
Posted by Allyn on February 9, 2012 at 11:34 AM · Report this
keshmeshi 12
I love good oatmeal. The problem is, good oatmeal is often as bad for you as pancakes drenched in syrup. Healthy oatmeal is disgusting by comparison, but I'll eat it anyway because it's faster than making an omelet.
Posted by keshmeshi on February 9, 2012 at 12:06 PM · Report this
Here's a good oatmeal trick (taught to me by a former girlfriend)...stir in some chunky peanut butter. Adds some flavor, and you get some protein as well.
Posted by daveinseattle on February 9, 2012 at 4:09 PM · Report this
M3 14
I used to make my own "better than instant" oatmeal packets in half-size ziplock bags. 1/2 cup rolled oats, 1 tablespoon brown sugar (or a little less), cinnamon, slivered almonds, raisins. Or whatever variation on spices/nuts/fruit you like. Optional (but HIGHLY recommended): one spoon peanut butter.

Make a whole bunch of bags, then bring them to work. Microwave in a bowl with some water for 2 minutes, stir, eat. A million times better than those crappy instant packets.
Posted by M3 on February 9, 2012 at 5:32 PM · Report this
I was introduced to steel cut oats a year ago. I can't see going back to rolled oats.
Posted by midwaypete on February 9, 2012 at 5:49 PM · Report this
You will get an even better flavor from rolled oats if you toast them lightly in the pan before you add liquid. Cook on low heat just until you can smell their goodness. Yummy.
Posted by SpookyCats on February 9, 2012 at 6:14 PM · Report this
While in the Aran Islands of Ireland, our host served us oatmeal with a side of cream. She asked if we wanted to add some honey from her brother's hive. "Yes, please!" Then she added, "would you like a shot of whiskey too?" Who could turn that down? Your oatmeal will never be the same.
Posted by spammy on February 9, 2012 at 9:01 PM · Report this
I wrote a post about how good savory oatmeal is last year:…

Hope you like it!
Posted by ohthetrees on February 10, 2012 at 1:03 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 19
Oatmeal is good for you.

Medically, that is.
Posted by Will in Seattle on February 10, 2012 at 1:07 PM · Report this
An old roommate introduced me to the magic that is cracked pepper in your oatmeal. Not even a savory bowl, still keeping with the usual brown sugar/raisins/flax seeds/walnuts that I usually go for. Really, it did more to change how I view pepper than I do oatmeal.
Posted by Garth B on February 10, 2012 at 1:15 PM · Report this
Speaking of savory oatmeal.

So we make our dogs food. Which is mostly oatmeal and ground turkey. And. Um. How do I put this. One day I tried baking it. And God damn it smelled pretty good. So I set aside some... added cumin and bacon and parmesan on top. Baked it a little while longer. It tasted really good in a comfort food sort of way.

The dog does continue to eye me suspiciously, however.
Posted by tkc on February 10, 2012 at 1:19 PM · Report this
Fnarf 22
Your statement "the best way to get oatmeal is to just make it yourself is not correct. The best way is to sit in your jammies while Mrs. Fnarf makes it for you.

Most of these additions are kind of gross to me. I like a few raisins, maybe a tiny bit of brown sugar (but never both). But then, I'd rather have Malt-O-Meal in the first place.
Posted by Fnarf on February 10, 2012 at 2:15 PM · Report this
Dougsf 23
Oatmeal is great and all, but this all seems a bit like putting rhinestones on a sweatshirt. Maybe once you're dragging out your grade I saffron and truffle oils, it wasn't really oatmeal that you wanted.

Also, fuck a bunch of walnuts.
Posted by Dougsf on February 10, 2012 at 2:23 PM · Report this
thatsnotright 24
When we went camping my father would fry sausage, chop it up and then make oatmeal in the same (uncleaned) skillet, adding back the sausage. He always made it a little soupy so it was a gruel you could drink from a mug. Add hot sauce and salt to taste. Sauteing finely chopped green onion in the sausage fat before making the oatmeal is a delish variation.
Posted by thatsnotright on February 10, 2012 at 2:34 PM · Report this
A mix of cinnamon, ginger, clove (tiny bit), and cardamom goes in the water as it starts to simmer. After that I do several different mixes: sliced almonds and chopped dried apricots, or golden raisins and apples, or blueberries and walnuts. Heaven in a bowl.
Posted by Sarah in Olympia on February 10, 2012 at 2:46 PM · Report this
Here's my basic steel-cut recipe:
1 cup oats
3 cups water
The night before you boil the water, drop in the oats and let it cook for 1 minute. Then turn off the heat and let it set overnight. In the morning, heat for 10 minutes and add your fixin's.
I prefer brown sugar and cinnamon (sometimes with a hint of nutmeg or allspice), walnuts or pecans, and chopped apple (winter) or whatever yummy fruit I've got in the summer. One thing I figured out is because the rolled oats to water ratio is generally 1:1, the steel cut go a lot further (one batch lasts me three or four days) and apparently the hulls that get rolled off with the rolled oats add more fiber and nutrients. Healthy and yummy! Yay!
Posted by magdaddy on February 10, 2012 at 2:53 PM · Report this
Not quite oatmeal, but I like Bob's Red Mill museli, which is a mix of quick cooking rolled grain (oats, wheat, rye), dried fruit (rasins and dates), walnuts and sunflower seeds.

Take equal parts museli and liquid (the chai idea sounds great), heat in a microwave for two minutes, and let sit for a few minutes more for a nice hot breakfast. Or mix one part museli with two parts yoghurt or apple sauce and leave in the refrigerator overnight.
Posted by TechBear on February 10, 2012 at 2:55 PM · Report this
Megan Seling 28
@22 Why am I not surprised to learn that you're a malt-o-meal kind of guy?
Posted by Megan Seling on February 10, 2012 at 3:43 PM · Report this
When I was a kid, I liked to put semi sweet chocolate chips, brown sugar, butter and milk on my oatmeal, making it kind of like oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. These days I like Bob's Stone ground Scottish Oatmeal, still with butter, brown sugar or maple sugar, and a bit of milk.
Posted by betsio on February 10, 2012 at 3:45 PM · Report this
I like steel cut oatmeal or Bob's Red Mill 7 grain cereal. Totally different flavors, but I tend to pick based on how much time I have to cook it since steel cut oats take a while if you don't pre-soak. Favorite additive for both though right now is Mörk Sirap, a scandinavian beet sugar syrup. Similar to molasses but less....mollassesy?
Posted by lone locust on February 10, 2012 at 3:59 PM · Report this
Fnarf 31
@28, what, a guy has a bowl of cereal and all of a sudden he's a "kind of guy"?

I like Cream of Wheat and even Cream of Rice too. Sob.
Posted by Fnarf on February 10, 2012 at 4:32 PM · Report this
Soak medium cut oats overnight in a half whole milk, half water soak (with a large pinch of salt) before cooking it. It makes the oatmeal tender. Serve with jam and cream.
Posted by zee on February 10, 2012 at 5:24 PM · Report this
Bacon on top of oatmeal. Improves both!
Posted by Noah Greenberg on February 10, 2012 at 6:11 PM · Report this
Free Lunch 34
@3 - Let it cool for half an hour? How much oatmeal are you making? Or is cold what you are going for?
Posted by Free Lunch on February 10, 2012 at 7:46 PM · Report this
First, whenever I cook steel-cut oats, I add some kasha about two-thirds of the way through. It adds an absolutely delicious, nutty flavor.

Also, my new favorite morning oatmeal: frozen berries thrown in when the oatmeal's just about done, then with a good hit of agave nectar when it's off the heat. So incredibly yummy, it's berry pie for breakfast!
Posted by amethystle on February 10, 2012 at 7:58 PM · Report this
i make my oatmeal in my ricecooker. turns out perfectly every time! first, i soak Bob's Red Mill Scottish cut oats in salted water over night (cuts the cooking time dramatically).
the next morning i simply turn the machine on and let it simmer for about five minutes, adding vanilla almond milk as necessary.
once in my bowl i add cinnamon, ground flax seed and raw organic honey to taste (the flax seeds and honey lose all of their nutritional value once cooked so only "warm" them).
YUM and super FAST.
always clump free and easy clean up with the rice cooker!
Posted by tikaspice on February 10, 2012 at 11:24 PM · Report this
I make my steel cut oats in my crock pot- oats, water, milk or apple cider, cinnamon, brown sugar, and a tiny bit of butter. I set it just before bed, and then get to wake up to the delicious buttery cinnamon smell in the morning. Some days, it's the only thing that gets me out of bed in the morning. (And if I need a little more umpf, I add pear butter or apple butter to it when I eat it in the morning). So good!
Posted by Kumquat on February 11, 2012 at 10:43 AM · Report this

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