10 Bucks or Less: Keke's Breakfast Cafe
It shouldn't be too difficult to make a decent breakfast sandwich. Cook the egg to order, keep the bacon crisp and toast the bun or biscuit or bagel properly. Dunzo.
And yet so many in our region are so bad. So when I place my order for a breakfast sandwich at Keke's Breakfast Cafe, my expectations are low. I'm hoping for the best, but steeling myself for the worst.
As I await my fate, my wife, Rachel, and I take advantage of a rare morning to ourselves. Keke's—which boasts 23 locations around Florida, with more in the works—opened along University Parkway last week. It's located right next to the new craft beer and pizza joint, Oak & Stone, in a strip along the western edge of the Home Depot-anchored plaza on the northeast corner of University and Honore.
The design is bright and corporate, First Watch-like, with tan walls holding up big paintings of blueberry-stuffed French toast and a cornucopia of fruits. Smooth jazz mingles with the soft conversation of an after-church Sunday morning. The restaurant is packed, but the ambiance is relaxed and peaceful, aside from the customers who refuse to wait for a table. One woman, informed that a seat will take "a few minutes," storms out with a huff. That's OK—we didn't need her harshing our mellow anyway.
Our food comes out in a jiffy, and my breakfast sandwich ($4.49) looks promising: simple, but with everything in its right place. I salt the egg, douse it with some Cholula and dig in. It tastes as good as it looks. The egg yolk pops when I bite, drenching the bread and pork, and the bacon provides a crunchy counterpoint to all the goo. I'm happy. This thing is a tour de force.
On the side comes a heaping of home fries for an extra $2.50. They're sliced, rather than chunked, with crispy edges and soft onions throughout. The coffee is all right—plenty caffeinated, but basically just basic diner joe. All that makes for a tidy, satisfying breakfast, but I can't not try the restaurant's sweeter options. A slice of soft French toast ($4.49) is just OK, the apple topping punched up with a generous dusting of cinnamon.
Better: Rachel's granola crunch pancake ($8.49), made from dough laced with crunchy granola and then topped with banana slices. The pancake is huge, approximately the size of a garbage can lid. You can manufacture a $9.99 combo out of two pancakes, but I'm not sure you'd be able to finish it.
I may have given the impression that Keke's is strictly a breakfast destination, but in truth, we've barely scratched the surface of the Keke's menu, which runs on with omelets ($7.99-$12.49) and waffles ($5.99-$9.99) and rolls into lunch with panini ($6.49-$10.49), BLTs and clubs ($6.99-$9.99), salads ($5.49-$9.99), burgers ($6.99-$9.49) and wraps ($5.99-$10.99).
Rachel and I are supposed to be heading over to my mom's house to pick up the kids, but we're moving slowly this morning. We were out late last night, celebrating Rachel's 36th with karaoke, rather than doing what we should have been doing: going to bed early and enjoying a full night's sleep. Would I like a coffee refill? Sure would. Would we like to leave soon? Not really. Just give us a few more minutes to recover.
Keke's Breakfast Cafe is located at 5405 University Parkway, Unit 104, University Park, and is open 7 a.m.-2:30 p.m. daily. Call (941) 388-8953 or visit kekes.com for more info.
Follow Cooper Levey-Baker’s never-ending quest for cheap food on Twitter. Email him at [email protected]. Read past 10 Bucks Or Less columns here.