Can a city have too many breakfast-and-lunch-only coffee shops?
Not if they’re spread throughout the city, spaced out so to speak. And though Renae’s Cafe is hard to find, this new restaurant is good enough to have a long run. Opened last September, the cafe is owned and operated by Renae Spainhoward, a former employee of Tina Marie’s on Chester Avenue. The menu has so much versatility (one of the sides is a chicken-fried steak for $7.99), the quality of the food coming out of the kitchen is solid in a home-cooked way and the staff consists of hard-working hustlers who are still coffee shop friendly. It’s got a lot going for it.
Let’s get the hard part out of the way. Where is it? Drive north on Coffee from Rosedale, go past the probably still busy Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers and turn right on Meany. There, in the middle of what looks like an industrial park, is the small diner, with its black script letter above the door and windows distinctively setting it apart. Look for the sign that reads “Northwest Town Center” near the street as a guide.
Inside there’s nothing industrial about the place. It’s pretty cute and homey, with a laminate wood floor for easy cleanup, a small counter, booths and tables scattered throughout and the window to the kitchen to the right as you walk in. It can get busy. People already know about the place. When we visited for breakfast, we got the last open booth. Lunch is a more accommodating choice with fewer customers competing for seats.
Our first visit was for breakfast and the first thing we noticed about the menu is how many different breakfast items they offer, from low-calorie and light-eater options to “bigger breakfasts.” Based on the size of the portions of what we ordered off the regular menu, unless you’re planning to spend the day clearing the back 40 I can’t imagine you need the calories from the bigger breakfasts.
My companion ordered the tri-tip and eggs ($11.99) while I built my own bigger breakfast by getting the Bako omelet ($10.99) and a half-order of French toast ($6.99). Did I mention that I was in fact getting ready to clear out the back 40?
Everything was great, not in some startling innovative way but with fresh ingredients combined in a tasty mix. My companion got scrambled eggs with four medallions of tri-tip that had been grilled to heat them up, adding a bit of extra searing, yet somehow the beef stayed juicy. There was a portion of crispy hash browns that could feed three small children. Those were almost as good as the exceptional version served at Milt’s.
The French toast was made with Texas toast — Renae’s is a Texas toast kind of place — and the four pieces were very crispy and had the perfect balance of egg and cinnamon. The Bako omelet is good enough to carry our city’s name: bacon, onion, sour cream, guacamole, cheese and tomato. The home fries are an absolute must order, small crunchy bits of potato with green peppers and red onion, a nice mix of textures, the starchy insides still sweet and soft. (We did notice on their Facebook page they also occasionally offer a special with a plate of tater tots dressed with bacon, eggs and other typical breakfast items. That I would order too.)
When we went back I ordered a burger, which a reader told me was a must order. I selected the bacon avocado Swiss burger ($10.59) and my companion opted for the Meany chicken sandwich ($10.99). The only thing "mean" about that sandwich is the person who doesn’t share it. Served on grilled Texas sourdough toast, it's a grilled chicken breast topped with bacon, Swiss cheese and avocado. Hard to eat, my companion noted, because it was so full of ingredients. Get out the knife and fork and surrender. Love the way this kitchen has a proper affection for avocado, slicing it and fanning it out on the top of omelets and sandwiches.
Why was the burger likely to inspire recommendations? The thick patty was juicy and cooked medium, not overcooked. My burger had a decent bun and pretty much the same ingredients as my companion’s sandwich. The bacon here is thick, smoky and extra crisp. Another reason to get excited. The fries served with it were crinkle-cut fried extra crispy and I appreciated that after too many episodes of undercooked fries lately.
Service was solid from a team that seems to appreciate each other. Expect the owner to be keeping a close eye on things. She was ever present on our visits.
Renae’s Cafe can be recommended for a fine dining experience.
Pete Tittl’s Dining Out column appears here on Sundays. Email him at email@example.com.