Breakfast is the ideal meal to eat out with children. It's inexpensive, everyone can find something they like on the menu, and even mediocre breakfast foods can be improved with ketchup or maple syrup. The only potential downside to Saturday breakfast at a restaurant is waiting for a table with two hungry 9-year-olds.
That's why we set out early for the Big Picture Theater and Café in Waitsfield.
"Do they have eggs Benedict?" my daughter asked me in the car. For her, eggs Benedict is the ne plus ultra of breakfast foods.
"No," I told her, "but they do have doughnuts. And if you go for dinner, you can see a movie while you eat."
"Then why aren't we going for dinner?"
"Because then you can't get the doughnuts."
When we arrived at 8:45 a.m., the restaurant was almost empty, so we chose a booth with a picture-window view of the mountains. By the time we left, the place was packed. I can only imagine what it's like during ski season; Sugarbush and Mad River Glen are just up the road.
As soon as we sat down, we ordered a trio of the fresh, glazed doughnuts made daily by the Very Small Donut Company.
"It's like a breakfast appetizer," my son observed.
I only got one bite before the plate was empty. Licking sugar glaze off my fingers, I wished we had ordered six instead of three.
I took in the décor as I sipped my good, strong cup of coffee. I am a sucker for cute old-timey cafés like the Big Picture, places with mismatched chairs, tin signs advertising coffee for 5 cents, pies in the bakery case and heavy creamware coffee mugs.
While the coffee, doughnuts and décor were everything I could ask for, our meals were less impressive. The pancakes and French toast were average, but improved by a liberal dosing of Vermont maple syrup. My daughter, denied her eggs Benedict, was further disappointed when her over-easy eggs arrived over hard. Our server took them back and, within a few minutes, a very apologetic short-order cook brought her new ones.
My son loved every bite of his breakfast. He inhaled his scrambled eggs, breakfast potatoes and bacon, and then moved on to my pancakes. He must have run out of room at some point, because I later found a napkin-wrapped sausage link stuffed in my purse. The Big Picture was worth the early wake-up, but next time I think we'll go for dinner and a movie. Let's hope the popcorn is as good as the doughnuts.