The first step of my quest to find The Best Breakfast / Brunch started with a Sunday mid-morning trip to one of Manchester’s newest American diner-style food joints – Alabama’s All American Eatery, just off the top of Piccadilly Gardens on Newton Street.
“Eatery” really is the word for this place. If it sold a classic Full English soaked in grease (the right way!), it would be a cafe. Using the word “restaurant” feels like it does a disservice to the atmosphere and vibe of the place that doesn’t suit or deserve such formality.
Eating breakfast or brunch at the weekend with company should be done in a place where the food is merely a plus point to good conversation. It should be about hanging out with friends first and then eating. It’s about an experience.
We rolled up at around 10.40 and this small place was full. The staff estimated a 40 minute wait and took my phone number, ringing me back at 10.55 for a table available at 11. Being honest, if I hadn’t have had to queue and wait at that time, I would have been disappointed. Alabama’s opened in March 2016 and it’s nice to know it’s built such a following.
Things did start to get quieter after we arrived, so if timing isn’t too much of an issue, maybe get there for the gap inbetween the early morning breakfast crowd and those turning up for lunch.
The menu offers exactly what you would hope for. Lunch is catered for with a range of dishes (two of which are vegan) and a large selection of sandwiches with typically American fillings. There are also salads if that sort of thing tickles your fancy. But that’s not what I’m looking for on my journey. I’m there for breakfast food, with one exception which will become apparent.
Choice is excellent. The breakfast menu is headed by the signature Big Steak but offers a vegetarian and more classic cooked meat based option. I’ll be honest here. I’m always disappointed when a dish like this doesn’t come as standard with a tomato based option – either baked beans or grilled tomatoes. Beans are an optional extra and come in a well sized portion. If you’re feeling hungry you can double up on most of the components for £2.50 each.
The classic breakfast is generously portioned and I’m always impressed when an American style food place in the UK asks you how you want your eggs and gives you a bread choice.
Alongside the meaty breakfasts are various omelettes and muffins and, most importantly for me, the “Sweet Stacks”. You have the option of 3 or 5 buttermilk pancakes, vanilla waffles or French toast. Toppings are wild berries, banoffee, chocolate and peanut butter and bacon and maple syrup. I was recommended the latter on pancakes, and was told that while people do order a 5 stack, very few finish them. Three was definitely enough.
My breakfast “exception” that I mentioned earlier is a milkshake. One simply can not attend an American eatery without a milkshake accompanying food. This is breakfast, though, so a coffee was also ordered.
The pancakes were thick, sweet and fluffy. The bacon was crisp. My only real complaint would be that I could have done with more syrup. It was poured over the top of the stack that meant it was lacking at the bottom. A small jug on the side would have been perfect for a top-up. As it was, the stunning salted caramel milkshake made up for it!
Prices are absolutely what you’d expect so, depending on how big you go on drinks, you’ll be looking at around £10-15 per person for what is good food that would tee you up nicely for a late Sunday Roast elsewhere!
However, what I liked most about Alabama’s was not the food. It was the touches. Whether it be the zebra print wallpaper on the way to the bathrooms or the 6000 one cent coins hand set in resin on the floor of the toilet cubicles. Or whether it be the fact that your bill comes in a classic, well-thumbed book.
Or whether it be the staff who are not just good at their jobs (not rushing you but not leaving you too long) but actually make you feel that they want you to be there. I started this review by saying that places such as Alabama’s should be primarily about enjoying hanging out with friends, and this is what the staff and the place provided.
This is why I wanted to begin my documented Best Breakfast / Brunch Expedition with Alabama’s. Everything about Alabama’s is at should be. That sounds like I’m not being overly complimentary, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Every detail of Alabama’s is what you’d expect – no more, no less. For me, that makes it greater than the sum of its parts.