PerKup raises breakfast culture9/3/2014
With fusion cooks spanning the globe to create such things as taco pizza, barbecue egg rolls and chocolate fried chicken (a significant prize winner at this year’s Iowa State Fair), I have often wondered why so few restaurants have tried to pair espresso bars with traditional American breakfasts. Why does haute coffee culture so often come with only a choice of pastries or muffins? Why does a traditional breakfast of bacon, eggs, hash browns and toast only come with a choice between regular or decaf? One interesting answer to such questions is that Americans are intimidated by European food culture. If the French and Italians only take bread with their espresso, then it must be thus, always. If we dared to have a latte with waffles, could we ever show our face again on the left bank of the Seine?
The mother and daughter team of Delores Clouse and Jennifer Deo have rubbished such thinking at their PerKup Café, a perky little store where bright colors play on the walls while diners wait patiently for slow-cooked breakfasts. The ambiance is family friendly, so much so that the menu refers to lemonade and Arnold Palmer’s (lemonade and iced tea) as “adult beverages.”
PerKup’s coffee bar advertises Intelligentsia coffee. That is an ever so de rigeur company with politically correct coffee shops in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York. They deal in the most exclusive of coffee beans, mostly single-sourced from romantic-sounding places like Flecha Rojas in Costa Rica, Los Immortales in El Salvador, Kurimi in Ethiopia, and Kunga Maaitu in Kenya. This is how they describe their Homecho Waeno organic espresso: “Hoemcho Waeno translates as ‘peaceful area’ in the Sidama language, and this single origin espresso is representative of that. This is a coffee that is graceful and exceptionally floral; we taste lilac, hibiscus and watermelon followed by Honeycrisp apple.” The company also notes that this coffee should be prepared at 199.5 degrees F for 27 seconds.
Among other blasphemies, I have paired such delicate coffee drinks with Mama Mia omelets stuffed with mushrooms, spinach, four different cheeses, bacon and “revenge” sauce as well as their “breakfast platter” of three eggs, hash browns, four sausages, toast and homemade jam. PerKup stands out from other breakfast joints by the diligence with which things are prepared. Their freshly-shredded hashed brown potatoes require 20 minutes of patience from diners. Their scratch-made biscuits and sausage gravy, available only on weekends, are as good as they get. The aforementioned homemade jellies and jams rotate, but slaves to a particular flavor can always choose packets of inferior brand name jams. Even the Sriracha style sauce and Caesar salad dressings here are made from scratch.
Another breakfast favorite is French toast, made with apple-cinnamon bread from the nearby Big Sky Bakery. It’s so good that pancakes aren’t even offered. I only regret that some high quality maple syrup was not offered at an additional charge. “The Drake” allows my favorite 12-year-old to enjoy French toast smothered in whipped cream and chocolate chips.
Lunch stars third-pound burgers with excellent sears, plus apple walnut, chef and cobb salads all with scratch-made dressings. Homemade soups rotate, usually two a day. Daily specials feature such things as Philly cheese steaks (Tuesdays) and patty melts (Thursdays). The two-item dessert menu consists of superb strawberry shortcake and bread pudding. Salads, sauces and desserts are sold in bulk with 48 hours notice.
Side Dishes: Splash’s Rex Schulze won the Iowa Restaurant Association’s 2014 statewide top mixologist competition. That returned the championship to Des Moines after a rare one-year absence in Council Bluffs. Amanda Schreiber of Creme finished runner-up. Schulze’s piece de resistance was his take on The Last Word, with vodka replacing gin with green Chartreuse, maraschino liqueur, lime juice ice cubes and real Dalmatian maraschinos. He said it would go on the menu at Splash at a new top price point of $20. CV
Jim Duncan is a freelance writer who has penned nine different columns for Cityview and its sister publications beginning in 1987.PerKup Cafe 7003 Douglas Ave., 270-1466 Tues. – Sat.: 7 a.m. – 2 p.m. Sun.: 8 a.m. – 2 p.m.