Tillie's oversized menu is headlined with a warning: "NOTICE: Our three-egg whopper breakfasts have been known to have brought husky Canadian lumberjacks to their knees!!! Maybe you're next."
If breakfast is the meal you like best, put this big, friendly street-corner eatery in your little black book. They serve three squares a day at Tillie's, but when it comes to the morning meal, this joint is indeed the home of the whoppers. Triple-egg bonanzas are carried to tables and to places at the counter in huge copper skillets that hold not only the eggs, but also spiced stewed apples, hash brown potatoes, toasted French bread, plus your choice of corned beef hash, sausage, ham, sirloin steak or pork chops.For really serious eaters, Tillie's biggest breakfast - called the "Whopper" - consists of juice, four eggs, five slices of bacon, potatoes, apples and three slabs of bread. Traditional omelettes can be had, too, each made with three eggs that the giddy, laminated menu describes as "happily mixed-up, laid by stunted, frustrated ostriches."
Among Tillie's morning specialties, some of the ones we like best include a triple-egger called "Steak Bitts N' Eggs," featuring small pieces of sirloin sauteed with pepper and onions, accompanied by hash browns with melted cheese and sawmill gravy, plus three pieces of Tillie's sweet French bread. We also think highly of an ingenious combination known as "Bloody Mary Eggs," for which the trio of double-A jumbos are scrambled and mixed with shreds of sharp yellow cheese and pieces of chopped tomato.
Breakfast is the only meal we have eaten at Tillie's, but we are intrigued by the offerings on the dinner menu, too, especially on Monday (corned beef and cabbage day), Wednesday (meat loaf) and Sunday (prime rib or chicken fricassee). There are long lists of sandwiches, salads, diet plates and hot meals, each described with panache that makes just reading about them fun. Of course Jell-0 is described as "shimmering"; the chili is so hot that "even the crackers hurt"; and grilled ham and cheese is listed, oddly, as "unclaimed happiness."
The pleasure of eating at Tillie's isn't only its food and the grandiose way it is presented. Here is a classic California coffee shop, with plenty of elbow room in the capacious booths and yards of counter space for single diners. There is atmosphere galore, including sassy waitresses and a clientele of regulars who arrive before dawn to start soaking up their morning coffee. We discovered Tillie's thanks to Don Bleu and Karen Dee of San Francisco's KGO radio, who took us there for a remote broadcast because they believed - and we agree - that this was the perfect location in which to discuss the joys of tacky Americana while eating a great, all-American break-fast.
Now available! Nearly 200 of the most-requested recipes from this column, all in one book, "A Taste of America." It includes Jane and Michael Stern's favorite restaurants, as well as photos from their coast-to-coast eating adventures. Available in paperback, it can be ordered by sending $9.95 plus $1 for postage and handling to Taste of America, in care of the Deseret News, P.O. Box 419150, Kansas City, MO 64141.1991, Jane and Michael Stern
(Universal Press Syndicate)
Bloody Mary Eggs
3 tablespoons butter
3 jumbo eggs
1/3 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/3 cup chopped tomato
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
Tabasco sauce to taste
salt and pepper to taste Heat butter in an omelette pan or non-stick frying pan over medium heat.
As the butter melts, beat the eggs with a fork for 10 to 15 seconds, until whites and yellows are mixed but not totally homogenized.
When all the butter in the pan is melted, pour in the eggs. Stir almost constantly, but with a gentle touch, as they cook. After they have begun to coagulate but aren't quite finished cooking, add cheese, tomato and horseradish and a drop or two of Tabasco sauce. Continue stirring a few more seconds until cheese begins to melt and eggs are done to the desired degree of firmness. Remove pan from heat and immediately slide eggs onto a warm serving dish. Season to taste.
Makes 1 serving.