Friday, December 14, 2007

Michael D's Eatery

Michael D’s Eatery
203 CDA Lake Drive, CDA
(208) 676-9049

On Sunday mornings, some people choose to rise early, get all spruced up and head off to church. They wear their finest accoutrements and show up in full feather, dressed to impress fellow disciples and worship their deity of choice. Then there are those who like to sleep in as late as possible on Sundays, at least until hunger pangs force them to blearily seek sustenance at one of the local breakfast joints. For many of these folks, the only dressing up involves picking out a clean pair of comfy sweatpants and the only religious act involves praying that the hash browns help the hangover fade away faster. As you may have guessed, I fall into the latter group and my breakfast basilica of choice is the divine Michael D’s Eatery at the east end of town on Coeur d’Alene Lake Drive.

Sunday morning breakfasts have become a routine recently for me and Miss M. We alternate weeks springing for the tab, and whoever’s not paying that day gets to choose the restaurant. On the days I get to name the place, I always pick Michael D’s. Thing is, M. is notoriously impatient when it comes to waiting for a table. She’s hungry NOW, and there’s no darn way she’s going to sit for 15 minutes and starve when we could be on our way to somewhere not quite so busy. Each time I’ve tried to take her to Michael D’s this has happened, and against my vain protestations, we gave up and headed off to eat somewhere nowhere near as fabulous. I always tell her that there’s a good reason Michael D’s is so busy, and it would be quite worth waiting to find out exactly why.

This week was my week, and once again I decided to give Michael D’s another attempt. I decided it’d be a good idea to call ahead and ask to be put on a waiting list but was told they don’t take reservations. “Is it pretty packed down there today?” I asked, hoping to hear how unusually quiet the place was for a Sunday so we could sneak right in. “Honey, there’s always a wait but it’s not too bad right now, just get down here quick and y’all will be fine,” drawled the waitress before hanging up impatiently: click!

Miraculously, when we pulled in there were a few open parking spots, which was a promising sign. Of course when we walked in there was a small crowd hovering around and waiting in the tiny lobby. M. nodded her head toward the door, but I decided to stand my ground, telling her to sit tight and just wait it out. “OK, fine” she sighed as we grabbed a spot on the lobby bench. We checked out a fascinating wall photo of the place as it was 50 or so years ago when it was called the Boat and noticed how similar the interior was then and now, with its retro dining counter and light oak paneling. We also noticed that they’d put a few coffee pots out on a small table in the waiting area, which would’ve have been fantastic but frustratingly there were no cups to be found, and it felt too busy to ask. A dozen more people poured in right after us, bringing the twenty degree weather into the lobby right behind them. Just as we were starting to feel like frozen sardines packed knee to knee with other chilly, pre-caffeine breakfasters, the hostess called our names for a spot.

The biography of mustachioed owner/head chef Michael DePasquale appears on the back of the menu and is truly a fun read. To sum it up, he grew up playing with Easy Bake ovens instead of GI Joes, had an early fascination with chickens, and started his culinary career as a dishwasher in Rhode Island. After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in New York, he relocated to North Idaho where he spent 15 years treading in and out of Hagadone purgatory, serving time (and winning awards) as Executive Chef at Dockside as well as Crickets, and he even had a brief gig selling Toyotas. After a stint as General Manager of Dockside began “killing him”, he decided it was finally time to make the dream of owning his own diner come true. In 1998, he transformed the abandoned former Chuck Wagon into a sunny, welcoming breakfast and lunch spot, and infused the menu and atmosphere with strong doses of his own unique personality. It was an immediate hit, and quickly became the default place recommended by store and hotel clerks to tourists asking where to get a good breakfast with some local color.

Flash forward ten years and Michael D’s is as popular as ever. Every day, almost every available table is filled with a mish-mash of people all pulled in by the lure of friendly service and satisfying meals. Breakfast is heavenly, but lunch is served here as well, ending strictly at 2PM daily. I love the habanero hot sauce Burger with melted blue cheese crumbles, and the Teriyaki Tuna sandwich, wherein the soy sauce and ginger dressing brightly contrasts the sweetness of the mandarin oranges. The lunch salads are huge, including the Lake City Salad, with grilled chicken, candied walnuts, fresh pear, and feta served atop spring greens and tossed in maple vinaigrette. Delish! They also serve a mean Idaho Rainbow Trout, pan-seared in lemon and garlic butter and served on a pile of spinach fettuccine.

Along with humongous waffles and pancakes served with a variety of fruit toppings, the big deal for breakfast here is the omelets. Each is named after an abstract emotion or state of being. “Seclusion” is simply your choice of American, Swiss, Cheddar or Jack Cheese wrapped in a fluffy blanket of eggs so fresh you’d swear they were running an actual hen house out back behind the kitchen. “Courageous” is one of my regular favorites, wickedly spicy with fresh sliced jalapeños, which work brilliantly with the creamy whipped cream cheese to make an intriguing hot vs. cold dining experience. Scrumptious, but only for the brave. If you’re a vegetarian, you might want to check out the “Cautious” omelet, which mixes steamed veggies and jack cheese with fresh made salsa. I’m not sure if the mood sets the omelet or the omelet sets the mood, but choices like “Bashful”, “Creative”, “Aspiring”, and “Shameless” blur the line between menu and personality test.

I was actually feeling fairly neutral and wanted to order something I’d never tried so I went for the “Honnell Special”. Of course, I had to ask the waitress about exactly who or what Honnell was, but she hadn’t a clue and seemed unwilling to research it. When my food arrived, I immediately quit caring, instead losing complete touch with reality in a steaming huge pile of scrambled eggs served over a toasted, buttery English muffin and slathered with rich hollandaise and melted cheddar. The accompanying hearty potatoes were golden and crispy, served home-style in big skin-on chunks.

I looked over to see M.’s face glowing with a similar sense of blissful abandonment with her Saratoga Scramble, which is scrambled eggs blended with whipped cream cheese and chives. I was proud of M. for finally deciding to conquer her fear of eggs, something brought on years ago by a food poisoning incident. She was raving, so I had to try a bite and I’ve never had eggs done so creatively, tangy and rich with the oniony bite of the chives. Stuffed, we sat in a food coma daze and talked about how after a huge Sunday breakfast, especially when under gray skies, all the coffee in town couldn’t create enough buzz to cancel out the urge to go home and crawl back in bed and laze away the rest of the day.


Idaho Dad said...

I feel really dumb now. I've lived here almost five years, and have driven that road many times, yet I had no clue there was a restaurant there! We're definitely going now. Thanks!

OrangeTV said...

Comments from Huckleberries Online:

Question: Which restaurant offers a better breakfast: Michael D's? Or Rustler's Roost?
Posted by DFO | 15 Dec 12:45 AM

Hoagies on 4th.
Posted by Don Sausser | 15 Dec 8:30 AM

If you go early enough, Michael D's is usually very quiet. But I mean early. I like going there sometimes on my way out to see the Eagles. Hoagies on 4th is also a very good place, though not on the weekends.
Posted by The Stickman | 15 Dec 8:48 AM

We’ve been to both Michael D’s and the Rustler’s Roost. Poor food, very poor service, unclean, and again, very poor service. How anyone can claim these joints are a stop-by for some good food or for a great breakfast, behooves, in a pig’s eye!
Posted by LP | 15 Dec 9:07 AM

Both are good for different reasons. I hate waiting around a crowded joint and just won't do it. Michael D's is usually too crowded... but the food is great. I enjoy RR once in a while... the breakfast portions are HUGE and it's just downright fun to watch the Woodman play cashier, hostess, bus boy and floor sweeper all during your meal! Go Woody!

Lately.. its been the Caddy Shack for Sunday breakfast as I watch my favorite NFL team try to sneak into the playoffs!
Posted by Damn Yankee | 15 Dec 9:19 AM

I hate to disagree with LP, but he is 100% wrong about Michael D's.- Great food, Extra CLEAN and Very Good Service!!!
Posted by thomg | 15 Dec 9:20 AM

I watch my favorite NFL team try to sneak into the playoffs!

Now that's funny! Well, at least they're not Miami! ;)
Posted by thomg | 15 Dec 9:22 AM

Well, if the consistently negative Mr. LP hates the place, you know it must be good...
Posted by Good Gravy | 15 Dec 9:24 AM

I watch my favorite NFL team try to sneak into the playoffs!

Now that's funny! Well, at least they're not Miami! ;)

Posted by thomg | 15 Dec 9:22 AM

I know.. but Miami is THE Arch Enemy! The rivalry isn't so much fun anymore... cuz Miami SUCKS SO BAD.
Posted by Damn Yankee | 15 Dec 9:36 AM

Fifteen years ago or so, it was the Rustler's Roost on Sherman that was the yummiest breakfast (any time of day) in town. It had great atmosphere, too. I remember hanging out with the quasi-intellectual early twenties crowd, munching on biscuits and gravy, drinking endless cups of coffee, and having heated debates regarding just about anything. Good times.
Posted by kendramama | 15 Dec 10:00 AM

Michael's D opened up after I was down in Moscow for school, so, I have never eaten there so I'd have to give it to RR. However, OTV's review makes it sound pretty good.

My favorite breakfast place in Idaho is probably the Breakfast Nook in Moscow, but if you try to go on a Sunday after an Idaho game - good luck getting in! I also like the Pantry in Moscow, but more so for sentimental reason than the food. Every time I'm in Boise, our friends try to take us to a place called Goldy's but the line is always out the door. I assume some day we'll actually hunker down and wait.

All this chatter about breakfast made me a little hungry so I had to make my self two pieces a toast, a thin layer of sliced ham, and two eggs over-easy on top and a cup of black coffee, yum!
Posted by idawa | 15 Dec 10:23 AM

Flip a coin-they are my two favorites.
Posted by JIMMYMAC | 15 Dec 11:22 AM

Since I am a large guy, I gravitate toward the Breakfast Nook on 4th (or 3rd, or right in the middle) in midtown. Great prices and large portions. You can not go wrong!
Posted by Dr. Chuckles | 15 Dec 11:49 AM

Absolutely no disrespect to Woody here...he runs a highly successful business and serves the city effectively on Council.

That said, it's Michael D's by a mile. Nice fresh meals. No heavy greasy biscuits and gravy, that sort of thing. Kiwanis has lunch at Michael D's every Wednesday, the food and service (from Pam) are always top drawer. And it's always spotless, you could eat off the floor.
Posted by Howard Martinson | 15 Dec 12:40 PM

As my Grandfather always commented, “The masses don’t know what is feast and what is fodder.”
Posted by LP | 15 Dec 1:02 PM

Howard, I agree. The service at MD's is impeccable, especially that Pam lady. Of course, I'm a little biased ... she's my wife! Thanks for the nice comment,
Posted by Keith Erickson | 15 Dec 1:14 PM

MD's and Rustler's are both great.

LP, where do YOU recommend?
Posted by fotoman | 15 Dec 3:26 PM

Man oh man, You wrote such a long article today, that I dehydrated from salivating. Imagine that.
Posted by hmk | 15 Dec 4:46 PM

I have never ever had "poor" service at MD's and I probably dine there a dozen or more times a year. I consider myself fairly knowldedgeable of restaurants as well. Of course it is slammed busy at times which reflects on the establishment but again, I have never had "poor" service there. Poor would be equal to rude or nonresponsive communication or mistakes on orders or bills, none of which I have yet to experience there. Please name an establishment with "excellent" service for breakfast and dinner in Coeur d Alene if you can.
Posted by JIMMYMAC | 15 Dec 4:50 PM

Sorry LP, but you are out to lunch on this one. Where would you send us?
Posted by The Stickman | 15 Dec 4:59 PM

lp is out to lunch, ho, ho, ho, that is an understatement. lp can slam but he cant explain, notice his silence on a recommendation. so lp what is your favorite place to eat, meals on wheels?
Posted by dick van dyke | 15 Dec 5:05 PM

Geeze, DFO, I asked him, LP, nicely, to please go away.
Posted by green libertarian | 15 Dec 5:09 PM

I think i've only even been to Michael's once, but I'm not sure that it was Michael's at the time. I was quite young.

I remember that my parents and others we were with were miffed at how long it was taking to get food. They couldn't even get coffee. I truly don't think it was MD's at the time.

Rustler's Roost is a favorite of my brother's and his family. They live in Rathdrum.
Posted by Sam | 15 Dec 5:56 PM

I'm here to tell you ... lp obviously can't live up to his comments. Hmmm. Why no comment, lp? Your are just plain weird. Do you need a job? Try Mcdonalds.yqv
Posted by Keith Erickson | 15 Dec 5:59 PM

I love both MD's and Rustler's Roost but you're all overlooking a owonderful little spot and a favorite of mine - The Blue Plate in Hayden.
Posted by Mike | 15 Dec 10:08 PM

Michael D's is great food and great service - terrific restaurant. I also think the breakfast at the refurbished Ft. Grounds Grill is awesome.

I can't count how many times I've eaten at the Roost, going back to when I'd walk to the Sherman Ave location on Saturday mornings with my new bride when we lived on Front Street. Good stuff - that gravy has helped me become the physical specimen that I am.
Posted by Mike Kennedy | 15 Dec 11:18 PM

Okay, okay, OKAY! – enough already! I leave this area for one single day and come back to read shmuck’s all jumping up and down, foaming, about what damned joint I should or would suggest they eat their breakfast at. Hell, I don’t know! Mebbe try -- at home?

To say it straight, I have not found one single place in this area worth eating breakfast at. Now with that said, err written, are all you inquisitive’s happy?

Criminy antlers! And Merry Christmas to you too.
Posted by LP | 16 Dec 9:31 AM

LP, there is only one "schmuck" posting here. Guess who!
Posted by ThomG | 16 Dec 9:44 AM

Great wit

Thank you, Thank you, I'll be appearing here all week!

Posted by ThomG | 16 Dec 9:57 AM

For I now know, without a single doubt, that you are as dense as stone.
I just want you to know that I solemnly promise you that all hostilities from me have come to an end.

Really? Off to a slow start.
Posted by ThomG | 16 Dec 11:45 AM