Summary: A perennial favorite, Fatapple's continues serving great breakfast and pastries.
My friend and former roommate Natasha was passing through town earlier this week (August 2005) and she insisted on hitting her two favorite restaurants while she was here. We went for dinner at Zachary's and to breakfast at the El Cerrito Fat Apples. It had been a couple of years since our last visit, but after a bite or two it was easy to remember why this two-restaurant chain is such a perennial breakfast favorite in the East Bay.
The restaurant in El Cerrito is nice but mostly nondescript. You enter through the parking lot and are first greeted by large display counters filled with pastries and other goodies. They are baked on-site and their alluring smells will jump start your appetite - it's hard to resist getting something while you wait for a table. If you go on weekend mornings, prepare to wait in line - but at around 10 AM on a Tuesday we'd escaped both the breakfast and lunch rush and were immediately seated, or at least as soon as it took for the waiter to convert the square table for four into a round one for 8.
The menu is quite limited - my biggest gripe with Fatapple's. It includes a few omelettes, a few pancake and waffle dishes, and some sides (at $5.50-$9 most dishes are quite well-priced). Mike stayed true to form and ordered the combo - which came with two whole wheat pancakes, an egg, a choice of sausage, ham or bacon and a choice of fruit or home fries. The pancakes came with real butter and maple syrup (of course) and he liked them. He also really enjoyed the sausage (make sure to get it) and was quite happy with the fruit selection, which included kiwi, strawberries and cantaloupe.
Natasha was disappointed that the cornbeef hash was no longer on the menu, but settled happily on the pumpkin pancakes. I tried them too and I quite liked them - they had a nice, not too-heavy, not too light consistency and a subtle pumpkin-bread taste that made them good enough to eat by themselves. With the accompanying berry preserves they were addictive. I'd certainly order them myself (though I'd be curious to try the banana pancakes as well).
I ordered a danish, and for the first time I understood why this humble pastry can have such a big following. The pastry was flaky, with a warm middle covered in sweet cream cheese with just the right amount of raspberry preserves. It was just yummy. I also ordered the home fries, which consisted of chunks of herbed potatoes, fried and served with sour cream. They were very good and not at all greasy. Finally, I had a glass of hot chocolate - it was small but undoubtedly some of the best hot chocolate I've ever had. It was intense and rich, but not so much that it resembled pudding. Still, one small glass is all I could bear drinking - but I enjoyed every last drop.
Fatapple's is very child friendly, and while I'm not a big breakfast eater I won't wait two years before going there again.
7525 Fairmount Ave
El Cerrito, CA