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Wednesday, July 14 at 8 p.m. – Breakfast Special

(Rochester, NY) Feasting on French toast in a Connecticut diner, savoring salmon hash in Oregon, tasting the rice porridge called “congee” in San Francisco’s Chinatown, devouring duck breast and eggs in Philadelphia, eating unexpected specialties in unforgettable spots from New Hampshire to Hawaii — Breakfast Special loves the one-of-a-kind places where diners can find a memorable meal, especially in the morning. The delicious documentary airs Wednesday, July 14 at 8 p.m. on WXXI-TV (DT21.1/cable 1011 and 11).

Producer and narrator Rick Sebak (responsible for such favorites as A Hot Dog Program and A Ride Along the Lincoln Highway) has no strict recipe for Breakfast Special, putting together a program that’s part food show, part travelogue, part portrait of America, celebrating the meal that many folks consider the most important of the day. Sebak chats with committed cooks and sly servers, enthusiastic eaters and entrepreneurs, pancake aficionados, “gritty” Southerners and a few funny food bloggers who serve as guides in different parts of the country. 

“There’s no way to include all the wonderful places in America to get a good breakfast,” said Sebak. “So we just show a few, and we hope that the program will make you hungry enough to search out a non-chain, not-so-fast food place near you.”

Sebak and his hungry crew started with stops in their hometown, Pittsburgh, then ventured west to Columbus, Ohio. “Proximity is a huge factor in choosing a breakfast restaurant,” admitted Sebak. “And I can walk from my house to a neighborhood place called the Square Café, so we shot there and at a saucy suburban Pittsburgh place called the Hot Metal Diner.” In Columbus, he met up with Nick Dekker, who writes the blog called “Breakfast With Nick,” and followed him to a neighborhood place that unabashedly calls itself “The Best” and to a newer spot called simply “Skillet.” Surprises at those Ohio spots include a breakfast risotto with apples and some superb creamed chipped beef that many military veterans know affectionately as “S.O.S.”

“We just wanted to find interesting, tasty food in places that still stand alone: mom-and-pop type restaurants, local landmarks and places where passionate pancake flippers call the shots,” said Sebak. “We found many eateries where I’d be happy to stand in line on a Sunday morning.”

Lots of people stand patiently outside a place called The Breakfast Club every weekend on Tybee Island near Savannah, Georgia. People in Portland, Oregon, serve themselves coffee while they wait for a table at the popular place called the Tin Shed. And folks from all over western New York state line up on frosty mornings for buckwheat pancakes at Cartwright’s Maple Tree Inn, where the maple syrup is made downstairs, but the place is open only eight weeks every year.  

At a Cuban café in St. Augustine, Florida, the owner whips up an egg-and-pork dish he calls a “guajiro.” In Hilo, Hawaii, locals love “loco moco” — a big bowl of rice usually topped with a hamburger patty, gravy and two eggs. Munching on a fresh malasada, a Portuguese fried donut, is also a treat.

Breakfast Special stops for fresh biscuits and grits with red-eye gravy at Big Ed’s City Market in Raleigh, North Carolina, samples French toast at a beautiful little diner on US Route 1 in Norwalk, Connecticut, and tastes a lobster and egg specialty called Eggs Wentworth at a grand hotel on the New Hampshire coast.


Credit: Rick Sebak, WQED Pittsburgh

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