WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
Surrey’s reminds me of the first restaurants opened by people my age in the 1970s, full of innocent natural wholesomeness. A closer look at the menu reveals all the fat, bacon, red meat, and butter of any other neighborhood restaurant. However, that’s like the steak on a seafood restaurant’s menu: it’s there so you can bring friends with limited appetites. What charms Surrey’s regulars are the fresh juices, vegetables, whole grains, and all the rest of that eating culture. So it works for everybody.
Despite the low prices (few entrees pass $10), Surrey’s buys fresh products of fine quality, many sourced locally. Many ingredients are made in house–smoked salmon and bagels, for example. About half the menu is available in vegetarian or vegan forms. The menu is imaginative, without going too far from conventional American breakfast (eggs, grits, biscuits, grilled meats) or lunch (sandwiches and salads).
Greg Surrey opened in a converted Lower Garden District house in 2001, at first focusing on the juice bar, salads, and offbeat breakfasts. The place caught on to a near-cult degree almost immediately, and that encouraged the growth of the menu. A number of now-major chefs passed through Surrey’s kitchen over the years, leaving their imprints. Surrey’s made a lot of friends by reopening quickly after Katrina, when its sort of food made people feel good.
The premises in the Lower Garden District are a bit cramped, with small tables lining the walls of a narrow room illuminated with naked light bulbs and stirred by ceiling fans. The tall ceilings help, as do the sidewalk tables. There’s a bit more space in the juice bar section. At the Uptown location, things are a bit breezier and open, although there are not many open spaces left unused.
»Crabmeat omelette, avocado, Brie cheese
Eggs; ham, sausage or bacon; grits or hash browns; toast or biscuit
Montana eggs (as above, with sausage gravy)
»Scrambled eggs, smoked salmon, cream cheese, capers
Roasted veggie omelette
Barbecue shrimp & grits
Biscuits with sausage or mushroom gravy
Tofu breakfast platter (vegan)
»Sausage breakfasts, with choice of maple-cured sausage, chorizo, boudin patties, with biscuits
»Banana pancake, organic maple syrup
Fresh fruit plate
House made granola, with milk and fresh fruit
»Migas (eggs hard-scrambled with chorizo, onions, tomatoes, poblano, cheese, corn tortilla chips, pico de gallo, tortillas
Costa Rican breakfast (eggs, over white or brown rice, cheddar, pico de gallo, fried plantains, avocado)
»Huevos rancheros (tortillas, black beans, eggs, cheddar, molé, pico de gallo
»Huevos rancheros deluxe (with cured salmon, goat cheese, capers)
»Corned beef hash, boudin, andouille, hash browns, eggs
Breakfast burrito (tomato-basil tortilla, bacon, onion, tomato, poblano peppers, cheddar, eggs, tomato salsa, sour cream)
Breakfast sandwich (eggs, cheddar, breakfast meat, on biscuit or toast)
»Pain perdu (New Orleans lost bread, made traditionally or with soy milk for a vegan version)
»Bananas Foster french toast
»Organic yard eggs
Vegan avocado mash
Brown or white rice
Cheddar, swiss or meunster cheese
»Balsamic roasted veggies
Pico de gallo
Toasted multi-grain, rye, sourdough, white, or bagel
FOR BEST RESULTS
Go for breakfast during the week. It’s tremendously crowded on Saturday and Sunday. Avoid the tofu dishes, unless you eat that sort of thing all the time.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
The service staff has a touch of attitude. The cash-only policy is a ridiculous inconvenience, adding a hidden charge (if you use the ATM) that most restaurants absorb.
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
- Dining Environment -1
- Consistency +1
- Value +1
- Attitude -1
- Wine & Bar
- Hipness +2
- Local Color +1
- Sidewalk tables
- Quick, good meal
- Good for children
- Easy, nearby parking