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Bites Nearby: The Starting Gate

If I were to place a wager on a restaurant that has been around longer than my 40-plus years, I would bet on the Starting Gate to win by several lengths.

There are certain words that catch my eye, or my stomach in this case: "greasy spoon" and "breakfast all day".  Just knowing that these two things exist together makes me as giddy as a child on Christmas morning.  On this day in particular, my wish had come true for at the bottom of my stocking (in the car on the way to Auburn) I found the Starting Gate restaurant.

As a child, I remember my parents going to this restaurant with their friends after an evening out of poker and adult beverages at the Auburn Eagles and anticipating the yummy, slightly greasy, leftovers waiting in the refrigerator in that coveted Styrofoam container.  Ahhh the memories.  But on this Saturday morning, I was bound to make new fresh memories with myself and my dining partner whose initials coincidently happen to be D.P. 

We knew we had arrived by the looks of the old pickup trucks with fishing rods and gun racks and the constant swinging of the front door welcoming in hungry diners.  At first glance, it would appear to be a good ol’ boys hangout and I immediately had a vision from the past of steaming coffee being poured by rough and tumble waitresses, cigarettes being smoked and tales of the latest crop being harvested or the pot of beans Hank made last night.

It really is that kind of place…but in a good way.

The café itself is small, cozy and loud and the traffic from the kitchen is a steady stream of piping hot plates.  The menus are worn and slightly stained, but hey…we weren’t here to criticize the menu—we wanted to go all out on breakfast.  I went straight for the steak and eggs while D.P. chose the Mexican omelet. 

While we amused ourselves talking about the green marbled plastic table, the plastic water cups and the basics of any café table, we just knew that the scope of this restaurant was a good one. 

For you non-horse racing fans, scope means the potential of a horse.

I don’t know what kind of magic the chef performs in the kitchen but our breakfast arrived in a matter of minutes.  To me this was a good thing since I ordered my steak a hearty rare.  When that steak came out it was pretty big…and alone.  There would be no juices flowing into my eggs…yes!  We have a winner!

I don’t know what I was more amazed with, the size of the platter of perfectly scrambled eggs, hash browns and toast, or the mountainous omelet hidden under the overflowing molten lava of chili.

I should have gotten a side of blinkers to guard me from obsessing on D.P.’s plate of deliciousness.

Soon enough we both found ourselves wrapped up in the sport of Olympic eating.  My sirloin was just as I ordered and the usual for that type of steak, a little on the chewy side but fresh and hot.  I really just have to get over the fact that no steak will be as perfect as the ones we barbeque at home on the patio.  D.P.’s omelet was amazing.  The chili was homemade with lots of kidney beans and the mound of melted cheddar on top with sour cream made it a winning combination.

In this race, I can guarantee we were not in a dead heat to see who would win.  Halfway through my gigantic portion, I conceded.  I cannot, however, say the same for D.P. who held a steady gait throughout and finished clean. 

Two words: Full and happy.

Bottom line, or should I say finish line, the Starting Gate has the makings of a classic.  It has stood the test of time, the waitresses are sharp and on task, the crowd is a mix of young and old and there are definitely ‘regulars’.  The food is served fast, hot and there is a lot of it.  They are open 24 hours and also serve lunch (but really who cares when you can get breakfast ALL DAY).  The interior is nothing fancy and last but not least, the prices are amazingly low for the quality and quantity of food served.

They say in a horse race there is a correct weight that a horse should be before and after a race.  At the Starting Gate, I can guarantee diners will not be the correct weight after their meal so no monetary winnings can be gathered at the end of the feast.  However, sometimes winning isn’t all that important when you can open the refrigerator the next morning and discover your very own little Styrofoam container.

Nicholas Chang January 13, 2012 at 06:33 AM
One of my favorite "hole in D walls" I agree with you Karen good food great price. I will warn you ahead of time beware the "Eggs Benidict" not sure of the wavy gravy they use my first impression was some kinda canned "street cone" orange nacho topping, I summoned the waitress with whom I have known for a couple years and asked her why did you not warn me of this comical assemblage of sauce eggs and bread and she replied I thought you knew you have been comming here for years she offered to replace but I was all ready in too deep. We laugh and life goes on. Its a great place for fairly good well cooked meal no frills, over hear great chatter from the locals and occassionally be reseated by the waitress if you happened to be in a regulars seat and its there day to dine. If you wanna be entertained insist on corn beef hash! Its my way of letting the kitchen know I am in the house. Over all a good bang for your buck Green Acres kinda place enjoy the no frills straight forward assult on your culinary palate and leave with change in your pocket.

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