It is 11 a.m. on a Saturday, and Poor Richard’s Cafe is in full gear. Waitresses, armed with a tablet in one hand (they abandoned the pen-and-paper order taking method some time ago) and a coffee pot in the other, dash between tables with precision. Judging by the fact that every one of the tables is taken and a line of hungry patrons is snaking to the door, they clearly have a lot to do and an abbreviated amount of time in which to do it. There are mugs to be refilled, orders to be recorded and all the while, an air of homespun hospitality to be maintained. For all of the frenetic energy that is Plano’s oldest restaurant on a weekend morning, this sense of urgency is not shared by patrons. A bubble of tranquility seems to exist around each table, insulating its occupants in a calm of newspaper reading, catching up with friends and having just one more cup of coffee.
And surely this air — this unpretentious, greasy spoon mystique — is part of the draw. Another reason for Poor Richard’s popularity is signaled by its slogan, which is emblazoned on the back of every waitress’ T-shirt: “I Got Full.” Indeed, the breakfast menu reads like a telephone book of artery-hardening, gravy-blanketed epicurean fantasy.
Most plates consist, in actuality, of a parade of serving vessels because all of the included accouterments cannot be contained on one large dinner plate. Thus, most of the tables are lost under baskets full of biscuits, cups cradling pale, creamy grits or white, peppery gravy and plates of perfectly cooked eggs. Given the sheer size of the menu, placing an order here can seem a daunting prospect. A quick survey of surrounding tables will reveal that the pork chops, thick, golden, half-moon omelets and eggs Benedict — three English muffin halves obfuscated by a hill of breakfast meat and strikingly yellow hollandaise — are all popular choices.
Creeping on your fellow diners is one tactic for deciding what to order; letting the menu point you in the right direction is another. Poor Richard’s menu highly touts the chicken-fried steak, going so far as to refer to it as “legendary.” In any other state this might not incite much fervor, but in Texas — the land where breading techniques are the subject of intense debate and where a good steak inspires love, not lust — it is a culinary stone that must not go unturned.
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Living up to Poor Richard’s slogan, the first thing the CFS does is impress you with its size. You might wonder if two steaks somehow wound up on your plate. But no, that massive hunk of gravy-coated beef is indeed one steak. And it’s a good one at that. Fans of the thick, craggy crust that can scrape the flesh from the roof of your mouth may be disappointed, for here the crust is a thin, crisp shell that contrasts nicely with the toothsome beef. Served with three eggs (because what goes better with a small continent of protein than more protein?) and selection of sides (pro tip: skip the biscuit, which is a glorified roll), this aptly named Big Tex breakfast is just what brunch calls for: excessive, indulgent and destination-worthy.
A lighter option (albeit only by comparison), the pancakes ($5.99) hit all the right notes. There’s just something ineffable about diner pancakes. They seemingly manage to achieve a lighter, fluffier plane of being than non-diner pancakes. Paired with sausage that had a crispy exterior and just enough grease to leave your lips shiny and an à la carte side of eggs ($1.50), this meal proves that there’s always a place for simple, no-frills food.
There are a lot of things Poor Richard’s Cafe is not. It’s not a groundbreaking culinary experience. It’s not the booze-soaked brunch spot that’s been clogging your social media feed. But it is a place where you can find classic home-style cooking and an environment to match. And sometimes, in between all the avocado toasts and prickly pear cocktails, you just need a chicken-fried steak and a strong, black coffee. And yes, we did get full.
Poor Richard’s Cafe, 442 K Ave., Plano