It’s a good day when you don’t have to quickly inhale a Starbucks breakfast. Maybe you’re on the road or trapped between rainstorms at the airport, but there’s always a dispassionate sigh that boils up when that Starbucks oven tower “dings” and a scalding, bland English muffin drops into a paper sack.
The nation’s leading coffee chain reaches for a trend every now and again. There’s the Sous Vide Egg Bites, an egg pod the size of a tea light that looks like a breakfast an astronaut would struggle to eat on Day 100 of living on the International Space Station. There is also the keyword-rich “Double-Smoked Bacon, Egg & Cheddar Sandwich.” (Do a lot of people out there taste the second bacon smoking? I only taste one smoke.) The latter sandwich has a bun that looks like a Devo hat and probably tastes roughly the same.
On a better day, you'll round the narrow drive-thru of the coffee shack on Abrams and Mockingbird. Just before 9 a.m., cars encircle the Lakewood White Rock Coffee express like soldiers defending a beloved castle. As opposed to a growing Starbucks line, few have that taciturn look of inevitability on their face. You're about to get strong coffee and a hot sandwich — not a one-note sandwich that tastes like someone is yelling "SALT!" or "SPINACH!" in your face. Dallas' White Rock Coffee drive-thru service is sunny. The menu is clean blues and whites.
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On the right panel of the drive-thru menu, it reads, unpretentiously, “breakfast sandwich." Order one or two. A single sandwich is some pocket change, less than five bucks. What is "breakfast sandwich"? It’s not sous vide. It is a confident brioche bun acting as hot and toasty bookends to cheddar, egg, crunchy bacon and a bright basil pesto. The oven fuses the brioche bun with blistered cheese. They hand it to you in a similar paper bag, but what’s inside tastes better than anything you’ll find at a coffee mega-chain.
It’s got salt and earth from the pesto, sunshine-strong, blanketed alongside a good egg and crunchy bacon. What else do we need? Why punish yourself with a sous vide egg tablet? Save bagel bites, the saddest version of a bagel, for emergencies. This brioche has a buttery shine, smash-toasted from the tongs they use to handle it. The smell of hot brioche in the morning smells like victory.
Once it’s in your car, the countdown starts: How long will it take before you dive your hand in the paper sack and down that breakfast sandwich? It won’t be long. This sandwich carries a lighter feeling than most coffee shops. It’s a coffee shop started in Dallasites Bob and Nancy Baker’s garage about 15 years ago. In other words, White Rock’s food is fresh, simple and local. And that’s what a good city needs in the morning.
White Rock Coffee, 4216 Abrams Road (Lakewood)