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Nostalgia, time give consumers an appetite for breakfast at dinner

| Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2015, 6:21 p.m.
Chef Jason Dalling’s chicken and waffles at Habitat at the Fairmont Downtown on Thursday Aug. 7, 2015.
Sidney Davis | Trib Total Media
Chef Jason Dalling’s chicken and waffles at Habitat at the Fairmont Downtown on Thursday Aug. 7, 2015.
The Benny, Waffles INCaffeinated’s take on Eggs Benedict.
James Knox | Trib Total Media
The Benny, Waffles INCaffeinated’s take on Eggs Benedict.
Square Cafe French Toast
Square Cafe
Square Cafe French Toast
Cornmeal Pancakes with Beer-Braised Short Ribs from 'Breakfast for Dinner,' by Lindsay Landis and Taylor Hackbarth (Quirk Books; 2013)
Quirk Books
Cornmeal Pancakes with Beer-Braised Short Ribs from 'Breakfast for Dinner,' by Lindsay Landis and Taylor Hackbarth (Quirk Books; 2013)

There's something about a stack of syrupy pancakes served at suppertime that can transport diners right back to their childhoods.

But breakfast for dinner isn't just a special treat for kids anymore. From frittatas to crepes, gourmet French toast and new takes on beloved standards, home cooks are getting more creative when whipping up morning meals in the evening.

“I don't think people look at food as being breakfast, lunch or dinner any more,” says Gordon Sheffer, managing director, of Waffles, INCaffeinated, with locations in Beaver and the South Side. “We live in a 24-hour society. Now people eat breakfast any time if it tastes good.”

Sherree Goldstein, owner of Square Cafe in Regent Square and Uncle Charley's + Square Cafe Brunch Truck, says eating morning meals for dinner can carry a specific nostalgia factor for many diners.

“I think it came from generations ago when moms had nothing to cook, but said, ‘I have this pancake batter. I'll whip that up, and they'll love it,' ” she says. “Who doesn't love eggs and pancakes? It's so easy to cook and clean up.”

Jason Dalling, executive chef at Habitat at the Fairmont Pittsburgh, Downtown, says breakfast makes a great anytime meal because of its simplicity.

“It can be prepared much quicker,” Dalling says. “It's not an overly complicated meal. At the end of a busy day, it can be nice to dedicate more time to enjoying food versus the hard work of preparing a meal and cleaning up.”

Dalling's chicken and waffles, prepared with bacon, jalapeno, cilantro and smoked gouda, is a favorite among Habitat brunch patrons. At home, Dalling enjoys making a meal of whatever happens to be in his refrigerator — a loaf of day-old bread, charcuterie, cheese, even mashed potatoes mixed with eggs and sour cream can make for an enjoyable impromptu strata.

“It's comfort food that fits the bill for a complete dinner,” he says.

“Breakfast for dinner always feels special, like you're ‘cheating' at the normal dinner routine,” says Lindsay Landis, co-author with Taylor Hackbarth of “Breakfast for Dinner: Recipes for Frittata Florentine, Huevos Rancheros, Sunny-Side-Up Burgers, and More!” (Quirk Books, $19.95). They also run the blog loveandoliveoil.com.

“I grew up eating breakfast for dinner whenever my mom was working late or out of town,” Landis says. “Scrambled eggs was about the only thing my dad could cook, but let me just say, he rocked those eggs. So whenever Mom was out, it was scrambled eggs and tortillas for dinner, and my sister and I loved it. It's still one of my favorites to this day.”

Landis says serving breakfast for dinner can give home cooks an opportunity to be a little more inventive with dishes they've come to consider breakfast staples.

“We rarely have time in the mornings to get creative with breakfast, rushing around in our busy day-to-day lives. I mean, other than Sunday morning, of course,” she says. “But in the evening, the kitchen is ours for the taking. That's one of the reasons breakfast for dinner is so great, is it gives you an opportunity to use all these amazing breakfast-y ingredients when you have more time to give them the attention they deserve.”

And their popularity cannot be denied.

Though Goldstein's Square Cafe's hours are split evenly between breakfast and lunch, 70 percent of meals ordered each day are breakfast.

“People will eat omelets at 2:30 in the afternoon,” she says.

Goldstein suggests adding meats, like short ribs or chicken, to omelets for an evening update to the a.m. favorite. And don't be afraid to go beyond that bag of shredded cheese in the refrigerator. Goldstein suggests using Amish cheddar, goat cheese or feta.

Sheffer says breakfast meals such as Waffles, INCaffeinated's Benny dish, featuring two poached eggs nestled on top of a half-waffle with ham, fresh hollandaise sauce and crab meat, are filling, making them ideal to serve any time hunger hits.

Sheffer whips up the occasional omelet or batch of French toast for himself at dinner time. He encourages home cooks to use the meal as an opportunity for interesting food combinations. Try avocado and pico de gallo on an omelet instead of conventional standards, he suggests.

“People used to think of omelets as just cheese and ham,” he says. “There are so many things you can put into it.”

Rachel Weaver is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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