5 Breakfast Lessons I Learned from Texas

updated May 24, 2019
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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Whether you’re in a city such as Dallas or a town like Marfa, you’ll find that Texas does breakfast inherently well. In a state so large and diverse, there’s a lot to discover when it comes to the first meal in the morning. So what are people eating in the Lone Star State?

“The breakfast taco is alive and well,” Kent Rathbun, a Dallas chef who dedicates his time to several restaurants, including Imoto, Shensei Restaurant, and Lovers Seafood and Market, explains.”Outside the breakfast taco, it’s a lot of Southern food — the chicken-fried steak and eggs, the biscuits and gravy.”

If you’d like to explore these foods without hitting 100-degree heat, no one blames you. But Texas offers breakfast options too good to be limited to one state. Explore some of the best below, and find ways to incorporate them into your own kitchen.

1. Skip the bacon, add chorizo.

Sure, there’s nothing wrong with bacon, but many Texans might urge you instead to try chorizo. Whether it’s on top of eggs in a flour tortilla as part of the perfect breakfast taco, served next to eggs on a breakfast platter, or already mixed into a savory scramble with eggs and onion, it’s a versatile meat that deserves to be embraced. And don’t worry about the grease soaking through your tortilla — that’s just more flavor.

2. Master your gravy recipe.

Growing up in Texas, the first thing my mother taught me was how to make acceptable gravy. Good gravy doesn’t come easy — it’s often a frustrating struggle — but “easy” doesn’t always mean “good.” My mother knows that. That’s why she always gives gravy the respect it deserves.

There are plenty of ways to make decent gravy. But in Texas the gold standard comes from sausage paired with sage. Spooned over a buttery biscuit, you don’t need much more in a meal.

In Texas you’ll frequently find it poured over a large piece of chicken-fried steak. Pounded to a thin, tender cut and then breaded with a thick batter, this fried steak is a staple here. While it’s frequently served for dinner, there’s no better start to your day than with a chicken-fried steak covered in gravy next to two over-easy eggs.

3. Bring a little sweetness to the table.

Before Waco got national attention as a college town known for its “Fixer-Uppers,” there was West, another nearby town that lured travelers making their way along Interstate 35.

On both sides of this highway that runs north and south, you’ll find cozy shops offering Czech-inspired kolaches — open-faced pastries filled with a sweetness usually in the form of a fruit jelly. Keep going south and you’ll hit Fredericksburg and New Braunfels, which offer authentic German influences that go beyond just the town names. Here, thin German pancakes are a traditional favorite, along with tall, fruit-laden waffles.

4. Go the simple route.

The Special No. 1 might be the most popular breakfast for the early morning restaurant crowd. And it’s also what plenty of people grew up having at home. It’s one or two eggs any way you like them; a choice of bacon, sausage or ham; grits or hash browns; and biscuits or toast.

While chorizo is common, for whatever reason, it’s frequently not in the mix here. Maybe one day.

And the hash browns aren’t those potato cubes thrown in a cast-iron skillet with onions — here we’re talking shredded potatoes formed into a thin patty and griddled with sincere, painstaking attention.

5. Take your coffee (even more) seriously.

There are plenty of local roasters popping up over the state offering superb coffee that will make you instantly feel like a snob after one whiff. Austin’s Tweed and Dallas’ Noble Coyote are exemplars of that. Whatever your caffeinated beverage of choice is — espresso, drip, what have you — make sure it counts. Enough of the bad stuff.