Breakfast at Noble Sandwich Co.

 
 
Noble Sandwich Co.
4805 Burnet Road (map) and 12233 RM 620 N (map), 512-666-5124, www.noblesandwiches.com
Hours: 7am-3pm Mon-Thu, 7am-5pm Fri-Sun
 
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 07.23.14
 
You can tell whether breakfast is working out for a place by the company it keeps, when groups of people old enough to know better gather for morning coffee klatches, like the 18 or so who filled the tables by the window on a Thursday morning for a burnt orange country cafe groove. The shops on Burnet and 620 serve slightly different breakfast menus. This report covers Burnet Road, backed up by a bottomless cup of Casa Brasil coffee for $1.85. Breakfast is served until noon daily. In the zone between 10:30 and noon, the whole menu’s up for grabs.
 
(AT TOP: Ham hocks and grits come with a fried egg and potato wedges at the Burnet Road location, where a biscuit with gravy, sausage, eggs and potatoes is only $5.50. INSET BELOW: An apple ginger waffle draws Asian flavors from black sesame, soy and ginger syrup.)
 
Given how spartan the breakfast menu is in its descriptions — “Ham Hocks & Grits $7, Biscuits & Gravy $5.50” — it came as a pleasant surprise that both dishes came with wedges of fried potato and eggs. Delicately scrambled with the biscuit, overeasy with the grits. More than just an ornament, that overeasy egg wore a lattice of country bubbles along the edge and gave up a sunny lava flow of yolk that cloaked the whole dish. The bowl started from a sunny place, with a base of big-bodied grits that cast a smoked cheddar glow of their own. But this is about ham hocks, as it should be, and these gave off a five-spice Asian attitude in thick orange gravy. The meat was neatly flaked into petals, a service to those for whom the gristled knob of a whole hock might be too much to handle before 9 a.m.
 
To appreciate the Noble biscuit is to picture a country-style strawberry shortcake, the kind with a sturdy biscuit at its core. Not a fluffy snowball, but a toasted square shingle low as a shotgun shack, with layers that pulled apart in disciplined sheets with a bite more like hearth-baked bread crust than pastry. Now toss out the strawberries from that image but keep the cream. White gravy’s a simple thing, just milk and flour and pan drippings, usually. But done the right way, the Noble way, it’s as smooth as peppered custard, a carrier for the symbiotic flavors and textures of biscuit, egg and a sausage patty that started with an herbal calmness and built to a peppered urgency.
 
Where the hocks and grits argued for the ascendancy of the savory breakfast, an oxtail waffle didn’t state the case for the break with syrup quite as eloquently. In its soft, tan blandiosity, the waffle itself was just a spongy conveyance for egg yolk and roast beef. Given Noble’s talent for progressive flavor, the oxtail might have been any meat and any brown gravy from anywhere. Sturdy in fiber and cooked to a tender happy medium, the oxtail was more filling than fulfilling. The dish’s fill-up factor can’t be overlooked, though, with an overeasy egg, half a waffle, fried potatoes and a rancher’s portion of meat for just $7.50.
 
 
(ABOVE: The oxtail waffle on Burnet Road is a filling dish of stewed beef, fried egg and potatoes over half a deep-pocket waffle. In Noble’s hands, a biscuit is a low-slung country event.)
 
A bowl of five-spice oatmeal ($3) suggested there really is such a thing as too much butter. It started out as snowdrift flakes on the top of the cup, where it shared space with a blueberry compote. But the oatmeal sauna rendered the butter into an oily sheen that swamped the rest, robbing us of oatmeal’s good-and-good-for-you esprit. Butter aside, the oatmeal itself was a gelatinous mess, more primordial ooze than mother grain. I was left with only the cardamom melange of spice to carry the breathy reminder of better breakfasts past.
 
The gap between breakfast sweet and lunchtime savory was bridged best by Noble’s apple ginger waffle ($7). The waffle was right, a compact semicircle of deep pockets, crisp along the ramparts. With the sunshine brace of ginger syrup and well-salted scrambled eggs, it’s a waffle house morning. Look again and there’s a cobbling of black sesame seeds integrated into the waffle, finished with rings of sauteed apple and a shower of cross-cut scallions. Taken as a whole, it’s a sweet and savory Asian second breakfast, with a dash of soy sauce in the eggs to send you into lunch. Don’t get me started on lunch. (OK, since you asked.)
 
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)