I Can Eat 50 Eggs: Kerbey Lane Cafe

 
 
In honor of Paul Newman and “Cool Hand Luke,” I’ll review 50 days of eggs from 50 different restaurants.
 
Day 49: Kerbey Lane
3003 S. Lamar Blvd. 445-4451, www.kerbeylanecafe.com.
Hours: 24 hours, seven days a week.
 
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 02.18.12
 
We take our institutions for granted. Kerbey Lane Cafe caught a wave of chatter last month when they closed their South Lamar shop — the second-oldest in this five-store Austin chain — and moved it a quarter-mile southwest to an old Blockbuster building. Other than that, Kerbey tends to fly under the radar 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
 
And while we might be myopic about what Kerbey brings to the table, there are people outside Austin looking in. My aunt and uncle live near Greenville, Texas, some 249 miles away. But every so often, they’ll jump in the truck and drive to Austin to eat migas and pancakes at Kerbey Lane Cafe on South Lamar. So it’s my job to case the new place. So far, I’d tell them to pocket their keys until things get better.
 
The new Kerbey is beautiful to look at, with Googie-diner ovals in a white grid along one wall and a panel of connected shadow-box squares in sky blue on another wall and plastic scoop chairs in hard-candy shades of red, orange, yellow and aqua. Even the sign on this orange-brick strip-mall location stands out like a sheath of white swimming-pool armor with blue bubbles. Inside, the design leans on natural light to the point where the western half is lit up like a state fair midway while the back counter hides in shadow.
 
I’d be proud to show the new place to my relatives, but I’d try to distract them from the pancakes, which were faded visions of their former glory. The buttermilk pancake was flat, tough and overcooked, with acrid patches of char at the edges. Its apple whole wheat cousin was so dry that it fell to pieces like a buried relic of a lost age that crumbles to dust in the light and air of a new day. They showed up almost 10 minutes after the migas plate, and some of those minutes were spent loitering on the flat-top for too long.
 
The migas have held up better, even if diehards might say they’re homogenized to the point of being nachos with eggs scrambled in. I like this style, with lots of tomatoes and tortilla-chip crunch and just a few peppers and onions for character, with Kerbey’s fresh red salsa ladled over the top. But I can’t condone driving from Northeast Texas for a plate just yet. Your mileage may vary.
 
Note: Two ways to get your ration of migas and pancakes. One is to order the full migas plate with rice and beans for $6.95 then add a short stack of two pancakes for $4.85. The other way is to order the Paris Texas plate. It comes with migas and French toast for $7.45, but ask nicely and they’ll sub a short stack for a little extra.
 
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)
 
 
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