A big part of writing a restaurant review blog is the fun and excitement of finding the places that people might not notice on their own. Or, they may have noticed, but they just don’t know enough about the place to warrant a visit. Showing you guys just how great a lot of these places actually are is where I come in. And every once in a while, when stumbling upon one of these places, I have the kind of breakfast experience that I just can’t wait to write about. I’m still pretty new to the area, and these kinds of local joints really excite me even more so than usual these days, because I’m still discovering many them for the first time myself! It’s the kind of thing where you say to yourself, “Holy crap, that was great!! We’ve got to come back here again!” In fact, I believe those were my words exactly after my family and I recently had breakfast at Santangelo’s Cafe in Norristown.
Santangelo’s Cafe is tucked away on the back side of the old Conte Luna industrial building in the heart of beautiful downtown Norristown, so it’s virtually unseen from the busy street. Thankfully, they have a bright new sign (which boasts “Voted Best Breakfast in Montgomery County”, by the way) directing hungry folks like me and my family around the side of the building toward the parking lot. Once you’ve made it around back, Santangelo’s entrance is easy to spot, but the place totally has that hidden gem feel to it.
Inside, the cafe is small but cozy. The main dining area consists of 4-5 tables with chairs, and a counter that overlooks the exposed kitchen, where owner Mike Santangelo and his crew are busy cranking out some awesome eats (for my Columbus people, this place totally reminded me of Jack & Benny’s Barnstormer Diner at the OSU Airport). There’s also a second floor dining room that is often used on weekends when the restaurant gets packed. Their “Best of Montco” banners are proudly displayed on the walls, and at this point I was feeling pretty confident that we were about to enjoy some serious grub.
The kitchen is totally exposed, which I love for three reasons:
- The restaurant is showing you that they have nothing to hide. Having the ability to watch your food being prepared instills confidence when it comes to cleanliness and freshness.
- There’s just something I love about hearing the sizzle of breakfast meats cooking on the flat-top.
- There’s no barrier between you and the heavenly aroma of bacon!!
Mrs. Grub Guy, Grub Boy and I grabbed a four-seater just inside the door, and were greeted right away. The guy who waited on us (I didn’t get his name) was super friendly. We ordered a round of coffee for us, and chocolate milk for the boy. Santangelo’s menu is fairly large, with a couple of pages dedicated to their lunch offerings (burgers, cheesesteaks, hoagies, salads, etc. with an Italian lean) and another whole page listed their breakfast fare. There were many of your standard diner breakfast foods like egg combos, breakfast sandwiches, pancakes, and sides, but the real money was in a small section on the opposite page, featured as “Gerri’s Specials”. Take a look at the line-up above and try telling me they don’t make you want to chow right now!!
Our boy, who is a bit of a French Toast connoisseur, ordered first, and went with the Funnel Cake French Toast ($8.00). Um, yeah….Funnel. Cake. French. Toast. You can imagine the size of his eyes (and ours), and his smile, when they brought this absolutely HUGE plate of deep fried goodness to our table.
The plate consisted of three enormous, funnel cake-battered slices of french toast, sprinkled with powdered sugar. The aroma itself could have knocked me over, it was so amazing. Warm, slightly crispy, and sweet on the outside and pillowy soft and cakey on the inside.
It held up very nicely under the maple syrup, too. I have to tell you, after trying a bite of this, the wife and I agreed that this is one of the best French Toast dishes we’ve had. Ever. And even after taking two slices home with him, the boy wants to know when we can go back so he can order it again. Go here. Get this.
After nearly opting for the enormous-looking meat-lovers breakfast hoagie (a guy at the next table was tackling that monster), I actually decided on the Meatball Omelette w/ homefries ($8.00). The omelette itself was a huge 3-egger, and came with the aforementioned potatoes and my choice of toast. It’s a dish that you don’t see very often on the average breakfast menu, so I felt the urge to give it a fair shake.
First, the potatoes were very good. I’m normally a shredded hashbrowns kind of guy, but the thick, diced chunks were cooked very well (soft but not mushy), hot, and seasoned nicely. I opted to add the delicious hot peppers and onions to my ‘taters (“What’s ‘taters, Precious??” in my best Gollum voice….nevermind) for a small upchagre, and I’m glad that I did, because they added another tremendous level of flavor. Apparently, you can add the peppers to most of Santangelo’s breakfast sides or entrees, and I definitely recommend that you do!!
The omelette was filled with hearty, flavorful meatballs, a sweet marinara sauce, and loads of gooey provolone. Before I ate it, I wondered if it would work – meatballs, sauce & cheese inside of an egg blanket. But you know, it works really well. I’d order it again.
The wife, who usually goes for the protein versus the sweet stuff, did a 180* and ordered the Caramel Apple French Toast ($7.00), with a beautiful side of bacon. As you can see, the dish consisted of three big slices of Texas-style cinnamon French Toast, topped with a warm apple pie filling, whipped cream, powdered sugar, and drizzled with caramel sauce.
She said that the toast itself was good, albeit pretty standard fare, but that the apples on top really helped to elevate the dish. They weren’t too tart, nor too sweet, and were perfectly soft. The whipped cream and caramel sauce added the perfect touch of sweetness to the whole thing. Her bacon was cooked well and had good flavor, and provided a nice balance of saltiness to the sweetness of her entree. After we left, the wife had an epiphany…take the apples from her meal, and put them on top of the Funnel Cake French Toast! How delicious would that be?? Something to ask about next time we visit!
As you might have gathered, my family and I seriously enjoyed this breakfast. Santangelo’s Cafe is the real deal, and it’s obvious that all of their “Best of” awards are very well deserved. I also have to comment again on their service. Everyone we talked with and who served us was very friendly, courteous and helpful. Top notch.
Seriously, when you go, explore some of the more unique items on Santangelo’s menu. You might just discover something new that will have you planning your next trip back.
Santangelo’s Cafe is located at 910 E. Main Street, Norristown, PA 19401 (MAP). They’re open Tuesday – Sunday, 7:00AM – 3:00PM, and they serve breakfast all day. For more info, check them out on Facebook or at their website.