Red River Cafe: Sunny Side of the Street

2912 Medical Arts, 472-0385
Daily, 7am-4pm

When driving or walking to the Red River Cafe (which I can never seem to find exactly on the first try, no matter how many times I go), it is best to look for the two eggs, sunny-side-up, hanging outside -- giant yellow beacons bringing you in for breakfast. If nothing else, they'll give you an idea of what you might want to eat, as it seems that breakfast is the restaurant's most popular meal.

At the Red River Cafe, breakfast might include a Pancake Sandwich ($3.95) -- two famously choice and fluffy pancakes close to but not actually sandwiching one egg, any style, and bacon, ham, or sausage -- or a soft and light ham and cheese omelette ($4.95). Copious and sugar-flecked french toast ($2.95) is another option. And don't forget the potatoes; instead of floury cubes of monotonous homefry, the Red River is a sure place to find a more appealing breakfast potato: hash browns ($1.25).

Lunch and dinner are prime time for burgers. I ate a patty melt on buttered toast with cheese and grilled onions ($3.40) with an order of French fries ($1), while a friend had the Swiss Mushroom Burger with fries ($4.40), both savory and tasty. For the pseudo-health conscious and nostalgic, a hilarious throwback to the Seventies is the "Low Caloried Fruit Plate" ($4.25), which includes a hamburger patty, cottage cheese, and fresh fruit.

Most of the time, you may sit where you like, and it is best to sit outside to eat. Past the white stone wall of a patio framed by twinkling lights is a tangle of greens, distinct shades sparring for the eye's notice. Rays filter through light and babyish leaves, tiny unripe berries swinging from the limbs. Behind, the larger leaves of an oak splay and wave their fingers, and the drying fronds of a palm flash their last colors.

Pretty but quirky best describes the decor; the tablecloths have seen better, less sticky days, the wall is ornamented with a photo of the owner with Ronald Reagan, and a billboard inside brags "Good food, great views." It's unclear whether the "views" are off the patio or of the inevitably young, attractive women working there, and working hard.

One Saturday morning during South by Southwest, I watched as one cook and one waitress ran the show. Cups and plates were spread over the bar and piled on almost every table that wasn't taken. The one waitress, obviously frazzled, was able to maintain a good temper and still managed to be a good server. On that day, the service was quick, and the food didn't suffer. Pretty impressive for a relatively cheap, student-populated breakfast place. It just proves that if you're looking for some pancakes, keep your eye out for the eggs. -- Meredith Phillips

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Red River Cafe, Meredith Phillips

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