Breakfasting in Cairo (if you’re up early enough)

<Originally published in CAMPUS magazine, August 2009>

Summer is here. School is out. Good times will be had by all. So instead of doing the same old routine, why not change it up a little while you’re still in Cairo? Wake up early and go have breakfast with the usual suspects you hang out with.

More and more restaurants are offering breakfast options on their menus, especially American/European styled fare. Unfortunately for me, writing up these kinds of reviews exposes the inverse relationship between my wallet’s fatness and my own; but it is work I must do. Here’s a quick rundown of my favorite places to get my morning fix. Notably absent are coffee house chains, like Cilantro, Beano’s, Starbucks, Second Cup Etc.  We’re talking restaurants, baby; not some prepackaged, vacuum packed, sterile airport lounge.

And please leave the laptops at home – there should be no such thing as a “working breakfast”. I don’t care if you’re crunching numbers over coffee, Googling over a bowl of grapefruit or browsing Facebook; with a forkful of scrambled eggs; you need to relax. No one likes a party pooper, and computing over crumpet means you’re wound way too tight.

Casper and Gambini’s, City Stars and Nile Towers

Fluffy Pancakes with fresh fruit and maple syrup; a Caramelized onion frittata so light you could use it as a floatation device; superb, freshly brewed cups of coffee. ‘Nuff said.

It’s no secret to the five people who’ve have read my food blog that I am a huge fan of C&G. Whatever it is they do, they do it very well. I prefer the City Stars location, since in the mornings you’re bathed in the soft glow of sunlight, and the mall is quiet until around noon. Breakfast is apparantly offered all day long, but in reality, you can only order it from 9am to 12pm.

If you’re planning on spending the day at the mall you won’t find a better way to start.

Felfela, Downtown

I’m talking the “Tourist Restaurant”; not the sandwich shop. I’ve been coming to Felfela ever since I was 6 years old, and it’s one of those places that feels like home everytime I walk in. This establishment is not everyone’s list of places with great food – but it should be.

The foul medammis in all it’s different incarnations are supremely satisfying, especially when coupled Ta’ameyya, an egg and bastirma omelet, French fries, pickled tomatoes and the traditional pickled carrots and beets (read: Torshy). The bread is fresh and baked on the premises. Tahina and Baba Ghanough should also make an appearance on your table to complete the experience. Wash it down with water or a soft drink or, if you’re feeling crude and feckless, drink a brew for breakfast.

References to “The Clash” aside, I want you to remember to look up from your plate once in a while and get acquainted with one of Cairo’s oldest and most storied traditional restaurants. Oh, and a few grunts of approval to whomever you’re having brekkie with can’t hurt either.

McDonald’s, Anywhere

Last year, I had much cause for celebration and jubilation – McDonald’s began serving their calorie laden breakfasts at most locations. My dream of having those excellent pancakes at home, without making them from scratch, became a reality when the gentleman on the other end of the phone confirmed to me that “Yes, sir. We do deliver breakfasts.”

15 minutes later, I was staring a double order of pancakes in the face, and armed with my own maple syrup, I took that bad boy down. The coffee isn’t bad, either. Besides the pancakes, there are hash-browns, scrambled eggs and the heart attack inducing Egg and Cheese McMuffin, made on a real English muffin, which makes my heart skip a beat even as I write this.

If you want to get down and dirty, and have a greasy lipped smile at the end of your breakfast, then check out Mickey D’s. The delivery option can help you turn the breakfast into a picnic; drive to your preferred location, call them up on the cell phone and they will deliver to wherever you happen to be. Convenience to the Extreme.

Le Chantilly, Korba

A Long time dinner eater, but first time breakfast eater, I only recently discovered that Le Chantilly offers a breakfast menu. Eggs, Croissants, jam and tea; the best option is to have a European style continental breakfast. If you’re sitting inside, or even in their outdoor seating area, the restaurant makes you feel like you’re in a bubble, and although it can get quite crowded, you will never struggle to have a decent breakfast conversation with your friend, or enjoy a quiet read of your favorite morning paper or magazine.

Lucille’s, Maadi

Ask “breakfast in Cairo” to anyone and nine times out of ten, the reply will be “Definitely Lucille’s”. And rightfully so; this greasy spoon diner serves up some of the best pancakes in town, and one of the only places you can have a short stack, with hash-browns, biscuit and gravy, eggs and beef bacon all on the same plate. The thin American coffee complements the meal perfectly. Whenever I’m having breakfast there, I’m transported back to my favorite diner in New Haven, CT, USA: Cody’s Diner. The only difference is the notable absence of whiskers on your female waiter.

They can make your eggs any way you want, and they even offer French Toast. I have yet to try it, but if it’s anything like the pancakes, then I expect a huge portion and a satisfied set of taste buds.

Lucille’s is a bit pricy, and if you plan on having breakfast on a weekend, then make sure you get there early or call to save a table, or else you’ll be left standing on the sidewalk, hungry, rejected and contemplating a stale Beano’s croissant.

Fuddruckers, Dokki

One of the first places to make a decent stack of pancakes about a decade ago, Fuddruckers is still going strong. Ignore the oversized burgers, and head over to the Shooting Club location in the morning. On the weekends, it can get a bit hot if you sit near the window, but if you’re a sunlight junkie, then this should be right up your alley.

I can’t recommend anything else they have for breakfast, other than the huge fluffy pancakes and bottomless cups of brewed coffee. I wouldn’t want to; just make sure they give you enough syrup, and you have enough room in your stomach for the festival of pan fried dough you are about to eat.

Marriot Hotel, Zamalek

There are a number of options, but I’ll focus on two of them. The fare on offer at each is different, but they share one thing in common: Eating here will put a dent in your wallet for sure.

The first is the pool side café. For outdoor atmosphere, the poolside café gets top marks; having 2 eggs and a steak for breakfast in the sun-tinged greenery of the hotel’s poolside courtyard is the embodiment of living the high life. But the food is a bit mediocre, with most hotels; it’s about style rather than substance.

Tucked away in a quiet corner of the Marriot Zamalek, Roy’s is one of the very few high-end restaurants open 24 hours a day. The fare on offer is distinctly American, and they have breakfast rolls that are simply to die for.  The atmosphere does leave a lot to be desired; Roy’s is not only tucked away in a corner of the hotel, it’s also half buried in the ground, giving a distinct “Basement Chic” appeal, and a minimum of direct sunlight.

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About Wesam E Masoud
Chef Patron of @chefsmarketmasr, Host of @CBCSofra's #matbakh101. I have one degree in Medicine & 3rd degree burns from cooking.

7 Responses to Breakfasting in Cairo (if you’re up early enough)

  1. Sayed Kawawi says:

    Try and keep the food chains out of your reviews, they’re dog shit…yes, dog shit. And what happened to the Egyptian staple: The foul cart?! A particularly small, dirty and out of the way one in Abbassia comes to mind.
    Now don’t forget:
    We’re taking over and we own this b.

    • Wesam Masoud says:

      This coming from a guy who recently claimed “the best burger hands down is McDonnie’s”. Apparently you like the dog shit.

  2. irishalexandrian3109 says:

    I’m a girl who prefers home cooked cusine over the fastfood stuff. Having said that though, there are occasions where I would prefer to pamper myself and not have to prepare, mix inrediants,cook and clean up after myself. When, I do have those moments there are three places I am torn betwen going to and they are on Fat Sam’s list. Le Chantilly has a nice continental breakfast and breakfast beuffet, which I find to be reasonably priced and satisfies and will definitely cure any hunger pains you have! Luciell’s is quite a distance to go for breakfast if you are living in Heliopolis, is well worth thre trip. Get there as early as you can though on a Friday because it seems to be the place that families like to go and you may have to be put on the waitin list to be seated, the menu is so good, you are spoilt for choice and the food is as close as you can get to your Mom’s home made cooking when eating out. Finally Casper and Gabini’s definitely have my vote for maintaining standards and customer satisfaction. The pancakes, Fat Sam mentioned are dreamy!!!

  3. Sayed Kawawi Basha El Primo Numbur 1! says:

    McDonnie’s sells ice cream for 5 pounds.

  4. Parquet says:

    I eat fod too for morning pleasure. yeys.

  5. naffad lucille’s and do mediterreaneo on road 9 bardo. much less crowded. but without the pork, breakfast is a sad business for me.
    alternatively, the Deli in Maadi is pretty good too.

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