After a morning hike, a satisfying breakfast for under $20 hits the spot. (Photo by Jeff Lund)

After a morning hike, a satisfying breakfast for under $20 hits the spot. (Photo by Jeff Lund)

I Went to the Woods: Food for thought

To my left is a man with a thick British accent who piled a few forkfuls of eggs benedict onto the sourdough and ate it slice by slice. When I order what he did, I tend to have the sourdough in one hand and the fork in the other, alternating bites until the end when I make sure there is enough bread left to clean up the Hollandaise and send the plate back spotless.

There is no wrong way to eat an exceptional breakfast.

The place was packed as it usually is in the summer with tourists looking for local flavors. Before me was the chorizo and eggs that has been consistently delicious since I started eating here 10 years ago. I have toured the menu, but default to the chorizo and eggs when it’s crowded or I’m in a hurry.

The portions are healthy and there are a few interesting takes on favorites without needless razzle dazzle. That sort of thing often ends up backfiring particularly in the donut and hamburger realm. I am of the camp that a burger should speak for itself. Same with a donut. I have learned that prioritizing presentation often comes as the expense of actual taste.

Anyway, trust is an important thing in a modern world obsessed with margins and at the mercy of inflation and gouging suppliers. Since I first began to love the chorizo and eggs at this particular place, there have been three excellent breakfast burritos at different spots in town that have all become unremarkable. They started to taste like indifference. I can’t point out exactly what indifference tastes like, but after dozens and dozens of orders, it just seemed like a thing served to a customer by someone counting the hours until their shift was over who used ingredients bought by an unoriginal, margin-crazed owner.

I wouldn’t consider my palate sophisticated in any way, nor would I relish the title of food critic. But I’d like the dining experience to feel worth it, not like a donation or obligation. Since it is just about impossible to get a quality meal for less than $20, I’ve been paying more attention to what I’m getting, especially if I have to walk up to order, bus my own table and the first option for a tip is 18%.

I bought a steak at a fancy restaurant for $42. It was not a premium cut, in fact, the venison version of this cut is added to my grind pile and gets turned into burger in the fall. A grind-pile cut. But that’s why you go to a steakhouse. A real chef takes a marginal beef cut and turns it into a delicious steak because he or she has skill. The steak ended up being fine, but for $42, it encapsulated a place simply too expensive to frequent.

I know it is more expensive to do business in Southeast Alaska, but where does my loyalty and or responsibility as a local end?

I looked out the window at a few people looking at the menu. I wanted to wave them in because they had it right. This was the place to be. I didn’t, of course, because that would be obnoxious.

I finished my meal and continued sipping my coffee. I didn’t have anywhere to be but I didn’t want to hold the table, even if it was just a two-person table nearly in the lap of the British guy next to me at a two-person table of his own.

He was doing a similar pose, the one of unhurried satisfaction, his plate as clean as mine.

• Jeff Lund is a freelance writer based in Ketchikan. His book, “A Miserable Paradise: Life in Southeast Alaska,” is available in local bookstores and at Amazon.com. “I Went to the Woods” appears twice per month in the Sports & Outdoors section of the Juneau Empire.

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