Located just east of Strawberry Street in the shell of an old “Steak and Egg,” Karen’s offers a fresh approach to the tried-and-true theme of country breakfasts, silver-dollar pancakes, BLTs and fried bologna. The simple place, run by Albert and Karen Joseph and their son Michael, is approaching its second anniversary.
“It’s been great for us,” says Karen, recalling the days when she and her husband would circle the block, wondering if the location was right. They took the plunge, which paid dividends almost immediately. These days, you’ll find it packed regularly, folks piling in for the weekday $2.99 breakfast special between 6 and 9 a.m., and again on Friday afternoons when fried fish and candied yams hit the grill.
The breakfasts at Karen’s are easily the best of their kind — fluffy eggs over easy that pop and gush with the touch of a fork, hash browns and, if you swing that way, a wagon-wheel-size slab of bologna — which Michael deep fries for a bit before chucking it on the grill. It’s a method I’d not seen before, but one that he says seals all those good bologna juices.
Karen’s has never advertised and has instead relied on word of mouth to get the business off the ground. Surely the family’s experience in the biz has much to do with their success. Albert Joseph is a veteran of the Richmond restaurant scene, having been at the helm of Tradewinds, Someplace Else and the legendary Café 21. Michael was the owner of the former Park Avenue Grill and Surfish Station, the site of Bandito’s new digs.
“People ask me what makes the food here so good,” Karen says. “I tell them, ‘I’m not gonna lie to you, honey. The secret ingredient is butter and fatback.” That said, she adds, “We’re not a vegetarian friendly restaurant.” But, of course, that’s not why you’re here. According to Karen, the diner specializes instead in comfort food. “It’s food that feeds the soul,” she says. “Good, warm food that’s not gonna break you.” All the more reason I’ll be visiting again and again.
Karen’s Diner Opens 6 a.m. daily, serving breakfast all day; lunch starts at 11 a.m. 2267 W. Broad St. 254-1974
By now a landmark at the corner of Cary and First streets, Becky’s has an old-school vibe and menu prices to show it. Top off one of the cheap, delicious breakfasts with a towering piece of the homemade cake that is rumored to be so popular that customers buy a slice to eat later for fear it will be sold-out when they’re actually hungry for it.
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