April 9 marked a few firsts for me. 1) I dined out alone 2) in pajamas 3) at one of Boise's most legendary breakfast joints—the Capri. I call it a "joint" because it falls into a very special category of restaurant. It's the kind of "best kept secret" everybody knows about, an unassuming landmark that has served up the same simple goodness for decades.
It took a couple laps down Main Street to find the Capri snuggled up against an old motel. Two cowboys held the door for me, and I was immediately struck by faux walnut paneling, gold edging, mirrors and the sound of silver on china plates. The orange vinyl booths and barstools were crammed with construction workers, college students and old couples, none of whom paid much attention to my pants. The obnoxious yellow cotton crawled with ladybugs and leaves, and my messy ponytail and sleep-swollen face did little to recommend my ability to pay for breakfast. But somehow I didn't feel embarrassed or out of place. All around me were characters in pink sweatpants and "I'm with Stupid" T-shirts. I had found the regular folk's Mecca, and I claimed an empty booth and four sets of silverware.
Not 10 seconds after seating myself, a young girl dropped by with a glass of water.
"Is someone joining you?" she asked. I looked down at my terrifying pants and chuckled. She brought me a steaming cup of coffee. Sipping the mild brew, I pulled a menu from the stack. Breakfast, lunch and dinner all fit on two pages, a refreshing change from the chain-restaurant flipbook. Prices ranged from $3 to $4 dollars for omelets, hotcakes and sandwiches to $6.60 for a sirloin steak entree—the most expensive item on the menu. There were light options (a.k.a. tomato slices and cottage cheese) in the "diet corner" and special offerings like whole-wheat batter and homemade pies. Running the gauntlet of empty coffee cups, my waitress stopped by to call me honey and rave about the French toast. I went with her suggestion plus some Marion berry waffles with whipped cream on the side. She departed with the comfortable scurry that characterizes really good, longtime waitresses, and I listened to the kitchen lingo roll off her tongue.
Surrendering my booth to an old couple, I ended up at the counter between eggs benedict and a cinnamon roll. My breakfast made a lovely centerpiece with two large plates of steaming carbs (fie on you, Atkins!) and a soup bowl full of whipped cream. This was my kind of place. The golden waffle overflowed with dark berries, and I smeared on some butter before enjoying. Although a bit mushy, the berries were pleasingly tart and went well with the sweet cream and buttery pastry. I would have liked it crisper, but I also like burnt toast, so it was probably cooked to perfection (at least by "I'm with Stupid" standards). The French toast justified my waitress's enthusiasm. Thick bread had been soaked in vanilla-spiked egg batter, fried till chewy inside, crunchy outside and just barely dusted with powdered sugar. It is always a simple dish, but when done right, French toast satisfies like nothing else. The Capri does it right.
Sipping my bottomless coffee and sopping up the last of the berry juice with a fingertip, I felt the most relaxed and anonymous I have felt in a long time. No one knew me; no one judged me, and everybody was kind in a way reminiscent of cowboy chivalry. I could have stayed all morning, but I figured pajamas wouldn't be kosher through lunch.
—Erin Ryan doesn't need fellow diners to order multiple plates of food.