One chilly Sunday a few months ago, I made plans to meet a favorite couple of mine, a doctor and a professor, for a late breakfast/early lunch. We'd agreed to meet at the corner of Sixth and Main to decide where to dine. I arrived early, and as I shuffled up and down the block trying to stay warm, I noticed a wooden board near the Pioneer Building parking lot that advertised breakfast specials at Le Poulet Rouge. I have enjoyed the food at all of the restaurant's previous incarnations, and we agreed it was a safe gamble to try the place again. Had I known how much we would come to anticipate our semi-regular breakfasts together at Le Poulet Rouge, I would have bet the house.
This last Sunday, the professor was out of town, immersed in an intensive French language course, so it was just the good doctor and me. We were seated by a young woman who had been one of the favorite interns at Boise Weekly and was now home from Vassar for the summer. Trent, our friendly tattooed server, told us that the breakfast specials had been so popular, they'd been added to the regular menu, including my usual order of the salmon benedict and potatoes ($9.95). The perfectly poached eggs, crispy English muffin and slather of real Hollandaise sauce make a creamy, crunchy bed for a satisfying portion of bright pink salmon flakes. The doctor usually goes all cowboy and marshals through a huge chicken-fried steak with two eggs, potatoes and toast ($7.95). But we resisted routine and spun the wheel of menu roulette knowing the odds were in our favor. He chose a three-egg omelet with bacon, mushrooms, spinach and Havarti, served with potatoes and his choice of a croissant ($8.95). I considered ordering the professor's usual choice in his absence—mixed berry pancakes ($5.95) with piles of blue-, marion-, huckle-, straw- and raspberries between fluffy, steaming cakes. I was on the fence until Trent told us the special: cinnamon swirl French toast ($5.25). He explained that it was a sliced, battered and fried cinnamon roll, and ignoring the siren call of the salmon, I went with the special. I had a hankering for a salty side and though I love the pedestrian and pusillanimous breakfast meats—ham, link sausage, bacon—I continued my adventurous streak and ordered a side of linguica, a mild pork sausage ($3.25).
The doctor's omelet was the perfect shade of sunny yellow; the stems leaking out the sides confirmed the leafy vegetable wasn't of the canned variety and the mound of fried potatoes covering the length of the plate looked fried to perfection.
Three slices of French toast with a melon-ball of butter and a liberal sprinkle of powdered sugar were set in front of me. Three plump red halves of linguica arrived on an ochre-colored plate, and each bite of sausage popped and sizzled. It was the perfect savory complement to the chewy, sweet French toast. I like cinnamon rolls, but take something that's already delicious, cover it in batter and drop it in hot oil until it's crisp, and it becomes something your mouth memory won't soon forget. I eschewed syrup altogether, not wanting a drop to mar the butter-and-sugar-covered forkfuls. I was sure I wouldn't leave so much as a sliver of sausage casing behind, but after two slices of toast and two thick links of linguica, I had to stop. I was about to ask the doctor for a bite of his omelet—for the sake of this review—but his plate looked as though it had just come out of the dishwasher: spotless. He said the omelet was OK (and I had to take his word for it), but he really judges a joint on its potatoes, and Le Poulet Rouge's are better by far than those of some of the fancier brunch bistros in town.
Before he leaves for a months-long stay in France, the professor will return home briefly and we'll visit Le Poulet Rouge at least once. I'll have to remember to ask him how to say "deep-fried cinnamon roll" in French.
—Amy Atkins would eat shoelaces if they were battered and fried.