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Best Bites: Firebird Café

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163 Pearl Street, Essex Junction 316-4265

Being half of a couple of obsessive eaters can be challenging: Sometimes one of you wants breakfast, the other wants lunch. Other times, you feel like something healthy, but your partner wants to down a few hundred calories per bite.

From experience, I can recommend a compromise: Firebird Café. The new occupant of the former New World Tortilla space has choices to satisfy any mood. The fresh California-bred aesthetic of owner Jake Tran pervades every dish. Expect lots of avocado and sauces lovingly made that morning.

Even the hot chocolate is something special. Chocolate chips get melted in milk in the cappuccino machine, resulting in what Tran describes as a “Choco-latte.” We had ours with a poblano pepper and tomato omelette (see above), bathed in a zesty chipotle sauce. It made a satisfying in-mouth mole. The flavorful homefries were a delightfully crispy side.

For a more indulgent breakfast, nothing can top the Croissant French Toast (at right). Picture two whole croissants, battered in a cinnamon-sweet egg wash, then fried. Oh my yes. Best French toast ever.

More in the mood for lunch? It’s hard to choose between the many appealing panini. Last time, I tried the Orchard, a combination of black forest ham, brie, and apples with housemade honey mustard on sourdough. More honey than mustard, the condiment alone is worth writing home about. Any sandwich can also be made as a wrap. Next time I plan on trying the Pilgrim, smoked turkey with cranberries, cucumbers, provolone and tarragon mayo. Or maybe it will be the Pork Carnitas Burrito. Or multigrain French toast with grilled bananas. No matter what, I know I’ll leave more than satisfied.

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