Heathrow cafe is everything a brekkie joint should be

The last time I had breakfast at Heathrow, I was hurriedly downing steak and eggs in the airport's food court before a connecting flight to Cairo, Egypt, an act I considered quite brazen considering it was during the height of Britain's mad cow frenzy. But for the ensuing seven-odd hours, the two proteins waged an intestinal terror campaign at 36,000 feet. Needless to say, the terms 'breakfastâ?� and 'Heathrowâ?� hold a not-so-special place inside me, so when the opportunity arose to experience breakfast in Heathrow (Florida, not London), I could hear the psychosomatic rumblings.

Furthermore, driving out to a suburban outpost for an omelet and a stack of pancakes seemed like a flight of fancy, but when I found myself being calmed by the café's bucolic lakeside view, a craving for, of all things, steak and eggs ultimately materialized. Given this was Saturday morning, satisfying that craving necessitated a 20-minute wait but, unlike the fare at the airport food court, it was well worth it. Besides, complimentary coffee in their anteroom served to stimulate the appetite while I waited.

Everything ' from the big windows and lemon-colored walls to the clinking cutlery of diners seated in comfy high-backed booths ' plays up the café's rise-and-shine splendor. Quite a few starved souls even braved the heat by dining al fresco in the spacious covered patio, a scene I took in while sipping on peach tea ($2.75), one of only two items on the menu with the fuzzy fruit as an ingredient.

I soaked the trio of fluffy Frisbee-sized buttermilk pancakes ($5.25) in ersatz syrup (Aunt Jemima, my waitress confided), but even that sugary goop couldn't ruin these monster hotcakes, which were neither rubbery, spongy nor dense. Why diners can't enjoy them with real maple syrup is beyond me. At the very least, breakfast joints should offer the real deal as an upgrade.

French toast ($5.25) was a disappointment. The menu read 'six pieces of Texas toast dipped in our homemade batter,â?� but the triangular slabs were Colorado-thin, not Texas-thick, and nowhere near eggy enough. The cheese omelet ($6.29), loaded with melted cheddar, kept it simple, but breakfast potatoes, crisped on the outside and thoroughly cooked inside, were indisputably divine, maybe the best in town. The buttermilk drop biscuit was a delicate and flaky puck best enjoyed with the thick and meaty sausage gravy ($4.50), but it was the Philly steak'and'eggs Benedict croissant ($8.39) that really impressed. Perfectly poached eggs sat inside a buttery crescent roll along with juicy slivers of grilled beef, the lemony hollandaise sauce meshing well with the sweetness of onion and red bell peppers. A side of potatoes and a cup of fresh fruit rounded out the platter.

Peach Valley Café is open daily until 2:30 p.m. (3:30 on weekends), and also serves an assortment of soups, sandwiches, salads, burgers and wraps. The menu's sweeter side pushes their sugary apple fritters ($3.50), but I opted for the subtler peaches and cream muffin ($2.10), most of which I enjoyed with a cup of coffee later in the day.

The café, owned by the same folks who brought you the Stonewood Grill & Tavern, is everything a brekkie joint should be and more. But until early risers in Orange County catch wind of the place the way their Seminole County counterparts have, Peach Valley Café will continue frying under the radar.

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