Last fall, the legendary Chris Bianco of Pizzeria Bianco and Armando Hernandez and Nadia Holguin of Tacos Chiwas fame took over Graduate Tempe’s The Normal Diner and transformed it into the next restaurant that should be on your must-try list: The Normal Restaurant and Bar.
Though the restaurant is open for lunch and dinner as well, we had the chance to sample The Normal’s eclectic breakfast menu. While you’ll spot the usual suspects, like a yogurt and granola bowl and a two-egg omelet, the bill of fare also offers some unique–and mighty delicious–a.m. eats.
For starters, the sweet corn grits has it all–crunch thanks to smoked-chile pecans, tartness courtesy of pomegranate seeds, a touch of agave sweetness and a bit of spice to keep things interesting. (This makes a great next-day side dish in case leftovers are in order.)
Set to make a delicious pancake for his wife, who has a gluten sensitivity, Chef Mark Bookhamer, who oversees the day-to-day operations at The Normal, settled on the Don’t-Miss-the-Gluten pancakes. And guess what…you won’t miss the gluten. A variety of flours come together–oat, coconut and almond–to make the pancakes. He even jokes to customers who request the recipe that it would cost a fortune to buy all the flours at Whole Foods to concoct the recipe at home. The fluffy, gluten-free pancakes have a wonderful, cakelike texture, and the subtle sweetness of the coconut shines through.
With talents like Hernandez involved, it is no shock that The Normal’s chilaquiles are out of this world. Chef Bookhamer even explains that the chilies used in the chile Colorado can’t be found in the States;
committed to these chilies, Hernandez will fill his truck bed with them when he returns to Arizona from a visit with family in Chihuahua. The chilaquiles are smokey and spicy, and the tortillas chips remain crisp under the bed of eggs, cotija cheese and avocado salsa. This might be our favorite chilaquiles dish in recent memory.
Last but certainly not least are Chef Bookhamer’s insane biscuits. His biscuits are an absolute passion and labor of love–to the point he almost didn’t want them on the menu because he felt the need to make sure he produced them himself each and every time. Fortunately, some members of his team are detail-oriented enough to ensure Chef’s top-notch product his the table with each order. Crunchy on the outside and cloudlike on the inside, we loved dousing these babies in butter and blueberry-pepper jelly. A true comfort food classic. For a more hearty option, there is a biscuits and gravy dish on the breakfast menu, too.
The Normal Restaurant and Bar serves breakfast from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., with lunch/dinner starting at 11 a.m. Note The Normal can be found on the west side of Graduate Tempe during the summer months.