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Grayson’s Cafe for Breakfast

Posted by YAR 14 Sep 2008 15 Comments

I suppose it’s possible that I liked Grayson’s Cafe so much because my expectations were kind of low.  Not for any good reason, but I guess I was expecting Elmo’s, which I’ve never had any strong feelings about either way but which has always left me vaguely disappointed.  Grayson’s, on the other hand, left me full of love.

I don’t have very much to say either way about the pancake, but everything else I tried was wonderful.  The potato pancakes were lighter and fluffier (not in a healthy way, of course) than I thought fried potato could ever be.  I got an egg scramble that was pretty much perfect–great sausage and fresh spinach (every time I get a spinach omelet at Elmo’s it is full of freezer-burn-tasting grossness).  Despite the big bucket of ketchup that came with the meal, and despite my usual love of ketchup, I put it on nothing.  The fruit side was also fresh and not just a garnish.

I don’t mean this post to be an Elmo’s-bash, but I couldn’t help comparing the two places as I went to both this weekend–Grayson’s won easily.  Elmo’s has an expansive menu (I admit I’ve probably only tried about 3% of it) and longer hours (Grayson’s is not open for dinner and only has breakfast on the weekends).  But on a weekend morning, there is no way that Elmo’s is worth the wait when Grayson’s (no wait and outdoor seating) is an option.   At Elmo’s, it was as intensely crowded as usual at brunch time and I heard someone marveling at the chaos and saying “wow, this place must be awesome.”  Well…

Grayson’s Cafe (2300 Chapel Hill Rd)
Breakfast, Sat and Sun 8am – 2pm
Lunch, 7 days 11am – 2pm


  • etselec said:

    I must say that I did use to love Elmo’s, although I only get their eggs, bacon and grits. But the crowds are just appalling for brunch. Too bad, since I can walk to it from home.

    I’ll give Grayson’s a try – I’ve been meaning to get over there. Thanks for writing about it.


  • aburtch said:

    Great to hear about a good breakfast / lunch place, you can never have enough of them. I’ll definitely try out Grayson’s out.

    Elmo’s isn’t nearly as bad as you’ve made it out to be. The food I’ve had there is good. Yes the crowds are bad, but only if you go during peak hours. Go early or late, avoid the crowds, and they have an extensive menu to choose from.


  • zombicorn said:

    Having lived down the street from Grayson’s for the first few years of its existence, I’m fond of the place despite its…well… undependable periods. The food has gotten better (although somewhat limited), but I have a hard time getting folks to go there. I think it’s the location (out of the way for the biking set), decor (kind of a cheesy middle-aged feel), and the fact that it is too quiet. Last time I was there, I felt that I couldn’t avoid sharing my conversation with everybody in the room. I think people like the bustle at Elmo’s, because, counterintuitively, it creates a sense of privacy. Plus it gives you something to complain about early in your day.

    Those petite potato pancakes beat the pants off of Elmo’s homefries, though. And the omelette Italiano is way better than it sounds. I never thought I’d want marinara sauce on my eggs, but its pretty darn tasty.


  • Gary said:

    Elmo’s is OK, the food’s just nothing special. I like the atmosphere there, but IMO the food doesn’t justify the long wait. I’m looking forward to giving Grayson’s a try, though I’m pretty sold on Silver Spoon for breakfast.


  • Jill said:

    We go to Grayson’s often for a Sunday morning breakfast and have always had good food for a decent price. Our two little ones are treated well and the big bonus is that we’ve never had to wait for a table.


  • Carpe Durham/Reasonably Prudent Person said:

    Silver Spoon is definitely pretty awesome!



  • Miss Peoples said:

    I’ve always wondered…it is just me or does Elmo’s use “fake” eggs? I don’t believe (if I recall correctly) that the option for fried eggs or sunny-side up (or down) eggs exists on their menu–you can only get scrambled eggs or omelettes right? Those breakfasts just seem to come out way too quickly…despite the wait. As I’m not a short-order cook, I’m totally prepared to be told to shut my gob on this one and to be told that I’ve no idea what I’m talking about.

    Looking forward to trying Grayson’s…those potato pancakes even look way better than Elmo’s home fries.


  • YAR (author) said:

    There are definitely fried eggs on the menu. I remember because I saw someone eat an egg yolk in one bite at Elmo’s the other day.


  • leb said:

    We’ve been going to Grayson’s since we moved back to the area two years ago and have never been disappointed. The food is possibly the best brunch food out there, the service is great (get to know Dorothy because she’s always willing to slip you a few extra potato pancakes), and you don’t have to deal with the undergrad scene. Definitely worth a try, although don’t spread it around the undergrad community too much as it will ruin the un-scene appeal of Grayson’s.


  • Jamie said:

    I’ve been going to Elmo’s for years, but it’s rarely a thoroughly satisfying.

    You do have to give Elmo’s mad props for consistency. Once they get you seated, the timing of your drink order, food order, drink delivery, food delivery, check processing, etc., is exceptionally reliable. I think that’s a big part of their success. That and one awesome location.

    The food, however, always reminds me of a kashi cookie. Not bad, exactly, but desperately seeking another dollop of flavor. And I only recenlty learned that the “butter” they serve is margarine. They’ll give you butter if you ask for it, but you don’t get it by default.

    I can’t wait to try Grayson’s for breakfast!


  • Gary said:

    Jamie: I’ll grant you that Elmo’s’ timing is usually good, with one exception: the more tired and near the end of their rope my kids are, the longer they take to bring the milkshakes.


  • jmp said:

    I saw a for sale sign there today… Any news we should know about?


  • Carpe Durham/Reasonably Prudent Person said:

    We heard a rumor it was closing last month but were unable to confirm it. Seems like it is true..


  • El Rancherito | Carpe Durham said:

    [...] St. and 433 Murray Ave.) remain open, I assume. Sadly, I never had the chance to eat there, but YAR liked it quite a bit. It’s too early to say whether the trade of this Americanized-Mexican place for the former [...]

  • Jen said:

    Does anyone know if Grayson’s plans to expand their breakfast menu at the location on North Duke Street? My husband and I loved the breakfast at the Chapel Hill Street location!


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