Omnivore - ‘Lemme have that sunny-side-up, please’

Is it just me, or are fried eggs showing up as garnishes on lots of dishes these day? Everything’s coming up bibimbap, the Korean bowl of goodies usually topped with a fried or raw egg.

Exhibit A is a variation on shrimp and grits by Carmen Cappello at the Lamplighter (top photo). The egg’s yolk added body to the the piquant sauce, but I gotta say the dish had problems. There weren’t enough grits in the bowl to absorb the liquid and, worse, the shrimp were not good quality. But the surprise of chopped collard greens and a profusion of sliced andouille redeemed the shrimp’s flavor problem, if not the overall textural problem.

We also found a fried egg atop a burger with scrapple and American cheese. It’s kind of like gilding the cholesterol lily, but it was better than mayo. (There was no egg on our crab cakes — an incredible bargain, like most of the food here, at $8.)

Next up is the fried egg atop the “short stack” (above, right) at The Original El Taco, the successor to Sala in Virginia-Highland (1186 N. Highland Ave., 404-873-4656). Considering that the restaurant’s name makes a weird allusion to The Original House of Pancakes, this dish’s allusion to pancakes themselves seems doubly-weird.

But the pancakes here are corn tortillas heaped with red and green chili, refried beans and Mexican cheese. This Tex-Mex dish can be found here and there from Santa Fe to Houston and New York. Honestly, the description and appearance of the dish caused me to cringe, since it seems to embody the artlessness of so much Tex-Mex cooking. But the strong, smoky chili and flavorful beans, blended with the egg, lifted the dish out of the purely prosaic. Taco Bell’s chihuahua would find this too refined.

I’ll have more to say about El Taco, particularly its take on tlayuda (above, left), the “Mexican pizza” popular in Oaxaca, in Grazing. The dish is made with a giant baked tortilla and the restaurant’s is a sight to behold. The toppings are tasty, but the flatbread crust on the one we ordered was almost impossible to eat.

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