On the way to a restaurant, I like to speculate on the origin of its name. Sometimes it's easy to guess, especially when it's named after the owner or the street it's on. Other times, the names are a bit more cryptic.
I figured Seven Mile Cafe in Denton was at least seven miles from the University of North Texas, hence the name. But that's not it. Actually, it's only five miles from the school.
According to owner Kevin Klingele, the name is a reference to Seven Mile Beach in the Grand Cayman Islands, where he and his wife spent their honeymoon 12 years ago. Ironically, the beach is only about five miles long.
Originally from San Francisco, they scoured Texas for a place to settle. They liked Austin, save for its relatively high cost of living and restaurant oversaturation. That led them to Denton, where they found the Austin vibe minus all the fancy expenses.
And that's great news because I like my pancakes stacked high and at a bargain.
Seven Mile Cafe's specialty is breakfast, served all day; and there's also a lunch menu with burgers and sandwiches.
But forget lunch, let's talk about pancakes again: The cafe has more than six kinds, from blueberry ($7.50) to red velvet ($8) and my favorite: chocolate chip ($7.50) -- fluffy and lightly sweetened.
There are also several variations of eggs Benedict, including the colorful California Benny ($10.50) with thick bacon and avocado, an obvious homage to the Klingeles' homeland back in San Francisco; and the Irish Benny ($10.50) with spicy corned beef.
The menu has an entire section devoted to scrambled eggs with savory ingredients, like ham and grilled peppers ($8.65); avocado and mushrooms ($8.45); or pesto and tomatoes ($7.85). The chorizo, onion and cheese combination ($8.45) is a well-prepared rendition of one of my favorite proteins, chorizo.
A lot of the dishes are served with hash browns. And at Seven Mile Cafe, they're serious about them: They are extra-crispy, perfectly salty and served generously.
Items can also be ordered a la carte, like the sweet and juicy chicken apple sausage ($2.50), hefty breakfast tacos with scrambled eggs and hash browns (one, $3; two, $5.50), flaky biscuits with jam ($1.85) and gooey cinnamon rolls ($1.85).
The restaurant also serves artisan coffee and prides itself on the high-grade machinery used to produce it. From cappuccinos ($3.25) to cold coffee ($3.75), you're likely to get a better cup at the cafe than at the local franchise, and at a better price.
The NOLA iced coffee ($3.75) with milk and chicory is pretty stellar. Brisk, robust and sweet, it's a must-have if you're ordering breakfast at the cafe or just there to chill out.
They also hold free "cupping" sessions, where you can sample a variety of blends.
The parish-turned-restaurant has minimal seating inside and out, but the wait is also minimal as locals and students quickly pedal in and out of the restaurant and back to their tuition-driven lives.
Inside, artwork from local artists adorns the walls, rotating every month. And once a month, Seven Mile Cafe holds an after-hours art show.
On my visit, I managed to grab a seat on the makeshift patio out front, next to a bike rack. Somehow, eating pancakes outside on a breezy morning made me wish I was back in Denton. (I took a few classes at the university.)
Whether it was Kevin's intention or not, the cafe makes for a nice escape -- a getaway from the usual bustle of inner-city dining and traffic.
Of course, Denton is no beach paradise, but then again, it doesn't have to be. I don't need sand to be happy. I do need pancakes.