Phoenix Phoodies: Erenia Pool Serves Smiles at Matt's Big Breakfast

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In less than five years, Matt's Big Breakfast has become a downtown Phoenix institution. Every day but Sunday, the diner cooks up dozens of pieces of thick peppered bacon and pounds of olive-oil crisped potatoes in a kitchen smaller than an ASU dorm room. The teeny restaurant's signature day-glow citrus counters are matched only by the warm-hearted goodness of Erenia Pool, Mrs. Matt herself. Her terminal cheerfulness can overcome even the most ardent anti-morning doldrums. Sure, her big-hearted and talented husband may get the lion's share of the exposure from the fans from Food TV's Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. But Mrs. Pool isn't just standing behind her man, she's his partner in the whole shebang (and not just Matt's; the couple own The Roosevelt, a bar not far from the diner. Even so, Erenia insists her flexible schedule gives her time for their 7-year-old son). It's her charm, in addition to the lighter-than-air golden pancakes and fresh-squeezed juice from local organic oranges, that make the two hour Saturday morning wait for a table feel like mere minutes. Folks who wouldn't be caught waiting in line for some shiny nightclub gladly line the streets, just waiting for Erenia to say those magic words, "Your table's ready!"

Chow Bella: What's your favorite thing on the menu?
Erenia Pool: The daily specials are really great but if I had to pick just one, it would be the pork chop and eggs or maybe the bacon and eggs because I can't get enough of that bacon!

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CB: Is it hard to find local providers for everything?
EP: We have a great team behind us, Bob McClendon, Terra Verde Farms, local coffee, everything. Sometimes it is difficult. It would be so easy to just got to Safeway or Costco or anywhere, really, but honestly Matt and I wouldn't have it any other way.

CB: Matt's can get pretty busy - how many people do you serve in a day?
EP: We can get between 200 and 250 but on the weekend we can have 300 or more people. And we only have 24 seats! You can see - our kitchen is tiny. Our kitchen staff is so efficient. Each piece of bacon is made to order, the pancakes, the waffles, it's still all made one at a time.

CB: Do you have a lot of regulars?
EP: We do! We have about 5 or so that come in every day. We have their coffee, juice, everything all ready and everything is set up for them. We love everybody at Matt's. We always say hello, goodbye. Matt always says to our staff, "No one will ever yell at you for being too nice."

CB: What's the best part about having Matt's Big Breakfast?
EP: Having family time. I worked for Marriott for many years, and in the beginning, for the first couple of years, I would put on my corporate hat and go to my day job and come back to Matt's every weekend. When I gave up the corporate thing it was for Christopher, our son. I can go to everything at school, and be with him, and not feel like I have missed anything.

CB: Have you seen anything weird happen in line?
EP: Well, people always think I am the hostess. They are always trying to slip me money.

CB: Really? How much?
EP: Twenty bucks. But we never take it. We tell them we don't run that kind of place. Everyone can get in and have something to eat. I have heard people offer other customers more money for their place in line.

CB: More than 20 bucks?
EP: All the time - "Trade me places in line for $50 bucks." But no one ever does it. Our customers always tell them, "No Way."


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