By Ben Olson
As Ron Swanson once said, “There has never been a sadness that can’t be cured by breakfast food.” With the opening of Breakfast Cantina in Ponderay in December, local foodies have much to be happy about when it comes to their first meal of the day.
Executive Chef Patrick Shepler — who is also the chef at Farmhouse Kitchen BBQ across the highway — said he and his staff put a lot of thought into a menu that hopes to put a different spin on the most important meal of the day.
“It’s a fun one,” Shepler told the Reader. “It’s a little different, but it seems to be going pretty well.”
When deciding in which direction to take the menu, Shepler said he landed on Mexican-themed fare because, “Who doesn’t love tacos?”
Breakfast Cantina focuses on breakfast bowls, tacos, burritos and more. Most recently, the restaurant added fresh-squeezed orange juice and smoothies. Shepler said by far the most popular item on the menu is the breakfast burrito with chorizo and eggs.
“That one outsells everything three to one,” he said. “Also, the pork carnitas are the most popular taco and the Oregon berry is the most popular smoothie flavor.”
Shepler’s breakfast burrito comes with chorizo, eggs, crispy potatoes, a blend of cheeses, and cilantro wrapped in a tortilla and grilled to give it that perfect crunch. Sometimes chorizo can be overpowering and dominate the flavors, but Breakfast Cantina seems to have landed on the perfect chorizo that is loaded with flavor, but mild enough to play well with the other ingredients.
The breakfast tacos are a unique take on a familiar food, featuring scrambled eggs, roasted chiles, cotija cheese, salsa roja, cilantro and crema on grilled corn blend hard-shell tortillas. An order comes with two tacos heaped full with ingredients, so it’s totally shareable if you want a lighter breakfast, but chances are you’ll want to keep both for yourself after the first bite. Plus, any taco on the menu can easily be transformed into a burrito, making this a perfect grab-and-go spot for skiers heading up to Schweitzer or those wanting to snag a quick meal on the way to work.
The Chilaquiles bowl can best be described as breakfast nachos, with chorizo black beans, salsa roja, cotija cheese and two fried eggs on top of a bed of crispy tortilla chips.
For those seeking lunch fare, the Cantina offers items such as avocado tostadas, avocado and black bean quesadillas, chicken mole, shredded beef and veggie tacos, which can also be served in burrito form upon request. All items can be personalized with meat and veggie options.
Breakfast Cantina’s smoothies are an especially tasty addition to the menu, made with fresh ingredients and loaded with flavor. Smoothies come in a variety of flavors, including Oregon berry, strawberry banana, orange creamsicle and chocolate peanut butter. The restaurant also sells beer, cocktails and fresh-squeezed orange juice.
In the age of COVID-19, it’s essential to give customers easy ways to order curbside or pickup. Breakfast Cantina has an online ordering system that is a breeze to navigate. Simply log onto their site at breakfastcatina.com and the system will guide you toward your own breakfast nirvana.
Shepler said the online ordering system has been working out great since he opened the doors at the eatery on Dec. 9.
“The public seemed to pick it up extremely quickly,” he said. “The minute we showed we had it, we started getting flooded with orders. We couldn’t be happier with it.”
Shepler said he’s even seen an influx of customers phoning in their orders from the drive-thru line at Starbucks next door.
“We get people calling and ordering while they’re in line at Starbucks,” he said. “They go through the line, order the food, grab their coffee and then grab their food on the way out, and they have coffee and breakfast ready to go.”
Shepler’s chef experience comes from working at a variety of restaurants in Coeur d’Alene, including high-end steakhouses, seafood restaurants, brunch places and French-style bistros.
“Most of my background is either working for chefs in the area or trial and error,” he said. “I’ve been pretty fortunate to work with some talented people … it’s allowed me to have a little versatility in my portfolio. I’ve learned from everyone I’ve spent time with in the restaurants. Every day you have something new to learn.”
Breakfast Cantina is open Wednesday-Sunday 8 a.m.-2 p.m. It is located at 477100 Hwy. 95 Suite C in Ponderay (next to the Starbucks). Call 208-597-7073 for more information, or view and order from its online menu at breakfastcantina.com.
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