At 10:20 a.m. on a Sunday morning, we were grateful for a twenty–minute wait at Spring Garden’s Café Lift. The place was stuffed to the seams of its industrial steel walls—so busy, in fact, that its manager, Nina Ottaunick, was unable to stop by our table to exchange a hello over coffee, eggs and a heaping portion of stuffed French toast.
Café Lift serves breakfast all day and does it well. Our twenty–minute wait was made ten, we were served coffee before sitting and found afterward that our $2.50 cups were bottomless. A cheery server recommended specials like the French toast and eggs florentine and, when we inquired, filled us in readily on what flies off the menu. While the toddlers behind us forked mouthfuls of design–your–own pancakes, we ditched the temptation of topping miscellany for the famous French toast. If you’re a sucker for sweet like I am, you’ll relish in the big–kid move. Slices of challah thick as mattress pads sandwich sweetened mascarpone cheese, strawberries and bananas; maple–coated pecans go on top.
Savory dishes, though more numerous, are just as indulgent. All revolve around eggs, except some on the lunch menu, which was unexciting. This place doesn’t do dinner for a reason. We ordered both off the menu—an eggs benedict, whose smoked ham I swapped out for smoked salmon ($10, $8.50 with ham) and a breakfast burrito. My friend called the burrito ($8.50) the best she’d ever tasted (“and that’s a lot, coming from a Californian,” she added), and I did not disagree. This BYO separates its weekday and weekend menus (the former includes salads) and is open every day except Monday until 3 p.m.
Café Lift is not a pioneer. These dishes have been done before; the warehouse thing is very much a thing, as are chalkboard menus. But where others, like Sabrina’s, slack, and rely on familiarity to bolster quality, that Café Lift nitpicks at every dish is evident in how they shine and satisfy. The restaurant is evidence, too, that way out north of Penn, Philadelphia is bustling. We were happy to be a part of it.