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Breakfast Down Under: A postmodern morning at 10 Below 

The Oxford Hotel's 10 Below offers a breakfast that's hard to find.

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When it comes to breakfast in this town I prefer the comforts of a dark seedy joint and an excess of heavy sauces, gravy and greasy meats. Breakfast is an occasion for over-consumption and gluttony so that eating is not a concern again till nightfall. But, hell, for the sake of the greater good, I decided this time to go undercover and underground, get a taste of the way the other half lives - the half with economic stability and a proclivity for all things fine - and try breakfast at The Oxford Hotel's 10 Below.

Circle through a revolving door into the hotel lobby, and down to the basement via elevator. Welcome to what the 1970s thought the future would look like. A black, lime green and white color scheme plays out in various patterns of geometric shapes, a busy carpet, tubular shapes, light fixtures of porcelain antlers and branches. There is a balance between the real and artificial that leaves one questioning the authenticity of the bright-green flower on the table, the rounded cross-sections of wood on the wall.


A metal handle on top of the white leather seats assists the diner in the art of self-seating at a glass white-topped table. There are sweet elements here, too, little honey sticks along with cane sugar and sucralose. The flower actually smells like a flower and the menu is simple, reasonably priced and offers a nice variety for plant, fish and meat eaters. The bottom of the menu plainly states: "we proudly support local and northwest suppliers and whenever possible use organic." You can see it in the eggs - the richness, the bright yellow-orange of the yolk and the integrity of the white.

The crab Benedict was enticing - seared crab cakes, poached eggs, tomato confit, avocado, chili hollandaise, house potatoes ($14) - but was unfortunately 86ed on my visit. That's all right, though. Keeping a hotel restaurant kitchen well stocked is a challenge. 10 Below's breakfast service appears to be frequented primarily by hotel guests, with more covered room-service plates heading out of the restaurant than plates into the dining room. My dining companion and I were the only warm bodies in room aside from the staff until a small party arrived for a business meeting.

Giving into cravings rather than striving for variety, I ended up ordering the classic eggs Benedict - English muffin, poached eggs, thick cut Canadian bacon, hollandaise, house potatoes ($10) - and my friend ordered the Oxford eggs Florentine - rustic baguette, poached eggs, sautéed spinach, sauce choron, choice of thick cut bacon, Redmond smokehouse or vegetarian sausage ($9). While the Benedict was nicely done, the Florentine really showed off the talents of the kitchen. An accompanying oven roasted tomato was delicate and exquisite, highlighting the touch of tomato in the sauce choron (a variation of the classic béarnaise).

10 Below's breakfast menu offers staples like steel-cut oatmeal ($5) and strawberry parfait ($6) and creative twists on the classics like a smoked trout scramble ($12), buckwheat blueberry pancakes with choice of meat or vegetarian substitute ($9). The portions are reasonable given the quality and the context.

I might have my own axe to grind with the ambiance of the place, but the truth is that 10 Below offers a very well-executed, carefully sourced breakfast, which I dare say is hard to find in this town. Give them a try. It will make you feel like you are on vacation, sneaking in to somewhere you're not supposed to be, or maybe right at home depending on the diner.

10 Below

10 NW Minnesota Ave. 877-440-8436. Breakfast served daily from 6 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

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