I’ll be honest. As a longtime lover of low down diners and greasy spoons, I was a bit skeptical of the wave of hipster-chic breakfast places that are sprouting up in Boulder. I usually want a good cup of joe, an omelette, some decent hash browns and the time and space to scan the paper or argue about the movie we saw the night before. For years, Dot’s Diner has been my go-to place, with North Boulder Cafe an able backup, and Lucille’s and Foolish Craig’s always there for something richer or more exotic. In Denver it was Pete’s on Colfax and the rest be damned. What I am NOT looking for is a “breakfast experience”, a term Snooze uses — twice — on the home page of their web site.

Well  the times they are a-changing…. a generation of young restaurant entrepreneurs (inspired, I suspect, by places like the Firehouse in Santa Monica) are looking to re-vitalize the traditional diner with fresh ideas about breakfast spaces and foods.  I figured I had to give the new “yolks folks” a try.

I’m glad I did. Snooze, with its snappy decor and relentlessly athletic service (the staff look like they just leaped off that OK Go video) is a fun place to grab a great breakfast. Coffee comes in huge shapely mugs, cheerily re-filled by the roving coffee marm. The menu favors standard egg dishes and pancakes, with a few choice offerings of benedicts and french toasts.  Home made jams —  though not of the lusciousness of Lucille’s — add a nice touch.

After several visits to Snooze in the last few weeks, I can heartily recommend the Breakfast Pot Pie (think chicken fried steak and eggs with a puff pastry instead of the steak) and the Pancakes (you can mix and match … the Blueberry Lemon Bar is especially excellent). On the downside, I found the corned beef hash a bit lacking in flavor, and the breakfast burrito almost too massive for its own good, with chunks of scrambled egg dominating the beans.

But those are quibbles, really. Snooze does the basics well, in a comfortable space right downtown, while the staff is perky, without being pushy. In fact, the old denizens of long gone gas station Dot’s would feel well fed, if not quite at home.

Tangerine, with a similar retro chic aesthetic (plastic, bright colors, curving lines) is a bit more adventurous, which works to both its advantage and detriment. You’ll get an inventive, flavorful breakfast here (not to mention morning cocktails and dessert) but might find yourself scratching your head in confusion between bites.

The menu features a slew of non-traditional breakfast items: puttanesca sauce, capers, gorgonzola, root vegetables… It’s surely the first time I had either lentils or kalamata tapenade with poached eggs, let alone in the same dish. My first impression was that the dish was incoherent, the tapenade oversalty and the spinach a bit dry, but once I found the right combinations, it came together nicely. It’s a Frankenstein monster with a heart of gold.

Amongst my party, the lemon ricotta pancakes were also excellent, the crab cakes benedict were satisfying without being too rich, and the corned beef hash, while a bit dry, was satisfyingly hearty (they favor chunks instead of shreds). The polenta with eggs and romesco has also gotten raves from friends. Finally, the offer of a creme brulee dessert after breakfast (!) re-confirmed Tangerine’s mad scientist soul.

For an everyday breakfast, Snooze is great, as long as you beat the lines (before 9:00am on weekdays or 8:30 on weekends.) Tangerine is for that special occasion when the folks or old friends are in town, or when your weekend needs a shot of casual elegance.

Snooze opened September 29th. It was the 5th Snooze (the sixth, in San Diego was scheduled to open November 2011). Tangerine is owned and operated by Alec Schuler and Sven Hedenas (also the creative team behind Tangerine’s neighbors, Arugula and Amaro, worthy subjects of future posts).  May they both thrive.