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Morning star: Sunnyside Up continues breakfast traditions of The Egg & I

Classic eggs Benedict at Sunnyside Up features hollandaise sauce over poached eggs, Canadian bacon and English muffins. (Richard S. Dargan/For The Journal)

The origin story of Sunnyside Up, the new breakfast and lunch restaurant near Menaul and Louisiana, is one of liberation.

For eight years, the restaurant operated as the Albuquerque outpost of The Egg & I, a Colorado-based chain that, at its peak, had more than 100 locations nationwide.

Owners Jessica Tafoya and Brittany Bilek disenfranchised from the parent operation earlier this year and went independent, launching the new spot in September.

Three months later, the restaurant still bears a close resemblance to its previous incarnation. Of course, there’s a new sign, one that depicts the sun rising over a row of cheerful-looking text. Inside, the decor is much the same as before, with mud-brown carpeting, booths with wooden-slat benches and a drop ceiling sporting some water stains. It has the dated, generic look of a breakfast place you’d find across the parking lot from a hotel – perhaps not surprising, because Sunnyside Up is next to the Sheraton Uptown.

The menu is also similar to that of the Egg & I. Breakfast features an assortment of egg-based dishes for around $10, including five variations of eggs Benedict. The classic version ($9.99) has the requisite hollandaise sauce over poached eggs, Canadian bacon and English muffins. The hollandaise was silky and decadent, but one of the egg yolks was almost fully cooked, and the dish was a little bit underheated.

At Sunnyside Up, a special of sweet potato hash includes poached eggs over chunks of roasted sweet potatoes with feta cheese, bacon and onions. (Richard S. Dargan/For The Journal)

The poached eggs were better executed in a sweet potato hash ($10.39) – a good thing since the runny yolks were needed to make a sauce for roasted potatoes that were cut into chunks rather than the diced potatoes typical of a hash. Bacon, onions and feta cheese punched up the flavor, making for the kind of starchy, salty breakfast that feels like it will fuel you for hours.

The pancakes, waffles and French toast that constitute the sweet side of the menu are all around $10. For a thriftier option, you can get a single pancake for $6.99. The pancake was nicely done, with plenty of air in it.

At lunch, the menu expands to include a few sandwiches and salads for around $9, along with lunch combos that offer half a sandwich, half a salad and a cup of soup for $7.99.

A couple of drinks held over from the Egg & I days help provide some balance to the high-cholesterol breakfast offerings. Power tonic ($3.99) consists of kale, apple, cucumber and lemon, and Orchard Roots ($3.99) is made of orange, carrot, ginger, apple and lime. The sour flavors were overwhelming in both.

The person at the front was unable to tell me who supplies Sunnyside Up’s good medium-bodied coffee. The server leaves the whole pot on your table, a nice gesture that spares you from having to hail someone for a refill.

Not that any hailing was needed the morning I was there. Service was top-notch. The server knew the menu well, food was served quickly and one of the owners was seen in the dining room talking with patrons.

The operators of Sunnyside Up should be applauded for striking out on their own. Now it’s time to see them chart their own course.

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