Over the months I’ve been frequenting Papa Kerns Cafe on the corner of E. 29th & Hubbell, located in the familiar architecture of an ancient Pizza Hut. Catty corner from the cafe is the Hilltop Lounge & Restaurant, a popular East side location for pasta, sandwiches, and best of all – pizza [see blog post].
Papa Kerns Cafe has a small-town feel, as fit for places like Baxter or Pleasantville, but still well-suited for Des Moines’ East side. In a sea of chain cafes like the Cozy Cafe and the Home Plate Diner, and well-established eateries like the Waveland Cafe and the Drake Diner, Papa Kerns is nearly unique for its quiet singularity.
The place may be small, but not what they serve on the plate. Papa Kern’s breakfasts are big affairs, and served all day.
The Kicken Texan is the closest thing I’ve found in these parts to the epic Mexican Casserole I’m so fond of at the 11-Worth Cafe in Omaha [see blog post]. With taco-seasoned ground beef, hash browns, peppers, onions, cheddar, jalapeños, plus eggs your way, its a spicy, delectable feast. Sour cream and salsa are options served on the side.
The classic Denver omelet is fresh tasting, boasting of crisp veggies, plentiful ham, and loads of American cheese, plus a sprinkle of cheddar on top. A sizable plank of hash browns is well browned and delicious.
A half order of biscuits and gravy left me speechless. I swear they ladled on a full load of peppery, sausage-laden white gravy. The more appropriate portion of biscuits were grilled and buttery.
Papa Kerns’ Farmer's Eggs offers hearty diced potatoes, sausage, ham, peppers, onion, and shredded cheese, topped with eggs of your choice. Between this and the gravy for my biscuits, I had a sizable amount of leftovers.
Chicken fried steak sports a crisp blonde crust with tender steak within. Ladled with more of Papa Kern’s sausage gravy and flanked with a side of hash browns, its perfection with some fried eggs.
It that wasn't enough, it comes with a choice of toast or a pair of enormous pancakes. It wasn’t a hard decision.
On my last visit I opted for a simple plate of eggs over easy, with side of bacon and hash browns. Eggs were spot on, but the bacon was a little wilted for my tastes, but a lot of people prefer it that way. I’d imagine you can request it crisp as you’d ask for how you like your eggs.