GTPulse: New Traverse City Restaurant Serves Breakfast, Lunch and In Between
A lot of layering goes on in eggs benedict. Biscuit, Canadian bacon, egg and hollandaise makes for a perfect breakfast but a lot of times I only see them offered at brunch. Benedict is a newly opened breakfast, lunch and everything in between restaurant located in downtown Traverse City and you won’t have to wait for brunch to get an eggs benny fix, they serve theirs all week long.
Owner Leslie Elsen took over the Union street location that used to house Uptown Dogs.
“It was like Goldilocks,” she said, “Places we looked at were too big or too small and this was perfect.”
The restaurant can serve up to 20 and has been transformed into a cheery and appropriately white and yellow restaurant. Leslie took over the space in October and opened on December 17th, but she’s been dreaming up the concept of Benedict for almost three years. She studied communications at the University of Michigan and took a job in the field after college, but found the work unfulfilling. She wanted to work with food.
“I worked in coffee for the past five years and I worked side gigs in pastry and prep cook, line cook, that sort of thing. I love customer service, I love the hustle and bustle.”
Benedict is the first restaurant Leslie’s ever owner and the egg-based menu was inspired by the eating habits she and her husband adopted.
“My husband and I are weekday vegetarians so we eat meat on the weekends but during the week we eat vegetables and a lot of eggs. So, we love breakfast. We wanted something simple and classic, the idea was simple and that’s where Benedict came from.”
The restaurant is described as breakfast, lunch and inbetween. Many of the ingredients are locally sourced and although a chunk of the menu is dedicated to breakfast items, there are salads, sandwiches and kids stuff too.
Not only did she open her first restaurant, she also moved and gave birth to her first child. Leslie had her daughter Eleanor last January. The small family moved from Grand Rapids to Traverse City, with Leslie moving back to Traverse City (her hometown) this past September. Her husband moved up a month later.
“I was on my own for a little just working on this. With Eleanor,” she smiled.
Leslie hired Maria Leggett to work as head chef. Maria went to high school with Leslie and graduated from the Great Lakes Culinary Institute at Northwestern Michigan College.
“She’s a rockstar. She works to refine classic recipes, she’s developing ways to reduce our food waste. We gel really well.”
Hollandaise can make or break eggs benedict, but Maria has hers perfected. It doesn’t seem like a difficult thing to make, but it can easily be made too thin, too lemony or too salty. She said most people go wrong by adding too much water, but the real trick to hollandaise? Butter. My favorite answer.
“Butter is composed of water and fats so, lower quality butter has more water in it. Better quality gives you a smoother silkier, better hollandaise and the fat helps thicken it as well,” Maria said.
Biscuits are another integral part of making a good eggs benedict. Instead of drop biscuits that are smaller, denser and more crumbly, Leslie and Maria make tall, layered biscuits. Naturally, butter is the maker or breaker in that situation too.
“The idea is you have it stacked flour, butter, flour butter and you pop them in the oven cold. The butter starts to melt and the water expands in it pushing the flour up. It makes this well-risen, flaky biscuit with lots of layers.”
Beyond being able to make seasonal dishes and specials, Maria is most excited about being able to cultivate a collaborative and welcoming environment that she’s always dreamed of working in. Leslie would like to contribute to the community by hosting after-hours events.
“Selfishly I’d like there to be a moms club where we could come meet here after hours. You’d have a punch card and get coffee and go for a hike or something. I want to find a way for Benedict to be a great focal point for food but a great focal point for community.”
When I was little I liked eating my eggs sunny-side-up because it sounded happy, and I always associate eggs now with being happy. Benedict’s specialty may not be sunny-side-up eggs, but the cheerful new spot is already a little ray of sunshine.