I love brunch; I hate brunch. Here’s what it has going for it: It’s an opportunity to eat dessert in the morning—to eat dessert as a meal! The only kind of eggs I know how to make are scrambled and fried, but when I go out to brunch, I can get them poached or in an omelet. I’m pretty much a teetotaler, and I can order coffee instead of a cocktail without feeling lame.

But God, the throngs of people who also want to eat fancy eggs and maybe Instagram them. There’s always a wait, and never do I think, I feel like eating in an hour and a half, so I’ll go to a restaurant now and put down my name. Also, I wake up early and already hungry, so waiting to eat until 10 or 11 is torture. And combining breakfast and lunch means missing a meal, which I hate to do. 

My solution is the bakery breakfast. (This also applies to coffee shops with pretty decent food menus.) There’s no sign-in sheet or hostess; you just walk up to the counter, order, and sit down. You can nibble on a pastry to tide you over during the 10 or so minutes until your food comes. You can get a hot, delicious espresso drink made with almond or coconut or even golden milk instead of warm, mediocre drip coffee that’s not refilled often enough and comes with one little pitcher of whatever dairy product the whole table has agreed on.

You can usually choose from a breakfast sandwich, house-made granola and jam layered with good yogurt, a breakfast burrito, an oven-fried egg tartine, or oatmeal way fancier than anything you’d make on a weekday. My all-time favorite order is the breakfast plate, which (in Portland, Oregon, at least) comprises brioche toast, a hunk of cheese, some seasonal fruit, an egg, a piece of bacon, and a mound of lightly dressed greens just big enough to make the meal feel balanced. It’s substantial, but not so hefty you need a nap afterward. You still get to eat lunch. It’s cheaper than brunch.

Your fellow diners aren’t shouting because they aren’t drunk. They tend to be early risers, which means they might have also watched an episode of Twin Peaks and then read for an hour before going to bed at 9:30, just like you. Instead of wearing the kind of artfully constructed outfit I’d be more inclined to bust out on a date if I were still single, they’re in leggings and Patagonia jackets. 

A couple of weekends ago, I sat down with a carrot muffin in a booth near the window of a bakery with my husband, our friends, and their baby. My mom pal was able to let the last bites of her meal linger while breastfeeding without having to fend off a waiter trying to turn our table. We didn’t have to listen to a spiel about “the concept of sharing” or bad music, and there was no bill to divvy up because we’d paid when we ordered. And a few short hours later, I got to eat lunch.