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The Georgian culinary experience is all about the dinner, stereotypically a glutton’s nirvana of singularly delicious foods stacked plate by plate to the ceiling alongside beer pitchers full of wine. This might explain why, after a night of belt-popping gourmandizing, there is very little in the way of a breakfast culture in Tbilisi.

Another explanation might be that Tbiliseli are not morning people. Most cafes open around 11 a.m., which is about the time our neighborhood baker is slapping his first batch of bread in the tone.

Nevertheless, people do break the fast at home, often with leftover bread and butter or a chunk of cheese, or maybe day-old khachapuri. Matzoni, the delicious local yogurt, is also a morning thing, sometimes with a dollop of honey or fruit preserves. There might be eggs, very well-fried, sunnyside up or omelet style. And then there is kikliko,“cock-a-doodle-doo” in Georgian and also a kind of French toast.

For years, if we wanted to go out for breakfast, we would have to go to a fancy hotel and pay a snazzy price for a mediocre buffet. Then a local patisserie chain began offering breakfast specials of scrambled eggs and omelets served with bread rolls and garnished with lettuce, tomato and cucumbers. Not ideal, but better than nothing.

And then one day last July, three friends opened up a proper breakfast joint in a refurbished ground-floor apartment on a skinny car-jammed residential backstreet in Vake. It was their second foray into gastronomy, the first being an improvised fast-food pop-up from the trunk of a car (they sold tosts, pressed hot sandwiches, but let customers decide how much to pay).

During a brainstorm session, Tamara Mutata, Giorgi Gamtsemlidze and Beka Eloshvili realized they could fill a vacant niche in Tbilisi’s culinary scene by opening a bonafide breakfast joint – one that starts serving at the godless Georgian hour of 8 a.m.

“Beka is a DJ and well, we realized there really wasn’t a cool early morning place to eat at after a night of clubbing,” Giorgi confides.

They named it Kikliko, which Tamara explains is connected to happy childhood memories.

“Our grandmothers and mothers would make this for us, it is every kid’s favorite. Whenever you hear ‘kikliko’ it makes you smile. We want people to be happy here.”

“I’m too lazy to make breakfast,” she tells the waitress. “I’m so glad you are open early.”

Indeed, the space is welcoming and warm, and seats about 20 people inside and has room enough for a dozen on the patio by the front door, when the weather is nice. Periodicals stacked in a rack on the wall provide a nice alternative to your device while waiting for your meal, and the waitstaff are as pleasant as they come, even in the early morning.

The enticing menu, developed by local chef Elene Kakabadze, is a subtle blend of western and Georgian worlds. No thin Russian blini here – the pancakes are a bit fluffier, dollar-sized and more delicate. Try the creamy rich cottage cheese stuffed cakes.

This is not an American-style hash house – there are no Denver omelets or biscuits and gravy. There are, however, scrambles with cream cheese, guacamole, or ham that will not disappoint, and the eggs Benedict, served with spinach instead of Canadian bacon, is one of the best in town. For a twist, try the sautéed oyster mushrooms on whole-wheat toast topped with a perfectly fried egg, sunnyside up.

Although kikliko is typically a delightful way to recycle old bread, these folks use nothing but fresh baked stuff from an exclusive local baker. And for that morning pork fix, you can get a deliciously light kikliko with melted sulguni and a slice of lean ham; or go meatless with three cheeses: parmesan, mozzarella and cream cheese.

breakfast tbilisi

Georgians don’t sweeten their version of French toast with syrup or jam. Tamara admits she thought the concept was crazy, like eating sweet khachapuri. But if some people eat it like that, it was certainly worth trying to satisfy them. Now she beams about their kikliko served with sliced almonds and a grapefruit and orange jam.

Another exclusively Georgian dish is korkoti, one of just a few native desserts, except it is only served at funerals for a reason no one can explain. Made with puffed wheat, walnuts, raisins and fresh whipped cream, and garnished with a sprig of mint and raspberries, it is simple transcendence, yet you will never find it on a menu.

“But it is so good! Why do we have to wait until someone dies just so we can eat it?” Tamara cries.

Giorgi and Tamara talk about how they did not establish the restaurant with the aim of “making it” (each partner has a separate professional life), and how that laid-back mentality helps keep the pressure off and lightens up the atmosphere. The staff are part of a family, not “employees.”

They have only been open around four months, and there are small tweaks to be made. They will soon be serving Cafés Richard espresso pods and fresh fruit juice blends. Menu changes at this point amount to adding a couple of soups. But the concept will remain purely breakfast, despite the whines of their late-rising friends who beg them to stay open a few hours later.

We joke about a joint in my neighborhood that calls itself an “all-day” breakfast place, yet it doesn’t open until noon. Then on cue, a woman walks in, about 60, wide-eyed and smiling. It is her first time here.

“I’m too lazy to make breakfast,” she tells the waitress. “I’m so glad you are open early.”

This article was originally published on November 13, 2018.

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Paul Rimple and Justyna Mielnikiewicz

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