Breakfast: The Universal Diner

Classic diner food meets from-scratch kitchen.

Authored by Kerrie Lee Brown
Photography by Joni Schrantz

The Universal, a popular breakfast and lunch restaurant serving homemade comfort fare and reimagined classics, opened June 12, 2012. Owner Steve Sharp’s love for motorcycles is uniquely displayed throughout the restaurant with cool transportation murals and photos on the walls. Known for their signature cornbread rancheros, house smoked pulled pork sandwich, and homemade biscuits and preserves. The Universal makes 315 to 460 famous biscuits per week, which breaks down to about 70 to 105 per day on the weekend, and 35 to 50 per weekday. “The biscuits are mixed and baked fresh every morning. When a guest gets a biscuit, it is baked fresh that day,” explains Chef Michael Barger. “The inside melts in your mouth and the outside has a little flaky texture.“ Here are some tasty recipes straight from the kitchen.

Photo by Joni Schrantz

Custard French Toast

The Custard Toast was an opener on the menu, meaning it was on The Universal’s original menu and it’s never been removed. The dish is served with maple syrup, but the compote sweetens it enough to not need the syrup.

(serves 3-4)
CUSTARD TOAST INGREDIENTS:
1 sourdough boule or loaf of brioche bread (approximately 4-6 large slices)
4 large egg yolks
1 c. heavy cream
2/3 c. whole milk
1/2 c. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 oz. soft butter

DIRECTIONS:
Slice bread in 1/2-inch slices and place flat in pan(s). Whisk all ingredients thoroughly. Pour approximately half of custard mixture over bread. Flip bread and pour remaining custard over bread, covering all bread. Soak the custard bread overnight.

RASPBERRY PRESERVES INGREDIENTS:
4 c. raspberries
4 c. sugar
2 tsp. lemon juice

DIRECTIONS:
Add fruit, sugar, and lemon juice to a pot. Cook on medium heat. Stir occasionally and bring to a boil. Boil the mixture until liquid is clear and mixture has thickened. Cool and refrigerate.

ASSEMBLY:
Heat the griddle to medium heat. Place the custard bread on the griddle until crispy brown on both sides. Remove from the griddle and scoop desired amount of raspberry preserves onto the toast. Garnish with fresh raspberries or choice of fruit.

Photo by Joni Schrantz

Walnut Chocolate Chip Cookies

The Universal’s Walnut Chocolate Chip Cookies are a spin-off of the recipe that Steve grew up on. They are made daily by hand, instead of with a mixer, and are served at the counter where you can meet and chat with their wonderful staff.

INGREDIENTS:
2 ¼ c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 c. butter at room temp
¾ c. sugar
¾ c. brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
2 c. chocolate chips
1 c. walnuts

DIRECTIONS:
In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. Cream together the butter, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla until smooth and completely combined. Carefully add 1 egg at a time into the butter mixture. Add butter mixture to dry ingredients. Fold in chocolate chips and walnuts. Using large spoon, scoop balls of cookie dough for baking. Bake at 325 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

Photo by Joni Schrantz

Spiced Grapefruit Margarita

Mix blanco tequila, honey simple syrup, and grapefruit juice. Serve on ice with a spiced salt rim.

Cornbread Rancheros

Owner Steve is a huge rancheros fan, having lived in Northern Californiawhere one of his favorite restaurants served cornbread with rancheros every day. That’s why, he wanted cornbread to be on The Universal’s rancheros.

(serves 3-4)
CORNBREAD INGREDIENTS:
1 c. buttermilk
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt
1/3 c. packed light or dark brown sugar
1 c. cornmeal
1/2 c. unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
2 Tbsp. honey
1 c. all-purpose flour

DIRECTIONS:
Whisk buttermilk and egg together. Whisk in baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar, and cornmeal. Whisk in butter, honey, and flour until smooth (mixture will be thick).
Add to a well-greased standard 9-inch square baking dish/pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 20-30 minutes, until the center is completely cooked. Let cool for 10-15 minutes.

RANCHEROS INGREDIENTS:
Baked cornbread
½ c. cooked black beans
2 Tbsp. shredded cheddar cheese (you can put in broiler for few seconds to melt cheese)
1 slice warm cornbread
1-2 oz. of pico de gallo
1-2 oz. salsa roja
1-2 eggs (fried or scrambled)
¼ sliced avocado
1 Tbsp. sour cream
¼ lime

ASSEMBLY:
Place cornbread slice on plate. Heat the black beans while cooking preferred style of eggs. Then layer ingredients in order: Black beans, cheddar cheese, pico de gallo, salsa roja, eggs, avocado, sour cream, and lime

Photo by Joni Schrantz

The HIBL

Named after a regular at The Universal, Mark Hibl, The HIBL has become one of the biggest sellers on the menu. “Mark has impeccable taste in food and it has become one of the house specialties,” says owner Steve.

serves 1
INGREDIENTS:
1 buttermilk biscuit
2 pork sausage breakfast patties
2 eggs (fried, poached, or scrambled)
½ avocado (sliced)
hollandaise sauce
paprika

DIRECTIONS:
Prepare a classic hollandaise while buttermilk biscuits are baking. Slice the biscuit. Using the top and bottom separately, layer one slice of sausage, 1 egg, and ¼ of sliced avocado, adding hollandaise to your liking. Sprinkle paprika on top.

Biscuit bonanza: 6 tips on baking biscuits from Chef Michael for the at-home chef

Photo by Joni Schrantz

1. Practice, practice, practice.
2. If it looks wet enough, then it’s too hydrated. It should look dry and clumpy.
3. Go easy on the buttermilk, then add more if needed.
4. The rest time between folding the butter into the flour is key. Fifteen minutes of rest time lets the flour fully hydrate the buttermilk.
5. Experiment with sugar levels. This will contribute to how brown it gets. Under sugared biscuits will be light in color. Over sugaring will make the crust caramelized.
6. Make sure every side of the biscuit is touching the pan and the other biscuits. It builds height when they bake. If they aren’t tucked together, nice and tight, they will bake flat.

Buttermilk Biscuit

(serves 4-6)
INGREDIENTS:
¾ c. cold buttermilk
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. sugar
2 c. all-purpose flour
6 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cubed

DIRECTIONS:
Whisk buttermilk in a large bowl with baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add sugar and whisk completely. Add half the flour and mix until thick. Cut cubed butter into dry mixture, while keeping mixture cool. Once mixture is combined, let rest for a minimum of 10 minutes before rolling. Gently roll the dough out and cut your biscuits (into circles or squares). Make sure biscuits are touching each other in the pan. Bake at 425F for 15 minutes until biscuits are golden brown on top.

Raspberry Jam

INGREDIENTS:
4 c. raspberries
4 c. sugar
2 tsp. lemon juice

DIRECTIONS:
Add fruit, sugar and lemon juice to a pot. Cook on medium heat. Stir occasionally and bring to a boil. Boil the mixture until liquid is clear and mixture has thickened. Cool and refrigerate.

The Universal
2911 W. 38th Ave.
303-955-0815