When Conner Mullins was growing up, breakfast was king. Family gatherings took place around the breakfast table, and the first dish the future chef learned to cook was scrambled eggs, which his father taught him when Mullins was 9 years old.
While working at Commander’s Palace and after that a seven-year stint at Brigtsen’s, mornings were the only time when Mullins could cook for fun. He experimented with new recipes for a breakfast place he could call his own.
Those designs came to fruition this spring when Mullins opened YaYa’s Comfort Food, a friendly and casual breakfast and lunch joint on Hickory Avenue in Harahan.
Patrons entering the restaurant pause to say hello to friends seated at tables before making their way to the register, where on most weekends there is a line of guests. Burlap curtains hang on the windows, and guests help themselves to refills at the self-serve coffee station. Tables are lined with packets of butter and jelly and Crystal hot sauce.
During breakfast, big, fluffy omelets arrive at tables still steaming and golden waffles are saddled with crispy duck under a sweet syrupy strawberry glaze. On weekends, freshly baked cinnamon rolls are unapologetically misshapen and drip with icing.
The multi-colored El Jefe omelet is a blanket of eggs wrapped around melted cheddar cheese, crumbled chorizo and black beans, which taste earthy and full of warm spice. Topping the omelet is an onion-studded guacamole, juicy red salsa and sour cream. Add home fries dusted in Creole seasoning and you have a full breakfast platter.
There are subtle Latin touches on the menu. Mullins’ girlfriend comes from Honduran and Cuban backgrounds and serves as the inspiration, he says. El Pollo Loco po-boy features fried chicken breasts flavored with Sazon Goya, a bright seasoning blend made with ground coriander, garlic, cumin and annatto, and topped with avocado and pico de gallo on crusty French bread. The po-boy selection also includes the Hott Hott made with Patton’s hot sausage and a Crystal-spiked mayonnaise.
There are changing daily lunch specials such as a bright and soupy shrimp Creole served with white rice and three thick pieces of catfish covered in a crunchy cornmeal crust. With just a sprinkle of lemon juice the dish was complete and thoroughly comforting.
Lunch is served until 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and the restaurant closes at noon on weekends. Mullins says he chose those hours so he can spend time with his nieces and nephews, who call him YaYa.
While there is plenty to enjoy about brunches fueled by bottomless mimosas, YaYa’s serves as a reminder of the breakfast joints where the toast is warm, the service is friendly and the only thing bottomless are the steaming cups of French roast coffee.