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The Spot 

210 Shelburne Road, Burlington, 540-1778

You pull yourself out of the ocean after a morning of riding the waves, dry off in the warm sun, throw your board on top of the car and head to the local surf shack for breakfast. Then you wake up from the dream: It's stick season in Vermont — gray skies, plunging temps and not a warm wave in sight.

The perfect antidote is on the south side of Burlington at the Spot, where they serve island ambiance along with delicious food. Four years ago, owner Russ Scully bought a 1950s gas station on Shelburne Road and converted it into a California-Hawaii, surf-themed restaurant. Picture surf posters, skylights, potted palm trees and a 150-gallon, salt-water fish tank. The original car bays are fitted with custom roll-up windows that, even closed, let in so much light you quickly forget it's 45 degrees and cloudy outside.

On a chilly Saturday morning after my daughter's soccer game, we hit the Spot for breakfast. The 20-minute wait flew by as I enjoyed a hot cup of coffee and the kids focused on the fish-tank, their noses pressed against the glass. Once we got a table, they tore themselves away to order but were back at the tank before our server had put away her pad.

The Spot is loud and casual — perfect for families. That my two kids were running back and forth from tank to table with fish reports didn't seem to bother anyone. When it's nice out, families with kids enjoy even more freedom outside on the patio.

The kids menu offers smaller portions of the Spot's breakfast entrées: one egg with toast; one pancake; crêpes with fruit; or a bagel with cream cheese. But my kids ordered the Morning Surfari off the adult menu, which invited them to choose from a long list of ingredients — everything they wanted and nothing they didn't — to build their own omelets or breakfast wraps.

The meal satisfied us in a way that only good, warm breakfast food can. My daughter rhapsodized over the breakfast potatoes, putting away hers and most of her brother's in between bites of her egg-bean-and-cheese wrap. My son savored his sausage-and-cheese omelet — each bite yielding just the right proportions of egg, cheese and delicious breakfast meat. My à la carte scrambled eggs were not too wet, not too dry. In a word: perfect. The bagel I ordered on the side was crispy around the edges, chewy everywhere else. Chased down with more good hot coffee, I was in my happy place — warm and content as if we were on vacation.

We paid our bill and spent more time at the fish tank, deciding which was our favorite and trying to find the elusive eel. It wasn't snorkeling in Hawaii, but on a dreary fall day in Vermont, it was the next best thing.

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