If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

That was Lisa Kostopoulos’ strategy going into the Second Annual Incredible Breakfast Cook-off Friday morning. Kostopoulos, owner of The Good Table Restaurant in Cape Elizabeth, won the contest last year with her “sticky and sweet, bring you to your knees delicious” Creme Brulee French Toast. So she decided to serve the same dish this year.

Her strategy worked. Kostopoulos’ restaurant took first place again, and she said it felt “fantastic.”
“I was willing to share the wealth, but I’m glad it’s ours,” she said.

The Incredible Breakfast Cook-off, held from 7 to 9 a.m. at Sea Dog Brewing Co. in South Portland, is a signature event of Maine Restaurant Week and a benefit for Preble Street. The cook-off raised about $3,500 for the social services agency.

For the second year in a row, Sea Dog hosted a sell-out crowd of more than 300 hungry breakfast fans. By 6:45 a.m., a line had formed outside the restaurant, and the parking lot was full. For $15, the public wandered from station to station, sampling breakfast dishes from 11 local restaurants and voting for two of their favorites. The smell of strong coffee hung in the air as chefs ladled pancake batter, cracked eggs, handed out doughnnuts and plated eggs Benedict.

James Tranchemontagne, the chef/owner of The Frog and Turtle in Westbrook,  was looking weary as he ladled batter onto a griddle for his version of “pork in the hole,” a variation of pigs in blankets. The chef left work at 1 a.m. Friday and got up again at 5 a.m. in order to be at Sea Dog on time.

But Tranchemontagne wanted to participate because “Preble Street is a really good charity.”

“We usually only do stuff for charity,” he said. “If it’s tied to a charity, and a charity we like, we’ll get up early.”

Karen Leach and Alex Leech of Congdon’s Doughnuts Family Restaurant in Wells handed out eight varieties of doughnuts, three kinds of muffins and whoopie pies in four flavors. Also on display were a giant whoopie pie and a huge donut that had been made to be raffled off for Preble Street.

“We came last year, and it was so much fun,” Leach said. “And it’s a good cause.”

One item was flying off their table: the “cheeseburger donut.”

“It’s entirely made of donuts, with a chocolate donut in the middle,” Leech said. The “cheese” is a cream cheese topping smeared in the middle.

Congdon’s brought six dozen of the cheeseburger donuts, but they quickly “sold out.”

Jean and Tricia Barstow of Portland grabbed one of the sinful pastries for Tricia Barstow’s boyfriend, who couldn’t make it to the event.

Jean Barstow and her college-age daughter try to get together at least once a month for lunch, but this month they decided to come to this event because breakfast is Tricia’s “very favorite meal of the day.”

Tricia Barstow said  her favorite dish of the morning was “the Creme Brulee French Toast, definitely. There’s a reason why it won last year.”

Her mother favored the Black Angus Corned Beef Has from Bintliff’s American Cafe. “I’m more of a savory person,” she said.

Linda Cleaves, heading over to The Good Table’s table to vote for the Creme Brulee French Toast, said she drove all the way from Durham for the event.

“It’s my boyfriend’s birthday, and he loves Hollandaise and eggs Benedict,” she said. “And I thought forget about cooking them, I’ll find a place that will. So that’s why I brought him here, and he’s having a blast.”

She said while The Good Table’s entry was one of her favorites, it was “very sweet. I don’t think I could eat a whole plate of it.” She planned to give her other ticket to Sea Dog’s Stuffed French Toast, made with French bread and stuffed with strawberries, blueberries, banana cream and maple syrup.

The maple syrup used with Sea Dog’s French toast was made from trees in Executive Chef Chris Gordon’s own backyard.

Friends Mike Cielinski and Mike Chelidona, both of Lisbon Falls, took the day off to come to the breakfast cook-off. They stood at a table with four plates in front of them, deconstructing the corned beef hash from Bintliff’s. They called themselves “the Siskel and Ebert of breakfast eaters.”

“The (Bintliff’s) corned beef isn’t as shredded as in the others – there’s all kinds of hash here – but it’s not necessarily a bad thing,” Cielinski noted.

“It’s two sides in one,” Chelidona said. “It’s your meat and your home fry together. This one, you’ve got big chunks of potato.”

The men said the “overall experience” of the Farmer’s Table Sweet Potato Corned Beef Hash, topped with a quail egg and Hollandaise sauce, made it their favorite. The quail egg, Cielinksi said, was “a nice touch.”

In the end, the Farmer’s Table hash was second runner-up. The Sea Dog stuffed French toast was first runner up.

As for first-place winner Lisa Kostopoulos, ever since she won the contest last year she’s had to put her award-winning Creme Brulee French Toast on the menu the first weekend of every month. If she doesn’t, customers start calling and asking for it.

Any secret ingredients?

“Sugar and good looks,” she said, laughing.