There are some restaurants that puzzle me. They’re the kinds that have average wait times to get seated on a rainy weekday for lunch. Rainy days and weekday lunches are extremely slow days for restaurants in general. Ergo, in this economy, this kind of activity indicates that it must be a pretty kick-ass restaurant. The part that puzzles me is not that the food’s bad or mediocre, but it is that it’s less than stunning. I know how this sounds. And I don’t like to think of myself as a restaurant snob that nitpicks over the mouth feel of something as simple as juice, but maybe I am. The thing is, I couldn’t help but keep wondering before, during and after the whole experience: “What’s the big friggin deal?”
But then again, when it comes to breakfast food, I’m hard to amaze. I like my eggs and my bacon and my gravy soaked waffles as much as the next dude, but I find myself inexplicably resentful when I have to fork over money for something I can easily prepare at home. Breakfast is also primarily made up of carbs and protein and thus is the cheapest kind of meal anyone can whip up. If you think about it, a serving of grits in the home will probably set you back about 30 cents whereas a serving of grits in the restaurant will set you back 5 bucks. And I’m sure they buy everything in bulk, meaning a serving a grits for them is probably 15 cents. Maybe even 25 cents if they’re of the fancy sort.
I was scheduled to meet someone at 11, but I deliberately came 10 minutes late and wasn’t even given a menu – due to the bustling activity of an overbooked restaurant – until half an hour later. This means that we didn’t get to order until around 11:45AM, a mere 15 minutes before noon. I was hoping this meant that I could grab something off the lunch menu. Duck and dirty rice sounded so much better than pancakes and French toast. Unfortunately, I was denied the options of pulled pork sandwich and four pig platter and was told – really nicely – that I would have to wait another 40 minutes for lunch items. Hence, let it be known that I was a bit biased against my meal and let me preface this by saying that if you like breakfast, especially the kind with a Southern touch, this is probably the spot for your next mid-morning destination.
To start, the butcher paper tablecloth and cup of crayons is cute, practical touch because the wait times can be a bit long. I got the country ham biscuit and a side of kale to offset the onslaught of meat and starch that was about to attack my appetite.
As a side note: if breakfast is supposedly the most important meal of the day, why do we concentrate on making breakfast foods the junkiest kind of stuff we can put into our bodies? Think about it. Donuts, cream cheese Danishes and pancakes could hardly justify themselves as part of a complete meal at any other time of the day. Dessert, maybe, but a square meal? It also bothers me that there is no typical breakfast vegetable other than the hearty potato – which often comes fried with a touch of ketchup.
I could, however, tell that this was supposed to be a breakfast of caliber because the menu names where most everything comes from. The country ham is Col. Bill Newson’s and hails all the way from Kentucky whilst the cheese in my grits isn’t just any old cheese – it’s Grafton cheddar cheese. I’m sure that all this labeling is supposed to impress me, so they get a pat on the back for effort.
Everything was pretty good on my plate. The biscuits were homemade and were served up warm like the creamy, cheesy grits. The homemade fig jam was a slamming way of countering all that fatty salt from the super thick country ham – which, for some reason, tasted like it had been dipped in delicious donut grease. I’m going to assume it was cooked in bacon fat. The kale was perfectly cooked and helped trick me into believing that everything on my plate was a part of a complete breakfast. The only thing I probably wasn’t too crazy about is that the ham is a bit hard to cut through with teeth or serrated butter knives. The biscuit was also just a touch tough – though this is easily mitigated with a lighter hand with the dough.
My friend raved about how light and fluffy the pancakes were – and how tough it was to get such great pancakes anywhere. I tasted them. The edges were buttery and crisp and they weren’t floppy or tough at all. The candied bacon – bacon dipped in Vermont maple syrup and then baked – wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, but they get an A for imagination and effort. There was something about the sticky, syrupy coating that just didn’t feel right with the dense, chewy nature of the bacon. The Eggs Rothko – a thick slice of brioche filled with an easy cooked egg and topped with more of that Grafton cheese was alright as well. Soft, eggy bread with crisp edges and a softly-cooked, yolky inside. All it was missing was a touch of salt whilst my dining partner thought there was too much cheese. It was generous with the cheese, but I like my cheese-laden food items to be heavy on the melting, oozing cheese.
Breakfast doesn’t impress me, so I wasn’t impressed. With that said, I can comprehend why people would think that this is an impressive breakfast place. Now I know how people who don’t care for sweets feel when I drag them on over to a dessert shop. Lesson learned!
135A North 5th St