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Monthly Archives: June 2009

Photos: The Buxton


A few days ago I reviewed the Apple Uglies from the Orange Blossom Bakery & Cafe down in Buxton, NC. This is a quick follow-up. You see, the Orange Blossom also does breakfast sandwiches, and my sister-in-law and her fiancee were kind enough to pick up one for me.


Ladies and gentlemen, this is The Buxton… the Orange Blossom’s addition to the recent craze of ridiculously over-sized sandwiches. The tagline for this one is “Don’t tell your doctor about this one!” It’s packed with six pieces of bacon, three sausage patties, three eggs, tomatoes, lettuce, and three slices of their homemade bread. It honestly wasn’t as big as I thought it would be, but it’s certainly filling. I could only eat half of it. And it’s a decent sandwich – you really can’t go wrong with a glorified BLT. The tomatoes were sliced thick, the bread was great, the eggs and bacon just fine. The sausage patties were a little too dense for the sandwich, but then again… I’m eating a gigantic sandwich, so maybe texture shouldn’t be one of my complaints.

LJ’s Coffee Shop & Restaurant | Logan, OH

LJ’s Coffee Shop & Restaurant
2217 E. Front St. (map it!)
Logan, OH 43138
(740) 380-3077
Open 5 am – 8 pm everyday
Breakfast served all day!

Accepts cash and credit cards

Date of Visit: Saturday, March 21, 2009 at 10:45 a.m.

IMPRESSIONS: The arts company of which I am a co-founder, Wild Goose Creative, went on our annual retreat to Hocking Hills in southwest Ohio in late March. We use the weekend as a time to get out of town, relax, and do some focused planning for the coming year. My job, of course, was to pick a place for breakfast on Saturday. About three years ago my wife and I breakfasted at Julie’s Cafe in downtown Logan, an easy-to-pass joint that featured some of the best French toast we’ve tried. As the company returned for another retreat, it was up to us to find breakfast one of the mornings, and we landed on the new LJ’s Coffee Shop & Restaurant east of downtown Logan.

ATMOSPHERE: The restaurant is a little hard to find. It’s in the side of a warehouse that also contains a convenience store, a Fedex store, and an eBay selling store. The building is set far back from the road, and because LJ’s is on the side of it, you really have to look for the signs. Once you find it, however, you’ll find that the building is nice and new, and very welcoming. Inside is a cozy restaurant with a low ceilings, brick walls, accented by wood and sheet metal. Up front is the “coffee shop” area, with pastries in a cooler and rows of Torani syrups to greet you.

FOOD: LJ’s offers the standard breakfast spread, but they specialize in combo meals that are infinitely customizable. There are so many variations; here just a few examples of how your breakfast can be personalized:
1. Eggs: how would like them cooked?
2. Potatoes: fries or hash browns?
3. Meat: would you like bacon, ham, sausage (and links or patties)?
4. Bread: biscuits, muffins, toast (in white, wheat, rye or sourdough)?
5. Carbs: pancakes, corncakes, or French toast?

And LJ’s always gives you the option of ordering 1-3 eggs and 1-3 slices of pancakes.

I chose the Have It All Breakfast (pictured below), which is pancakes, corncakes, mush, or French toast with meat, or with meat and eggs.

Overall, the breakfast was just fine. Nothing mind-blowing, but no major complaints. The eggs were just right, the bacon was crispy (some of the others in our group felt it had a funny taste, but I didn’t notice anything). The hash browns were good, the biscuit a little dry but not bad. All of our food came out a little cold – I suspect it was because of the size of our group. Some of our food may have sat around until everything could be delivered at once.

I had never tried corncakes before, so this was a Breakfast w/Nick first. They’re basically a pancake made with corn meal, dense and mealy. It really soaked up the syrup. Note to self: you need to keep a corncake hydrated when eating it.

The coffee was a weak brown that served in cobalt blue mugs. It was pretty hard to taste.

They also serve the Jelly Bean Special. We were told Jelly Bean is a nickname for the cook. This was basically a corned beef hash. Not too bad.

We tried a basket of friend pickles, too. Not a typical breakfast item, but how bad can they be? And all of the breakfast was so cheap! The Have It All Breakfast sets you back $4.99, or you can splurge on the Pancakes with Meat & Eggs for $5.79. If you can want to keep it simple, you can grab the Coffee & Toast, the Oatmeal, or the Grits for only $1.99.

SERVICE: The servers were the sassy middle-aged servers typical of diners across America. Sorry, is that a judgment call? I don’t mean it to sound derogatory, but there’s a definite character type in these breakfast joints. These are the ladies who call you “Hon,” are no-nonsense, and are very nice if you are, too. I like these servers, and that’s just who you’ll meet at LJ’s.

OVERALL: I’ve only begun to explore the breakfast offerings of southeastern Ohio, but if LJ’s is anything to go by, it’s headed in the right direction. We chatted with the manager briefly before we left, and he seemed very proud of the restaurant and their customers. He told me that “LJ” stands for Little John, the owner. So there’s a nice feel to this place. It’s a typical small-town diner, with some local flavor, close to downtown. It would make a great stop for starting a day of hiking in Hocking Hills.

The only catch, again, is the off-the-beaten-path location. Here are a couple signs, just for reference. It may be hard to find, but LJ’s is worth taking a look!

OTHER LINKS:

LJ's Coffee Shop and Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Photos: French toast!


Yesterday future brother-in-law Evan made omelets… this morning Billy (another future bro-in-law? Hmmm?) whipped up some French toast. Pretty simple ingredients: white bread, eggs, milk, a dash of cinnamon (Penzy’s Vietnamese Extra Fancy, of course).


They were soft and custardy. Especially with some Pennsylvania maple syrup made by an Amish family friend.

Photos: Beach omelets!


We’re currently on vacation with my wife’s family on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, a thin strip of islands sticking out into the Atlantic. This morning we decided to make omelets using some leftovers from last night’s meal. This included such delicious ingredients as Dubliner Irish cheddar cheese, chopped onion, sauteed asparagus, and – oh yeah – fresh tuna.


The past couple days have been overcast and windy, but we’re making the best of it. Our future brother-in-law Evan made omelets for everyone this morning. Some of us helped with the prep, but he handled all the major cooking.


I love how Evan’s got this set up like a diner. He and Kate took orders ahead of time; here he is checking the list. All that was missing was a bell and someone shouting, “Order up!” (Which Kate actually did from time-to-time.)


Pictured above and below are Beth’s and my omelets. We had sauteed onions and asparagus, some poblano peppers, two types of cheese, and the tuna. With a little salt, pepper, and Old Bay seasoning, you couldn’t go wrong. Great way to start a day near the beach. Of course, this means that Evan is now obligated to make these every morning from now on.



At it was all washed down with a hot mug of Ethiopian Harrar coffee. Perfect.

Orange Blossom Bakery & Cafe | Buxton, NC

Orange Blossom Bakery & Cafe (Facebook)
47206 Highway 12 (map it!)
Buxton, NC 27920
(252) 995-4109
Open Mon-Sat 6:30-10 am; Sun 7-10 am
Accepts cash only

Date of Visit: Monday, June 15, 2009 at 7:15 a.m.

IMPRESSIONS: The Orange Blossom Bakery & Cafe is a decades-old institution on Hatteras Island, in the North Carolina Outer Banks. The Bakery & Cafe stays open seasonally, and is usually mobbed by the summer crowd every morning. The regular visitors know to hit up Orange Blossom early, in order to score some of their famous Apple Uglies. I’ve been to the Outer Banks several times with my wife’s family, and we pay the bakery a visit by bike or by car at least once or twice a year.

ATMOSPHERE: Like a typical morning at Orange Blossom, the bakery was busy busy busy! We arrived about 45 minutes after it opened, but still managed to beat a major crowd.

The bakery itself is tiny: one room with a few shelves packed full of goodies. Behind them the kitchen buzzes with five or six workers. Near the front door, a separate hallway leads to a small room with a handful of tables.

Orange Blossom offers a range of donuts, muffins, and pastries, plus breakfast and lunch sandwiches (scroll down their menu to read the description of The Buxton), but… everyone really comes to the bakery for their Apple Uglies. These babies come out of the kitchen on big, long, steaming hot trays.

An Apple Ugly is basically a fried apple fritter: dough mixed with apples, then fried and slathered with a sugar icing. When they’re warm, it’s a little bit of heaven. On the Orange Blossom website, they claim the pastries are called Uglies because they really are ugly pieces of dough. My father-in-law suggested, after we ordered a dozen to take back to the house, that they’re called Uglies because the line gets ugly after you order so many. Whatever the reason, the sheer taste and intensity of the sugar rush outweighs any concern of visual aesthetics.

Here’s one of our bags, filled with six Uglies, after we arrived home. Mmmm.

Artsy photo. I call this “Apple Ugly In The Morning, As The Atlantic Looks On.”

OTHER LINKS:

Orange Blossom Bakery Cafe on Urbanspoon


Avon on Dwellable

Nancy’s Home Cooking | Columbus, OH


Nancy’s Home Cooking
(Facebook)
3133 North High St. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43202
(614) 265-9012
Open Mon-Fri 6-2; Sat 6-12; Sun 7-12
Accepts cash only

Date of Visit: Thursday, May 28, 2009 at 7:30 a.m.

UPDATE: Although Nancy’s closed on 6/1/09, they since remodeled and re-opened on 2/19/10. More info and pictures here!



IMPRESSIONS
: Nancy’s Home Cooking is a Columbus institution that has been a staple of the Clintonville neighborhood for forty years. It’s a shame that I’ve only been three times, including today, and that I haven’t reviewed it yet. The most significant reason for this is that Nancy’s closed on Monday, June 1st (although hopefully not permanently). I’ve been meaning for years to review the place, and it’s kinda sad that the restaurant closing is what finally got my butt in gear to visit. This is made even sadder by the fact that I had such a great experience there, and that in some ways the simple diner breakfast at Nancy’s is the exact type of breakfast that I usually long for.


ATMOSPHERE
: Nancy’s is a small place. You could easily drive by it on High Street if you didn’t know to look for it. From the outside, you see one small door next and a large plate glass window. There’s a small sign hanging off the front of the building, but even the name is dwarfed by the blue Pepsi sign above it.


Inside is equally small. Above you is a bright red tin roof. One wall is all brick, with a few Pittsburgh Steelers pennants and signs, and the other wall is the kitchen. There are exactly 4 booths, 2 counter islands, and 1 kinda awkward round table near the door. The islands and round table are right next to the grill; when you sit there, you’re basically sitting in the kitchen. When we visited , there was a very diverse mix of customers. Some folks looked like they had just wandered in off the street, some were dressed pretty casually, like a friends enjoying a simple breakfast, and several customers wore suits and ties, clearly on their way to work.


So probably about 30 people can be seated at once. I’ve never seen it, but I guess it’s typical to have a line out the door on weekends. Many of the signs around the diner remind you that you may have to squash into your seat. Other signs (see the picture below) tell you not to hold booths, and remind you to “Eat it and beat it.” Everyone’s welcome at Nancy’s, but if it’s busy, eat and get on with it.


FOOD
: Nancy’s excels at doing the diner breakfast, and doing it really well. It’s about as basic as it could be, but just so good. The entire breakfast menu hangs on the wall. On this last visit, I sat with my back to this wall, so I kept having to turn around to read it. The menu options are pretty simple (which makes choosing easy). Plus they’re dirt cheap. For instance:

$4 gets you eggs, your choice of meat OR potatoes, and toast
OR
$5 gets you the eggs, the meat AND potatoes, plus toast
.50 for your coffee
$3 for an omelet (I’ve read a lot about the garbage omelet)
$1.75 for a slice of pie
$1 for each pancake or piece of French toast

I splurged and got the $5 AND breakfast (none of this OR stuff for me!). First, the toast came out on a paper plate, nice and crispy, with the Country Crock at your disposal.


It took a few minutes after the toast hit, but then the rest of the breakfast landed.


Oh my, it was so delicious. The toast by then was a little cold, so the butter spread didn’t melt too well. But I soon remedied that by piling on some hot over-easy eggs. The rest of the breakfast was fantastic. Well seasoned, chunky potatoes. Thick, crispy bacon. A little bit greasy, and oh so filling. You really couldn’t ask for a better diner breakfast.


Coffee: good diner brown.

SERVICE: Every time I’ve been to Nancy’s, I’ve been served by Cindy King, who has owned Nancy’s since 1970. Cindy is no-nonense, fast to take your order, quick to refill your coffee, and does it all with a smile. She clearly knows all the regulars. While others work the grill, clean dishes, and prep the food, Cindy shuttles around the restaurant taking and delivering all the orders.


As we were leaving, a couple of businessmen next to us finished their meal, then both hauled out cameras to photograph the restaurant. We took a picture of the two of them, and they returned the favor. This is Chip and I with our friends Andy and Amanda. Later, while we paid up front, one of the other employees, a middle-aged gentleman, kept making jokes at the expense of the Cleveland Browns to Chip. Clearly the folks at Nancy’s are a Steelers-favoring crowd, so Chip was in good company.

OVERALL: A couple weeks ago I did a presentation on the arts company of which I’m a founder, Wild Goose Creative, at Pecha Kucha. Later in the presentation, a photographer named Rainer Ziehm shared pictures of his world travels, saying “I take pictures of things that won’t be around much longer.” When he said this, it made me instantly think of places like Nancy’s. The small. The local. The personal. The one-of-a-kind.


I can’t really claim to be a Nancy’s regular, given that I’ve visited a total of three times in two years. But it still made me really sad to read about the closing, and then to see the place again with my own eyes and realize what it gem it was. I’m sure it’s easy to romanticize the closing – after all, it’s closing for simple money issues (medical bills for the owner, and expensive renovations needed for the building) – but seeing the regulars chatting with Cindy, and the businessmen taking some pictures (I wonder how many times they had been over the years?), and the guy making jokes to Chip… it all made me wonder what this place means to the real regulars, and what they’ll do now that it’s closed.

OTHER LINKS:

Nancy's Home Cooking on Urbanspoon

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