Date of Visit: Monday, May 30, 2011, at 11:00 a.m.
IMPRESSIONS: I’ve gotten a few notes from readers over the past few months about Honey Baked Ham opening a concept store up on Sawmill Road, and I’ll admit that I was intrigued. Columbus has long been known as a test market for food chains and the like: Wendy’s, Donato’s, White Castle, and Max & Erma’s started or are headquartered here; McDonald’s marketing firm is based here; cable television first debuted in town; the list goes on. So it was no surprise that Honey Baked would debut a new restaurant here in town, attached to one of their existing stores.
ATMOSPHERE: We ventured out on a hot Memorial Day, and found ourselves in essentially a modern country setting. Big, square yellow tables, bright yellow walls with black and white pictures of the Honey Baked Ham founders and their early stores. In one corner is a fireplace; out front is a small patio.
FOOD: We started with some coffee, which was pretty good. The server said it was a standard bulk food service roast, but they grind the beans fresh. Points for automatically bringing a small mug of cream.
Shortly after you sit down, they bring your table what they call “A gift of friendship,” which is a small, warm crumb cake with maple butter. It’s a very welcoming start to the meal.
The Sweet Clove menu is designed to feature the Honey Baked Ham product, so it shows up in a lot of the dishes. Case in point: their Signature Benedict. Features your standard English muffin, poached eggs, hollandaise, plus slices of their ham. Served with a side of potatoes. Overall, very nicely done. It’s a very filling dish. The key point in a benedict (for me) is the hollandaise, which was light and tasted fresh, not canned.
And then there are variations on the signature dishes. This is the Bacon and Ham Benedict. One had their classic ham, one had a couple slices of bacon. Again, filling, and again, a very good benedict. Side of potatoes was very nice, too.
Small kids menu, too. Scrambled eggs and toast for my son.
I had a reader suggest I try the Blueberry Ginger French toast, so this was on my mind the moment we decided to visit. Just like the regular French toast, it’s cut thick and very soft. I couldn’t taste the ginger that much, but I assume it was in the batter. Blueberries were nice, as was the real maple syrup.
The folks at Sweet Clove understand some of the performance of food, too. One of the big selling points of the French toast is that your server comes around with a GIANT BOWL OF WHIPPED CREAM to dollop onto your dish.
The benefit of this (for the restaurant, at least) is that you see servers dole out the whipped cream to other tables, so instantly your appetite is whetted.
SERVICE: Our server was quiet but very nice. She had a good sense of humor, everything came out quickly, and she kept an eye on us. Overall, the table setup is appealing, too: orange square plates, salt and pepper grinders, bamboo centerpieces, fun little honey bowl (for sale in the shop, of course).
OVERALL: Because Sweet Clove Sunshine Cafe (say that five times fast) is a concept store for Honey Baked Ham, it’s attached to the store itself. So you can wander through their gift shop or order ham to take home.
So what can I say about the Cafe? Yes, it is the beginning of a new chain restaurant, but so far they seem to have a lot of things right. The overall experience is comfortable, the food is well prepared and very filling. The prices are higher than your diner breakfast – $10-12 per entree – but the portions are appropriate for it. Sawmill Road isn’t exactly in my neighborhood, but the Cafe was full when we visited, and I’m still craving another bite of that French toast.
I’d be very curious to know what others think of it!