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Reviews of different breakfast places.

The Social | Columbus, OH

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The Social (Facebook / @WholeFoodsUA / Instagram @wfmupperarlington)
1555 W. Lane Ave. (map it!) (inside the Upper Arlington Whole Foods)
Columbus, OH 43221
(614) 481-3400
Open 7a-10p (bfast served all day)
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/Y/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Visited: Thursday, July 24, 2014 at 9:00 a.m.

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Whole Foods is known for not just being a shopping place but for creating a full experience. This includes a lot of in-store events and a lot of opportunities for in-store dining. Most Whole Foods have an active prepared foods department that does more than just assemble meals for customers. The WF in Dublin, for instance, includes the 161 Diner, a small counter serving brunch, burgers, and beers.

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The fairly new Whole Foods in Upper Arlington, a smaller-scale store that replaced the Wild Oats on Lane Avenue, includes a small restaurant called The Social. The Social is connected to the store but still feels separate. It has its own entrance, which creates more of a feeling of a stand-alone restaurant than, say, the 161 Diner. In Dublin you need to trek through the store to get to the diner, and then sitting at the counter feels a little like sitting in the middle of the store.

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The Social could be any restaurant space. Not to say it’s generic – it just has a life of its own, separate from the store. The space is bright and welcoming, with a long bar at the back and plenty of cafe tables. Chalkboard menus list drinks from coffee to beer (mental note: good beer selection). Full- and half-sized growlers line nearly every shelf. Ordering takes place at the counter.

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Here’s the farm breakfast, a steal at $5 for two eggs, choice of meat (including vegan sausage), toast, and potatoes. All of it was done just right: soft and well-seasoned potatoes, eggs to order, very flavorful sausage. And served with house-made jam. Again, for $5!

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Also, the challah French toast. Two thick slices served with syrup, berry compote, and whipped cream.

A comfortable space and inexpensive prices easily put The Social on the radar for me. It’s a very accessible place with a big enough breakfast menu to serve anyone. And you know I’m eyeing that beer selection for a later visit…

Mike’s Place | Kent, OH

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Mike’s Place (Facebook group)
1700 S. Water St. (map it!)
Kent, OH 44240
(330) 673-6501
Open Mon-Thurs, 6a-11p; Fri & Sat, 6a-12a; Sun, 7a-10p
Accepts cash, credit/debit, B-17 Bombers, droids, blimp rides, and authentic Fender twin reverb amps
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Visited: Sunday, July 20, 2014 at 10:30 a.m.

I seriously don’t even know how to begin to describe Mike’s Place. Okay, it’s a restaurant. It’s also a tourist destination. A college hangout. A collection of kitsch. A mish-mash of pieces. Or a crazy essay.

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Those who know Mike’s Place know it well. It’s not the type of place that you  easily pass by. For one thing, there are the decorations, like the giant X-Wing out front. We first heard about Mike’s from Laura Lee at Ajumama. All she had to say was, “X-Wing out front” and we were sold.

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Then there’s the building itself, which is assembled – International Space Station style – from many different components being welded together. Part of the building looks like a castle, part of it is like a traditional restaurant. But then there are a couple busses turned into dining rooms. There’s a boat converted to a seating area. A small shack, a faux corner store. The result is a maze of rooms, hallways, and nooks and crannies. I wonder if they’ve ever lost a customer in there?

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And then there are the signs. Mike has a lot to say. Everywhere you look, there are things to read. Handwritten signs, permanent signs. Short ones, long form ones. Some informative, some completely unnecessary.

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Near the entryway is a post full of signs that (for the most part) point you in the direction of bathrooms, themed seating areas, and the Bob Evans down the street (for whiners, it says).

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Pictures can hardly capture the feel of the place; the lighting and close quarters make taking proper photos too difficult (at least with an iPhone). Just imagine a colorful maze of rooms. If you’re a first-time visitor, your only hope is to follow your server to your table, and then hope you can find your way out.

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Many of the seating areas are separated into different rooms, like in a modified bus or a shack.

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And many of them are named. We were seated in a boat referred to as “Ship Happens,” with a sign saying “The Filthy Oar.”

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Remember I mentioned the crazy signage? The trend continues with the menu. It’s ridiculously huge – one of the biggest I’ve ever seen. If you can’t find at least one item to appeal to you, then you’re in the wrong place. Mike will probably tell you to go to Bob Evans.

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Oh, and a massive regular menu isn’t enough. There’s a hand-written photocopied monthly menu, too, listing monthly specials, special events, advertisements, and goofy quotes.

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The menu (which is on the website) provides enough entertaining reading to keep you occupied through any wait. You can tell that Mike is a talker with a big sense of humor. Case in point: the accepted forms of payment. There’s also a Rules of Dining at Mike’s Place, plus lots of colorful commentary spread throughout the menu.

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Somehow we managed to choose something from the menu. We started brunch with a smooth and spicy Bloody Mary.

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The kid’s menu is pretty sizable, too; a note on it jokes that they check IDs and will feed over-age kids to their pet dragon. Here’s a cheeseburger with curly fries.

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And a grilled cheese with curly fries. Why do curly fries always taste better than regular fries?

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We had a recommendation for the omelets, so we tried the Pat O’Brian Omelette. It’s a giant beast of an omelet, loaded with gyro meat, hash browns, and sauteed onions and peppers. It’s enough for three people.

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We also tried the Buckaroo Bonzai Bomber, a stir-fry or hash of eggs and meat on a bed of broccoli, onions, peppers, mushrooms, and potatoes. The eggs were a little over-done, but we really liked the stir-fried veggies. More places need to serve this, or we need to make it more at home.

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And finally we had the Reuben-Reuben, a tall stack of the usual suspects in a reuben sandwich. Very nicely done. Served with curly fries.

It’s clear that you go to Mike’s Place for the experience. The food is certainly good, but it’s not truly the focus. You really go there for the eclectic seating or the crazy decorations or rambling menu. Honestly, Mike’s is an example of what TGI Fridays is trying to be, with the colorful kitsch scattered around the walls.

I can see why it’s a classic stop for Kent State students and alumni, and for travelers in northeast Ohio. Given that there’s so much more to see and try, we’ll be making it a regular stop in the area.

Mike's Place on Urbanspoon

Cuco’s Taqueria | Columbus, OH

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Cuco’s Taqueria (Facebook / @CucosTaqueria)
2162 W. Henderson Rd. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43220
(614) 538-8701
Open Mon-Sat, 8a-10p (bfast served till 11)
Accepts cash & debit/credit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Visited: Thursday, July 10, 2014 at 10:00 a.m.

In the world of Columbus Mexican restaurants, Cuco’s has long been an easy go-to. Our tastes in Mexican fare have changed over the years as we’ve gotten to know less Americanized taco trucks and brick-and-mortar restaurants, but Cuco’s little Henderson Road strip mall location is still familiar and cozy.

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The restaurant feels just like you’d expect most American-based Mexican restaurants to look: bright colors, signage from popular beers like Corona and Modelo, boisterous Spanish-language music.

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If you’ve been to Cuco’s for dinner, especially on a weekend, you know to expect a wait. The margaritas will be flowing and the salsa bar well stocked. But there’s plenty of room at breakfast. Not to say there aren’t customers – we witnessed a steady stream coming and going – but the early hours are a little more subdued. (Hint: this would make it ideal for a larger group.)

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The breakfast menu takes up one page. Asterisks are penned in next to a few items. We didn’t ask why. Popular dishes? Specialties?

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Notice that there are some straightforwardly American breakfasts: omelets, hotcakes, and the Plato Americano. My recommendation, though, is to try something you haven’t had before, like machaca, moyetes, or chilaquiles. Even huevos con chorizo.

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I ordered coffee with my breakfast. It’s basic diner brown.

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Chips and salsa aren’t normally brought to the table at breakfast, but our server offered to bring some when we asked just for salsa.IMG_3245

 

Our boys split the huevos rancheros. Like all the dishes we had, they weren’t as heavily seasoned as we normally prefer, but they’re served in generous portions at a very good price point. The huevos (two fried eggs) are layered onto tortillas and covered with a red ranchero sauce, with rice, refried beans, and cheese.

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We also chose the oaxaqueña, a platter of three enchiladas stuffed with eggs and potatoes and generously doused with a black bean sauce. They’re big, starchy, and filling.

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I’m almost always in a mood for chorizo when it comes to Mexican breakfasts, so I eyed El Tapatio Platter. It mixes two barbacoa tacos (served like street tacos on two corn tortillas and topped with fresh onion and cilantro), two eggs, and chorizo mixed with potatoes, plus a side of refried beans. All very likable. The barbacoa wasn’t quite as juicy or as heavily spiced as I prefer it, but the chorizo adds a nice kick to the whole dish.

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The waiting area of Cuco’s includes market shelves of beer, sodas, hot sauces, and other ingredients to take home. So you get a little sense of a small, local marketplace and the little taqueria.

It’s funny how a place that’s so busy at night can be so quiet in the mornings. Again, this isn’t say Cuco’s isn’t undiscovered for breakfast (I mean, some guy wrote about it in a breakfast book), but it feels like a hidden gem. Which makes it a comfortable place for breakfast, and a flavorful option if you’re looking to change up your routine a bit.

Cuco's Mexican Taqueria on Urbanspoon

AJ’s Cafe | Columbus, OH

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AJ’s Cafe (Facebook / @AjaysCafe)
152 E. State St. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 223-3999
Open Mon-Fri, 7:30a-3p; Sat, 11a-5p
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Visited: Thursday, May 29, 2014 at 10:00 a.m.

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We were very sad when Taj Mahal Indian Restaurant closed last fall; it was a favorite stop for Indian food, and a regular place to take out-of-town visitors. (It’s since been replaced by the also-good Mughal Darbar.) One of our favorite things about Taj was being greeted by Ajay Kumar. Ajay’s family owned the restaurant; his father started it over 25 years ago, and it was one of the first Indian restaurants in Columbus. Ajay shared an especially warm welcome and a friendly handshake, and we were especially sad to lose that when the restaurant closed.

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Fortunately for us (and the rest of Columbus, I guess), Ajay has worked his way back toward opening his own cafe – AJ’s Cafe downtown. While it’s not exclusively an Indian restaurant, he’s still up to a lot of good things, he’s still offering the welcoming smile, and some Indian flavors have naturally crept onto the menu.

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The cafe is in a good-sized space at the corners of State St. and North Fourth St. (formerly the C-Town Market). It’s a couple blocks east of the Ohio Statehouse, and is easily visible while jetting up Fourth (Fourth is one-way, but State is two-way). There’s plenty of metered parking lining the streets.

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As you might expect from a downtown cafe, the focus is on simpler grab-and-go items. Expect to see quickly-made hot sandwiches and wraps + pre-made cold sandwiches. This is in addition to assorted bagels, drinks and some locally baked snacks.

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Ajay serves Upper Cup Coffee from nearby Olde Towne East.

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He also makes a ginger spiced chai, a hot concoction of black tea, milk, and spices like ginger and cardamom.

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On our two visits to the cafe, we tried both breakfast and lunch dishes. Ajay was especially proud to show off a house-made potato salad, which is seasoned perfectly. I love me some potato salad, and this was up there with some of the best I’ve had.

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We combined some breakfast and lunch (there’s got to be a word for that) with the zen wrap and the lentil and spinach soup. The wrap mixes rice, spinach, lentils, sliced carrots and apples, and a tamarind-cilantro vinaigrette. It’s a nice refreshing combination – I think it needed a little more vinaigrette. The soup is rich but light-bodied and little lemony. Both dishes are vegan, too!

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The bacon and egg wrap is just what it sounds like: a wrap with scrambled eggs, cheese, and bacon. Simple but well executed.

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A good example of the Indian flavors making their way onto the menu is the raja wrap. It features tandoori chicken, rice, red onion, jalapenos, and a cilantro chutney familiar from the Taj Mahal days. Other good Indian examples are the CTM wrap, made with chicken tikka masala, and the spiced chickpea wrap. I’m hoping that Ajay can continue to distinguish his cafe with these flavor profiles.

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If Indian food isn’t your favorite (and why isn’t it?!), the cafe offers lunch classics like a corned beef reuben, a turkey meatball sub, a tilapia sandwich, and the Bourbon St. Philly with spicy chicken.

AJ’s Cafe obviously has competition downtown, but it’s close to some crowded buildings, and there’s enough interesting dishes to set it apart from nearby options. And you can’t beat the warm welcome from Ajay and his crew! If anything, we’re glad to have the chance to see him on a regular basis and experience his hospitality again.

Aj's Cafe on Urbanspoon

Shipwreck Grill | Buxton, NC

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Shipwreck Grill (Facebook)
46618 NC Highway 12 (map it!)
Buxton, NC 27920
(252) 995-5548
Open Sun-Thurs, 7a-3p; Fri & Sat, 7a-9p
Accepts cash & debit/credit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Visited: Wednesday, June 25, 2014 at 9:00 a.m.

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One morning on our Outer Banks trip, Mrs. Breakfast w/Nick and I headed out for breakfast together. After stopping at the Gingerbread House Bakery for a quick celebration (it’s the site of the first BwN review), we traveled back up north to Buxton for a full breakfast at the newer Shipwreck Grill. Shipwreck Grill is ideally positioned right at the bend of Highway 12 on the Outer Banks, where the island takes a 90 degree turn to the west, thus creating The Point, an interesting spot where both southern and eastern waves collide. Shipwreck’s location was previously occupied by the Island Perks Diner, and it’s easily visible to catch passing islanders.

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Like many buildings on the OBX, it features a weathered wooden siding.

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The interior is split into several different rooms. Counter service is offered in the entry room. Shipwreck provides coffee, tea, snacks, and to-go meals, a must for busy visitors traveling up and down the Banks.

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In a side room to the right is a small bar with stools.

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To the left is their enclosed patio, a popular commodity on OBX restaurants.

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The breakfast menu is full of seafaring terms: The Landlubber, the Torpedo Burrito, you get the picture. It leans more toward the meat-eaters side of things, although it’s adaptable.

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We started with an iced chai, which was a little heavy on the ice.

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I’m a sucker for a benedict, especially when there’s seafood involved, so I went straight to the crabcake benedict. Unfortunately, this is how it looked when it first arrived, with ham instead of crabcakes. Our server was apologetic and hurried some crabcakes over to us, although judging by the tables around us, that wasn’t the only mistaken ingredient.

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Overall, it was a fine example of a benedict, although not stellar. The poached eggs were overdone, so no runny yolks, and the hollandaise leaned more to the foamy and buttery side that I preferred.

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We also gave the shrimp and grits a try. The grits needed more butter or cheese (or both), but the shrimp were cooked and seasoned properly, and it comes in a fairly generous portion.

I think Shipwreck Grill is another worthy addition to the island’s breakfast scene, even if it’s not completely mind-blowing. Some seafood dishes and the big screened in porch make it a handy stop if you’re exploring the OBX.

Shipwreck Grill on Urbanspoon

Travel: Dining on the Outer Banks – Part 2

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And we’re on to Part 2 of our Outer Banks culinary adventures! (Read Part 1 here.) One morning Mrs. Breakfast With Nick and I ventured south for breakfast, just the two of us. After our first pick wasn’t open during their stated hours (boo), we crept along Highway 12 and found ourselves at the Gingerbread House Bakery. It’s a distinctly-shaped structure in Frisco, serving lots of baked goods and some excellent pizza. It’s also the site of the VERY FIRST Breakfast With Nick review, over seven years ago. (You’re welcome to follow the link to the review, but be kind. I really didn’t know what I was doing then.)

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The Gingerbread House fully embraces their name. To the point that the fences (which are brown) are topped with gingerbread men cut-outs, and the building itself (which is also brown) is dotted with colorful candy.

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We considered this our breakfast pre-game, so we simply ordered some espresso and a couple donuts. (We stopped later for a full breakfast elsewhere – post to come soon!)

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The crew at Gingerbread must run long hours, if they’re working early enough to serve fresh baked goods, while staying open late enough for the dinner crowd.

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If the lines for apple uglies at the Orange Blossom are too long, you’ve got some great donuts one village over at Gingerbread. These are really hard to beat.

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Happy Seventh Anniversary to Breakfast With Nick! Here’s to many more years of good meals and great fun.

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At home, another annual family favorite is a simple crab dip, with cream cheese, lots of fresh crab, and cocktail sauce. Mrs. Breakfast With Nick’s grandmother doesn’t trust the store-bought sauce, so she makes her own.

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Part of the fun of staying in a big house with the family is getting to cook for each other. A couple mornings we made crepes for the fam.

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We learned an easy recipe from our friend Andy at Wild Goose years ago, and it’s served us well.

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Even though we don’t have fancy crepe pans, we’ve learned to use ours just fine.

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For fun, we plated up a couple crepes and iced coffee in the style of Symmetry Breakfast. Symmetry Breakfast is an instagram kindred spirit in London; he plates and photographs his breakfast every morning in a beautiful symmetrical manner. I tagged him in the photo, and he approved.

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This year for the first time we ordered steamed crabs. One of the local shops uses their own spice mix (the guy there scoffs when you mention Old Bay). I had to recall my last trip to Maryland, to be sure I was dismembering the crabs for maximum crab meat.

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For our last dinner on vacation, we ordered out from the Dolphin Den in Avon. I can never stay away from fried seafood platters, and theirs is top notch: fresh fish, clams, oysters, crabcake, scallops.

All in all, another good year of eating on the OBX! Who else has been? Where or what do you like to eat?

 

Sidney’s Cafe & Bistro | Elizabeth City, NC

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Sidney’s Cafe & Bistro (Facebook)
507 E. Main St. (map it!)
Elizabeth City, NC 27909
(252) 331-1944
Open Mon-Wed, 7a-5p; Thurs & Fri, 7a-9p; Sat, 7a-3p
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Visited: Saturday, June 14, 2014 at 8 a.m.

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Every June we’re fortunate to make a family trip down to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. We look forward to it all year, and enjoy a step away from major civilization onto the barrier islands for a couple weeks of reading, playing on the beach, and eating our way around. But the eating starts well before we hit the bridges crossing Pamlico Sound. We typically drive the longest leg of the trip in one day, stopping over in Elizabeth City. We reward the long day’s drive with fresh fried seafood at Quality Seafood. But we also fuel up the next morning, and this year we did our research and discovered Sidney’s Cafe & Bistro on Main Street.

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I got the sense early on that they were a small cafe, and we were coming with a big group, so we called ahead to make a reservation. They were able to accommodate us, although we got the sense that we were pushing the limits of their small kitchen. To their credit, though, the coffee kept flowing and the food rolled out pretty quickly.

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The menu is not extensive but it covers all the bases, and it includes diverse offerings like eggs benedicts, pancakes, frittatas, and burritos.

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A big group means we get to sample nearly everything on the menu. I personally went for the eggs benedict (hint: if it’s on the menu, chances are I’ll order it). All the components were very well done, including the freshly shredded cheddar cheese. Light hollandaise but still very good; I’d be happy if I could make a hollandaise like that. The portion sizes didn’t feel huge, but they were appropriate for the price point, and certainly flavorful enough to keep everyone satisfied.

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From the kid’s menu: a nice-sized pancake and a well-seasoned sausage patty, which seemed to be made in-house.

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vegetable omelet with potatoes and toast. Loaded with veggies.

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And because we’re in the south, someone had to order grits, so there were multiple bowls of the soft, buttery goodness, topped with shredded cheddar.

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Even with a small kitchen, the two-person crew did everything well, including a la carte orders of eggs.

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Solid biscuits and gravy. Soft and warm biscuits, fairly chunky gravy, although everyone quickly noticed the presence of anise in the gravy. We’ve never had that before, and while it certainly wasn’t bad, it was enough to make everyone pause a moment after tasting it.

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An order of blueberry buttermilk pancakes. As good as you could ask for. Thin but fluffy, dusted with powdered sugar, and with a side of nicely done bacon.

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A spicy breakfast burrito loaded with sausage, eggs, cheese, and veggies. Held together perfectly; packed a big punch.

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And the French toast with a side of sausage. Soft but not mushy.

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Our entire crew left Sidney’s satisfied and impressed. Even with their small kitchen they handled the big round of orders, and there wasn’t a single complaint amongst the group. The bonus is the beautiful little cafe space, with a side entrance along an indoor arcade. The cafe itself is situated in the little downtown of Elizabeth City, which has a lot of potential to be sweet tourist spot.

Bonus connection to Ohio: the owner is from Sidney, Ohio originally, thus the cafe’s name!

Sidney's Cafe & Bistro on Urbanspoon

Green Bean Delivery!

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Who’s up for a cooking challenge? Last week the folks at Green Bean Delivery kindly sent us a sample delivery so we could see how their process works. Green Bean delivers fresh goods to homes across Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, and Missouri. The orders are customizable, but they also offer set bin sizes. We received the standard Small Produce Bin, which comes pre-loaded with a mixture of fruits and veggies. You can modify your order to include other vegetables, fruits, beans, meats, even finished products like coffee, falafel, roasted nuts, Sriracha, and more. They conveniently label goods that are organically or sustainably grown, and they identify the origins by region or country.

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You can set up a one-time or a recurring order through their website, picking and choosing from over 40 different items of fresh produce. This is the breakdown of our Small Produce Bin.

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Deliveries are dropped off at your home. You’re given a set day of the week and a window of a few hours during which it will arrive. The bright green bin is lined with styrofoam and includes a coldpack, so your food arrives fresh and cool.

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Here’s the bounty from our delivery. Now, I look at this and I’m intimidated, but Mrs. Breakfast With Nick looks at it and sees a challenge. Over the next series of posts, she’ll be sharing some of the things we’ve made from the delivery. Stay tuned!

UPDATE: Here are some of Mrs. Breakfast With Nick’s creations using our Green Bean Delivery!

Tomato and Asparagus Quiche

Kale Salad

Eggs, Potatoes, and Toast

BLTs and Brussels Sprouts

Philco Bar + Diner | Columbus, OH

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Philco Bar + Diner (Facebook / Instagram @philcobd)
747 N. High St. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 299-9933
Open Mon-Thurs, 8a-11p; Fri, 8a-12a; Sat, 9a-12a; Sun, 9a-11p (bfast served all day)
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Visited: Thursday, May 22, 2014 at 9:00 a.m.

At the risk of sounding like one of the old folks, it amazes me how much Short North has changed in the twelve years we’ve lived in Columbus. We lived in the heart of Short North our first two years in town, and we’re just now approaching the status of “Back when I lived in Short North…” So, without further ado… back when I lived in Short North, we had Philip’s Coney Island. It was small, cheap, and basic. To be honest, though, we rarely visited. Sure, there were cheap hot dogs and fries, but it didn’t have the same draw as other neighborhood eateries like Press Grill, Mac’s, Betty’s.

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On pace with Short North’s development in recent years, the Philip’s Coney Island space was reborn of late as Philco Bar + Diner, led by the same team as The Rossi, Club 185, Little Palace, etc. The name itself is a nod to the previous life (Philip’s Coney -> Philco), and they’ve retained a sense of the old place, with booths, counter seats, and yes, coneys on the menu. But the revamp has made the space hipper and (in my opinion) a little more comfortable. Plus they’ve added a fine selection of beer and wine.

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The new space certainly feels much classier than the old, with green leather stools and booths, wine racks over the bar, and wood or stainless steel accents.

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There’s still some feeling of the old restaurant, though, where you can sit at the counter and eat hot dogs, with bottled ketchup and mustard on hand. The menu also includes revamped versions of French fries, coneys, and grilled cheese sandwiches.

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There are also your expected booths, which are big enough to fit probably eight people on busy Gallery Hop nights.

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The breakfast menu follows suit with rich, colorful, and sometimes deconstructed versions of diner classics. We split three dishes amongst the family, starting with the biscuits and red eye gravy. Ohio is more sausage gravy territory than red eye gravy, so you don’t see it too often here. Red eye gravy is more of a Southern dish, typically made with the day’s leftover coffee and the pan drippings from frying ham, bacon, or sausage. Our server made sure we understood which type of gravy we were getting, as previous customers have been surprised to receive a lighter and much sweeter gravy than a chunky, cream-based one.

Philco’s biscuits and gravy are dense and rich. The gravy, which leans more toward the sweet side, soaks into the biscuits, and it’s offset by smokey and salty andouille sausage, then topped with two eggs cooked to order (and sprinkled with paprika).

The portion sizes aren’t huge at Philco, but they make up for it by packing a punch.

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Our server recommended the fried egg tacos. Ironically, they don’t automatically come with fried eggs; you can have them cooked to order, so we asked for them scrambled. Again, the tacos aren’t huge, but they’re rich and filling. They’re topped with various salsas (red + black bean & corn), sour cream, and cheddar. And we added the chorizo. (Because when you have the option to add chorizo, you always do.)

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Finally, we chose the huevos rancheros, built on a base of open-face tortillas and eggs. It’s flavored with a verde salsa and a sprinkling of cotija (a white Mexican cheese). Big bonus for the crispy and flavorful grilled peppers and onions. And we added chorizo because, well, you know.

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Our breakfast dishes went three for three at Philco. Again, the portion size isn’t huge (which some might expect from the “diner” moniker), but they make up for it with big flavors in really colorful presentations. In my mind, this makes Philco an easy choice for breakfast in Short North.

(Also, I know weekends are busy and feature an expanded brunch menu, but don’t forget the value of quiet weekday breakfast, too. Philco opens at 8!)

Philco Bar + Diner on Urbanspoon

The Blue Door Cafe & Bakery | Cuyahoga Falls, OH

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The Blue Door Cafe & Bakery
(Facebook)
1970 State Rd. (map it!)
Cuyahoga Falls, OH 44223
(330) 926-9774
Open Wed-Sun, 7a-3p
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N

Visited: Friday, May 16, 2014 at 11:00 a.m.

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Thanks to my friend Tom over at Exploring Food My Way, I’ve been hearing a lot about Blue Door Cafe & Bakery over the years. Because of Tom, my Facebook feed is regularly filled with photos of French toast, croissants, and benedicts. It’s a beautiful thing. And finally we got to experience it firsthand. On the road for a weekend trip, my family and I stopped in Cuyahoga Falls to track down the Blue Door. And find it we did: a one-story gray, nondescript little building with a jam-packed parking lot and, yes, a bright blue door.

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As the full parking lot hinted, the inside was busy with customers in line for the bakery or waiting for tables in the cafe. We were seated pretty quickly at a table near the door (which got breezy on a surprisingly chilly May day).

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The menu features the blue door again, with the cafe’s mission statement straight up front.

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I’ve learned from watching Tom’s photo feed that Blue Door is true to the “ever-changing” tenet. The kitchen likes to experiment with specials and ingredients. This is usually a good and bad for regular diners: the downside is that you’re conflicted between choosing your old favorites and the daily specials; the upside is that you can always find something new to try at your old haunt.

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We worked our way through some specials and some regular items. From the specials menu we started with a refreshing Blueberry & Basil Lemonade, balanced nicely between sweet, tart, and slightly herbal. It contains all the title ingredients, plus a hint of vanilla.

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Since the bakery element is clearly a stand-out, we made a couple passes at the beautifully stocked shelves and sampled a two items.

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It’s hard for me to ever pass up a donut, especially when it also has the word “brioche” in the title.

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So we gladly welcomed a custard-filled brioche donut to the table, and proceeded to decimate it. It was perfectly soft, full of custard, and generously dusted with powdered sugar – all without being two sweet. That’s the mark of a good donut: it’s not just a sugar bomb, but it balances the sweetness with other flavors.

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We’ve also heard tell of the croissants, and our server recommended a ham and cheese croissant.

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The croissant was stellar: golden and flaky, with just the right amount of ham and cheese inside.

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By then breakfast began arriving. We began with the corned beef hash with two eggs and a choice of breads from the bakery. The potatoes were thoroughly cooked and mixed with a generous helping of a very smoky brisket. The brisket was very tender, although its smokiness tended to overwhelm the entire dish.

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The eggs are cooked to order, and for that day they were willing to poach them; they were served separately in a little cup, and unfortunately were a little vinegary. They were poached properly, but I think the bottom one sat in the cup a little longer and cooked through more.

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We chose the English muffin (homemade, of course) as our bread. It was large and dense – very different than store bought Thomas’ muffins – and topped with a tart blueberry jam (made in house).

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We also picked the Monte Cristo, in order to taste their fabled French toast in action.

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As far Monte Cristos go, it hit the mark. It was filled with the usual suspects, sandwiched between two (maybe a little too) giant but soft and custardy pieces of French toast. It used some of the same ingredients as the ham and cheese croissant, and came with a side of house-made potato chips.

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The real stand-out was the blueberry pancakes, which were up there with some of the best I’ve had. They’re made with yogurt, which results in flapjacks that are big, fluffy, and browned nicely. Topped with Creme Chantilly (a fancy term for lightly sweetened, real whipped cream), fresh blueberries, and Ohio maple syrup, it’s really hard to beat.

During our meal, owner Michael Bruno stopped over to say hi. He answered our questions and chatted about some of their baked goods. On our way out, we picked up some bakery items to go. Michael recommended their brownies (which were dense and fudgy); we also bought another brioche donut and the last ham and cheese croissant. On the recommendation of the server at the counter, we purchased a pair of moist almond cupcakes. All of them were winners; we had to hide them from the kids so they weren’t devoured immediately.

Consensus? Blue Door is clearly a gem in the Akron-area dining scene. As if I didn’t know that from Tom’s posts and pictures already, just the reaction on social media as I posted photos on Facebook or Instagram (/subliminal message) confirmed it. Pretty much anyone who is from the area or travels there regularly is familiar with the cafe and bakery. Blue Door is a popular hangout and a destination. The sincerely and lovingly made food is reason enough to visit, on top of an adventurous rotating menu, a mission of supporting local and responsibly made products, and the genuine enthusiasm of the owner and employees.

The Blue Door Cafe & Bakery on Urbanspoon

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