46 Hornbeam Lane (on Google Streetview)
Lewis Center, OH 43035
Date of Visit: June 29, 2007, 6:30 a.m.
IMPRESSIONS: Bob Evans restaurants seem to be a staple around the American Midwest; I feel like I've seen those familiar, red barn structures everywhere. And indeed, I can locate at least three around Columbus, two within two miles of each other. (Look at the location finder on their website: the farthest west BE goes is Kansas, the farthest east is New York, the southern-most is Florida.) So I approached this particular Bob Evans almost suspiciously, because it seems some people choose Bob Evans, just because it's a Bob Evans. They're almost landmarks like Cracker Barrels. Out-of-towners might frequently ask, "Where's the nearest Bob Evans?" That being said, these restaurants must be a mark of familiarity and consistency.
ATMOSPHERE: I visited this Bob Evans with a men's group from church. We've met for breakfast at 6:30 a.m. nearly every Friday morning for two years. We've been getting tired with our usual place, and ventured to Bob Evans as a change of pace. I appreciated the cozy, warm atmosphere - not too bright while you're starting your day. Lots of dark wood accents. Booths and tables available. Small gift shop by the check-out counter. The place opened at 6, and was relatively empty, so the eight of us were seated quickly all together. I enjoyed the large, wooden seats. Everything seems to be planned to make you feel as COZY as possible. That's the best way to describe this particular Bob Evans.
FOOD: Homecooked, I'd have to say! Again, this is the theme here. The coffee was quite good: not too strong, not too bitter. I liked that they brought out milk for the coffee, and had a wide selection of sweeteners available. I ordered the Homestead Breakfast, which includes two eggs, bacon, home fries, two biscuits, and gravy. Filling, to say the least. Decent-sized portions, meaning that it was a big breakfast (it carried me through the whole day - wasn't hungry again until dinner), but it wasn't some absurdly huge portion. Eggs and bacon were done well. I usually prefer hash browns over home fries (which are not fries at all: they're chunked potatoes!), but the home fries were lightly spiced and in small chunks. The biscuits and gravy were a real selling point. Soft, warm biscuits, with gravy that was thick but not greasy.
SERVICE: Very friendly and very fast, although I think some of the quick service resulted from the harried approach servers take with large groups. Our servers were very nice, and we thanked them appropriately for their attention, but they seemed always worried that they might forget something, or that we might demand something faster. I'm sure they have customers like that from time to time, but no worries with us! We're a group of easy-going guys.
OVERALL: I can see why Bob Evans restaurants are an old stand-by. It's consistently a cozy, relaxed atmosphere with above-average food. Nothing fancy on the menu, just your regular breakfast items like eggs, pancakes, coffee, omelets. Probably about as exotic as they get are the breakfast burritos (which I make a point never to order, having had the best-of-the-best at Northstar Cafe in Columbus). But all the food is well-cooked, hot, and gets to the table quickly. While I won't especially seek out a Bob Evans in the future, I now know that there's a reason why people gravitate towards them. And the food - the whole restaurant, even - has a genuine, home-cooked sense, and not a corporate copy of the atmosphere.
On a special note: I can't remember the last time I went to a Bob Evans restaurant. Probably not since college. It's nice to return to this restaurant, just a week after Bob Evans himself died. For the Columbus Dispatch on him, see here.
Saturday, June 30, 2007
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Gingerbread House Bakery
52715 NC Hwy. 12
Frisco, NC 27936
Date of Visit: June 22, 2007, 8:30 a.m.
IMPRESSIONS: The Gingerbread House Bakery is about 15 minutes down Highway 12 (the main/only road on the Outer Banks) from our regular vacation spot in Avon, NC. The steep sloped roof and ginger-brown coloring fits the name perfectly. There's seating inside plus a large wooden deck out front. Always a lovely selection of flowers around the building; Beth and I admired the huge lilies and hydrangeas after breakfast. We've been to the Gingerbread House for donuts and for their excellent pizza (best on the island!), but never for breakfast. I expected something a little more formal (as formal as island breakfast places get), but the quiet atmosphere was pleasant at 8:30 a.m. while on vacation.
ATMOSPHERE: Very casual. About a dozen tables inside, all with the standard breakfast setup: salt, pepper, napkins, and packets of jelly in the center. The coffee carafes were on a side table with all the necessary accoutrements. As we sat down to eat, three men - apparently the owner and two construction workers who were working on the building - chatted over breakfast in the next room. A few other groups (2-3 people) came in after we sat down and ordered similar breakfasts. The Gingerbread House is (if the name didn't give it away) a bakery, so Beth and I basked in the lovely smell of donuts as we waited for our meal.
FOOD: The menu is pretty straightforward. They specialize mostly in bagel breakfast sandwiches and donuts, but they had a few of the standard breakfast options. Beth went with the French toast and I opted for the breakfast platter. This is usually my choice for the morning meal: an all-encompassing mini-feast with eggs, meat, bread, and possibly potatoes. A side of fruit came with each meal. I was pretty pleased. The eggs (I always get scrambled) were just right: not sloppy, but not too dry. Potatoes were crisp. And the biscuit (which both meals came with) was soft and warm. Why don't we do more biscuits with breakfast up north? It can be so much tastier (albeit so much less healthy) than wheat toast. Beth's French toast was good, although there was a lot of egg in it; it looked almost like a fried egg on top of a piece of bread. We both got the self-serve coffee, which was sufficient. It's a perfect candidate for our friend Karl's "search for brown." Beth order juice, too.
SERVICE: Locals! Seemed like a husband and wife running the place. She was up front taking the orders with her definitely native North Carolina accent. He was in the back, probably in the kitchen. The food came out very quickly. They served breakfast on Styrofoam plates with plastic silverware. So it definitely didn't feel fancy, and the breakfast wasn't exactly nuanced, but it filled us up.
OVERALL: Not the most awesome breakfast ever, and maybe not the best on the island, but still an excellent way to start a vacation day. I could see this as a great stop if you're driving down Hatteras Island to the Ocracoke Ferry. The outside of the building is fascinating; they seemed to hit their intended effect of the cozy gingerbread house with warm cookies and donuts inside. Although Beth asked a good question... wasn't the gingerbread house home to the evil witch in Hansel and Gretel? Uh... hmmm. Nevertheless, it's a cozy little restaurant that seems to do well for itself with such a seasonal clientele. We'll probably visit again next year.
So... what do you have going on tomorrow?
Monday, June 4, 2007
Few things brighten an evening more than those words.
And few things brighten a day more than the sign "Breakfast served all day." That should become the standard phrase to describe all things awesome. "How do you like my new car?" "Dude, it's like breakfast served all day."
The word breakfast is a joining of the verb break and the noun fast. It's the morning meal, or at least the first meal of the day, when one breaks the fast of the night. The dictionary records the first joining of these words in French in 1463. The word itself has fully become a verb: to breakfast, i.e. "We breakfasted at the new diner by the highway." Cool.
Over the years, I've gathered varying bits of advice about breakfast: it's an essential meal, or the most important meal, or you should never skip it, or you should eat a hearty breakfast, or you should eat a light breakfast, or you can eat it on-the-go, or you should sit and enjoy it, etc., etc., etc. All this advice highlights the importance of breakfast. I personally have always been a breakfast person; I start very few of my days without a meal of some sort. I look forward to breakfasts. I like the way it starts the day. I like how it's the meal with the most potential. So many things can happen over breakfast. You can read a paper, you can chat, you can work on your laptop, you can do business. And you can have breakfast anywhere: at home, at a cafe, at a fancy restaurant, in your hotel, on the beach. So I think it's time to take that love to a new level... let's blog it.
Why? Because. And because breakfast really is the coolest meal. Just look at the foods it features: eggs (in all forms of preparation), bread (usually toasted), meat (bacon, sausage, ham, chicken, turkey), potatoes (chunked, fries, hash browns), cereal (which deserves its own blog!), fruit in many forms, and possibly the best delivery of carbohydrates EVER: pancakes, waffles, French toast. Not to mention beverages: coffee, milk, juice, tea, water. And if you're talking an English breakfast... well, that adds tomatoes, mushrooms, and baked beans to the mix! Meanwhile, here in the States, the breakfast burrito is redefining everything.
Here's the plan. I'll start with some of the local favorites from Columbus, OH... Northstar Cafe, First Watch, Scrambler Marie's, North Market... and other stand-bys like Real Food Cafe and Wolfgang's in Grand Rapids, MI. I'll break down the review like this: Pre/Impressions, Atmosphere, Service, Food, Overall. I won't do any grading. I promise to include: a picture, website (if available), address, phone number. Sound good?
Breakfast travels, too... whenever I reminisce about vacations and trips, I always recall a happy breakfast. Cases in points: The Breakfast Club on Tybee Island, GA; Wishbone in Chicago, IL; Camp 18 outside Cannon Beach, OR; Biscuit World in Fayetteville, WV; the Berkeley Arms in Berkeley, England; the buffett at the Lucerne Inn on my honeymoon in Maine; or good ole Apple Uglies from the Orange Blossom in Buxton, NC.
So... shall we do breakfast tomorrow?