Sunday, December 8, 2013

Round 1 Wrap up.

Round 1 is over and Round 2 is starting momentarily, or at least in a few days.  One thing we noticed while out and about on the first round is that none of the restaurants are using maple syrup from the local maple farm on Matfield.  Service was one of the deciding factors this round and without a doubt our top places had almost flawless service.  The only exception to this rule was Morrell's.  They had almost flawless service, but the food was very under seasoned, and and the coffee was atrocious. 
So out of 5 restaurants we have ruled out 2 for the second round.  Sunnyside Cafe, which had good food, but bad service and okay coffee, and Morrell's who had great service and the best value of any of the first round, but weak food and terrible coffee. 

Next round we are changing our orders, to reflect a different scope, and at the end we will rule out one of the top three.  Leaving a finale round of 2 to start out the new year.  If anyone knows of any breakfast places in town that we missed please let me know.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Great Breakfast Challenge: Morrell's Country Tavern

The final stop on the Great Breakfast Challenge round 1 was Morrell's Country Tavern. We had been there once before for breakfast and I did not remember anything good or bad about it.  We had also gone for dinner and the burgers were okay at that point as was the service.  Again nothing I remember as specifically good or bad, but as we had not been keeping score it hadn't been relevant.  So Saturday morning on a blustery cold morning we headed to Morrell's for a nice breakfast.  My daughter had not been in the best mood heading there but we were determined to make the most of the morning before settling in for some serious decorating for the holidays.  The hostess allowed us to choose our table since the place was not terribly busy.  My daughter chose a table in the back.  No booths were available which she seems to really prefer.  The dining area is beautifully set up, old fashioned wooden tables and chairs, give the restaurant a real feel of being in a Country Tavern.  A fireplace was going and kept the bite from the air.  Our server came right over to the table to offer coffee and drinks, and unfortunately that was where the downside started.

Our waitress was very nice and very attentive, however the coffee was terrible.  Even I, debated having a second cup.  The refills were quick though, and I certainly had no issues on keeping my cup full.  I did have to make more coffee when I got home though.  It was that bad.  I would not order their coffee a second time.  Which as anyone reading this knows by now is not a good sign.  My wife and I ordered the same thing; Morell's Country Breakfast, 2 eggs, 2 bacon, 2 sausage, home fries, and 2 pancakes.  I had over medium, my wife ordered hers scrambled, bacon extra crispy for both of us.  My daughter ordered the Mickey Mouse Pancakes off the kids menu and chocolate milk.

The food arrived.  Nothing was seasoned.  The home fries looked like they had been seasoned well, we could see the red tinge of what appeared to be paprika, and other spices, but they just tasted like grease.  My eggs were a little on the easy side rather than over medium.  Not bad but a little more cooking would have made them better.  The sausage was really good.  It was very meaty and the seasonings accented that flavor without overpowering, and the bacon was very well cooked.  Unfortunately those were the best part of the meal.  The pancakes were very pale, so they had no crust or carmelization, and were almost too fluffy.  They were served with butter that was still frozen, so there was no way to spread it on the ultra fluffy pancakes.  My daughter did really enjoy her pancakes.  They were shaped to look a little like Mickey and had a chocolate chip face which she loved.

Value wise there is no contest.  This restaurant had the best prices of anyone in round 1 and since Kids eat free right now, there was no charge at all for my daughters meal.  We had high hopes for Morrell's but unfortunately as far as breakfast was concerned they did not deliver.  The high Value score, was not able to make up for the extremely poor coffee score.  A total score of only 35 out of 50 knocks them squarely out of the running for round 2.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Great Breakfast Challenge: Daybreak

Allow me to preface this particular post by saying that I did not have high expectations of Daybreak.  My wife and I had been here a few years ago when we were first moving to West Bridgewater and had a very poor experience.  Since then we have not gone back.  We decided to go back as part of the Great Breakfast Challenge, because we were trying to be fair to every breakfast place in town.  I am shocked and delighted to say that, this time, our experience was exactly the opposite.  Daybreak has become a real contender in the Challenge and we are very pleased to say that they will be making it to round 2.

Now on to the day.  We decided to park across the street at Market Basket because Daybreak's parking lot is not very conducive to a good experience particularly with a six year old.  When we went in, there was a sign to seat ourselves, my daughter choose a booth which she said had a very comfortable and cushy seat.  Our server, Cassandra came right over and asked what we would like to drink while bringing us menus.  She was back just a few moments later with coffee and chocolate milk.  The refills on coffee were plentiful and quick.  I drink my coffee quickly, and still never managed to finish a cup before it was refilled and reheated.  We were surprised that there was no children's menu for breakfast, though there did appear to be for lunch.

I ordered one of the specials, 3 eggs (over medium), bacon (extra crispy), sausage (well done) toast and home fries.  My wife ordered "The Flower", 1 pancake, 2 eggs (scrambled), bacon (extra crispy).  She was concerned that only 1 pancake might not be enough, typically she would get 2 but decided not to order an extra on the side.  My daughter settled on 1 chocolate chip pancake.

Again, the servers were on the ball.  Constantly circulating the restaurant with fresh coffee and refills.  They were very attentive, kind, and nearly flawless in their service.  I was extremely impressed.  Our food arrived, the eggs were perfectly over medium.  A tiny bit runny, but the liquid did not seep all over the plate, the bacon was perfectly crisp, and they had cut my sausage down the center to make sure it was well done.  The pancake, that my wife was concerned about, was Ginormous.  There was no need for a second since it was bigger than her head, yet it was still cooked perfectly all the way through, light and fluffy, no gummy dough even in the dead center.  The 1 chocolate chip pancake was too much for my daughter to eat.  I think she finished off about 1/2, but said it was delicious.

On to decor and overall appearance.  My daughter liked that the bathroom was around the corner near the front, she called it a little hideaway.  The restaurant was very clean and nicely laid out.  Pictures along the walls of art images were just a nice little touch, and the fact that the giant screen near the kitchen was set to scroll through nature images slowly, instead of being tuned to a TV channel made me quite happy.

Overall the score for Daybreak was a solid 41 out of 50, tied with Good Days on our score cards.  We were very impressed and will be back.

I am delighted to say that this experience was a far far different one from our first visit.  Thank you Cassandra, and the Daybreak for being a very pleasant surprise.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Great Breakfast Challenge: Good Days

Okay, so I am a little behind on this one.  Good Days was last week.  That being said I am still going to blog it now, and then write up today's restaurant a little later in the day.  Good Days has been our go-to breakfast place since Anderson Farm changed hands and name, so in our opinion this was the restaurant to beat in the competition.  It certainly lived up to that standard based on the score cards.

We got up and moving very early on Saturday morning.  My wife and daughter had to go to a Girl Scout event and were supposed to meet the Daisy troop at 9:30 so we needed to be done by then.  GOod Days opens at 7 and we were there by 7:30.  The chefs had just gotten started for the day so the specials board was not up yet, not surprising given that it was the crack of dawn.  Bleary eyed I ordered my coffee, and my wife got French Vanilla, thus far this is the only breakfast place with a flavored coffee variety, making it a huge hit on the drinks category.  The first cups arrived and mine was quickly gone, our waitress had already taken our orders for breakfast, and didnt make it back with the pot as quickly as I would have liked, but on the plus side the coffee was good and the cups are decent sized so it wasnt a catastrophe, just not what I had hoped for, or come to expect from Good Days.  My daughter ordered the silver dollar pancakes, and chocolate milk, my wife ordered a combo breakfast including 2 eggs scrambled, 4 bacon extra crispy, and 2 pancakes.  I ordered the house specialty, Daily Double, which is two eggs (over medium), 2 bacon (extra crispy), 2 sausages (well done) and cinnamon toast.  It also came with hash browns.  I ordered a slice of the homemade blueberry loaf as well, since we have so far ordered a baked good as well as breakfast with each of our meals.

Service was quick and fairly attentive.  I wish they had been a little quicker on the coffee refills, but that is always going to be slower than I would like, based on the amount of coffee I tend to drink in the mornings.  On to the food.  Overall it was pretty good.  My wife said that her eggs were seasoned well, and the pancakes were fluffy and not too gummy.  My daughter loved her silver dollars.  I, on the other hand was not as pleased.  My eggs were over cooked.  They ended up over hard, no ooze of the yolks when the tops were broken, and the blueberry bread had been frozen and i believe microwaved.  I do believe that the bread was homemade, but it was not fresh,  the outside and edges were hot, but it was still cold in the center.  The flavor was good, but it probably should have been warmed on the flat top or in an oven instead, that would have heated it more evenly and not left it feeling like it had been frozen.  The homefries, bacon and sausage were perfect and the cinnamon toast was good, very flavorful.

Decor wise it had a 60's diner feel while still being large enough to seat lots of people.  The booths are big and comfortable, and the restaurant was clean.  There was 50's and 60's music playing in the background and my daughter was grooving to the tunes while we waited.  They also give paper cups full of crayons and paper placemats to the children to give them something to do while you wait.  A very nice touch I think.  Old pictures on the wall, gave the restaurant a homey and welcoming feel.

Overall Good Days is still the restaurant to beat.  If I hadn't experienced so many wonderful meals here over the past several years I might have been a little harder on them, but I have.  My family gave this an overall score of 41 out of 50.  Very Impressive Good Days.

Thank you for proving that we haven't been coming to the wrong place all these years.  Still the restaurant to beat in the Great Breakfast Challenge.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Great Breakfast Challenge: Interlude

This week, my wife and I went away for a long weekend alone to kind of recover and get ourselves grounded again before the holiday madness commences, so there was no town breakfast place to review.
That being said we did go to a B & B for a few days so I will instead review that.  We stayed at the Waldo Emerson Inn in Kennebunk, ME.  On to breakfast.  Coffee was started at about 7:30 AM with an 8:30 breakfast.  The innkeepers were good enough to keep refilling my cup whenever I brought it back to the kitchen where they were preparing breakfast.  The coffee, while not particularly good, was drinkable and refills were as I said plentiful.  At 8:30(ish) we headed to the dining table.  All of the guests sit together at one table and there was fruit, juice, and granola on the table waiting for us.  The fruit was out of season and not great, but I can't really fault them for that.  The granola was homemade and excellent. 
The first day we were told that the main course was going to be three kinds of crepes, apple, blueberry, and chocolate.  We were pretty excited it sounded good and thought this would offer a great start to our weekend.  They were disappointing.  Only one of the three was a crepe.  The apple was basically two thin pancakes around a slice of apple, and the blueberry was basically just a blueberry pancake.  They also put whipped cream and chocolate chips on all three.  When you add in the fact that then the plates waited before being served, all three varieties basically tasted like chocolate.  Which wasn't bad, but when we were expecting multiple varieties, it was disappointing.  In addition, one of the other guests had emailed the innkeepers regarding a dietary need, based on her gestational diabetes.  She was limited in the amount of carbs that she could eat.  The innkeepers did not have anything available to accommodate her needs.  Fortunately she had brought her own Greek yogurt, so was not going hungry, but still it was not a great start.  The second day breakfast was much better, eggs Benedict, in addition to the fruit and granola.  The hollandaise was good, as were the eggs, my wife thought they were a little underdone, but for eggs Benedict I thought they were fine.  No overall rating today, but if they had been part of the breakfast challenge, I doubt they would make it to round two.  Breakfast here was disappointing, and overall I do not think that we will be returning to the Waldo Emerson Inn.  We expected better from the B & B.  Ah well.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Great Breakfast Challenge Round 1: The Sunnyside Cafe

After last weeks rush to try to get from breakfast to church and CCD in time, we decided to change up the schedule and head to breakfast on Saturday instead.  This week's restuarant was The Sunnyside Cafe.  As I posted in my day 2 prelude this place used to be known as Anderson Farm and was our favorite place to go Sunday mornings until it changed hands. 
We head over at around 8:30, give or take, and get out of the van.  The first thing that hits us in the face is the overwhelming smell of cow.  My daughter literally held her nose and covered her face the whole way into the resturant.  Fortunately the smell did not penetrate inside so that wasnt a factor in our breakfast.  As we walk into the front door, there is a chalkboard sign advertising the days specials, which look quite intriguing.  And again, I started looking forward to the meal.
My wife headed to the ladies room to wash her hands while my daughter and I took our seats.  The waitress came over and instead of asking our daughter what she wanted to drink, she asked me what my daughter could have.  That didn't seem right to me.  Our daughter can read the menu herself, and is quite capable of making a decision on what she wants.  So coffee comes pretty quickly, and it is alright, the cups are smaller than other breakfast places.  But the coffee is okay, not great.  My wife still had to go home and make coffee for herself before we could do anything else for the day.  I overheard the waitress telling one of the other tables that the daily specials are only available on Mon-Fri.  I can't understand why they were being so prominently displayed.  It isn't like we were there at the crack of dawn.
After reviewing the menu for a few minutes we decided to order, I chose the Sunnyside special, 3 eggs over medium, 3 bacon extra crispy, 3 sausage well done, homefries and ham.  My wife got 2 eggs scrambled, 2 bacon extra crispy, 2 sausage, and 2 pancakes, and my daughter ordered chocolate chip pancakes, and decided that we ought to try the "homemade muffins" listed on the menu.  We ordered Pumpkin, and my daughter who really doesnt like her food to be hot, wanted it cold not grilled or even warmed up.  The waitress came back a minute later and said that they had to heat it up because it was frozen.  My wife and I glanced at each other wondering why the "homemade muffin" was frozen on a saturday morning...  Very odd.
Coffee was refilled fairly regularly as we waited for breakfast, so we discussed the day while we waited.  I will say that service was much quicker than the last time that we were here, but it was kind of perfunctory.  Our waitress was going through the motions, but didn't engage us in any way, nor did she ever ask my daughter what she wanted.  It was almost like being around children was somewhat uncomfortable for her, which after glancing around at the few other occupied tables, mostly older couples, makes sense.  The food arrived, and it was all cooked very well.  The eggs were precisely over medium, the bacon crispy, the sausage well done.  My breakfast was exactly what i ordered and tasted quite good including the homefries.  My wife said her pancakes were kind of on the heavy side, and rubbery in texture.  My daughter that hers were great.  And now to the muffin.  Wow.  It was bad.  There was no pumpkin flavor to it.  It tasted like a badly seasoned spice cake muffin, could easily have been from a box recipe, or my wife suggested that it tasted like it came from a BJ's or Costco shelf.  The texture was overly dense and gummy, and overall we were really disappointed.  If that is their homemade muffin they need a lot of work.
Decoration wise, it was pretty sparse.  My daughter said she wished there were more.  It was boring for her.  I went to the mens room at the end of the meal and there were holes in the drywall, and a cut off pipe sticking out of the wall.  The place could definitely use a little TLC.  It appeared that nothing had been done to it in the past 6 years. 
Value wise, they were more expensive than we expected.  Kid's chocolate milk cost more than coffee.  And the final bill was almost $5 more than our previous meal.
Overall, unfortunately it was exactly as I expected.  The service was quicker than I expected, but the rest was simply not impressive.
The final average score we gave The Sunnyside Cafe: 31 out of 50.  Not too impressive, and quite frankly I doubt we will be back for round 2.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Great Breakfast Challenge Day 2 Prelude

Tomorrow we head to the Sunnyside Cafe, formerly Anderson Farm.  This is one round I have been looking forward to quite a lot.  Anderson Farm was our go to breakfast place.  We met family and friends there on a regular basis, but about 7 years ago, they changed hands.  We tried it a couple times back then, but the service wasn't up to par, and the menu cost increase was significant.  Now that they have been operating for several years we will get to see if any of that has changed for the better.  Here's Hoping.