Morning Decadence: Gloucester’s Sugar Mags

Posted: August 6th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Breakfast, brunch, Cafe, Gloucester, Sugar Magnolias | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

Carrot cake for breakfast? We came pretty close at Sugar Magnolia’s last weekend—and loved every bite. Along with several savory dishes, we ordered the full stack of carrot cake pancakes with maple cream cheese butter (3 for $6). The pancakes were huge and full of flavor, and the cream cheese was a delicious, frosting-like spread.

It’s hard to beat that level of indulgence, but our other meals came close. We tried the Western Ave and the East Main omelettes. The former contained linguica, onion, pepper, and American cheese; the latter had spinach, tomatoes, bacon, and swiss cheese. Both were large, perfectly cooked, and accompanied by hash browns and toast for $7.50.

The veggie scramble was an abundance of tender-but-not-mushy broccoli, spinach, tomatoes, and (our choice) goat cheese, a marvelous combination. With toast and home fries, it was $8 and more food than one person could eat. The crab cake “bene” ($10) was superior to most we’ve had, with two very crisp yet light crab cakes, perfectly poached eggs, and a light, flavorful sauce.

We also tried the pineapple fritters, which came with a delicious brown sugar dipping sauce. They were crisp outside but a bit soggy inside, due to the pineapple. Next time, we’ll go right for the carrot cake pancakes to satisfy our sweet tooth.

The service was attentive, relaxed, and friendly, with as many refills as we desired on our bottomless cups of coffee ($1.50). Note that with food and service this good, there tends to be a wait on weekend mornings. Our wait was 15 minutes on Sunday just before noon—and well worth it.

Sugar Magnolia’s
112 Main Street, Gloucester
(978) 281-5310
www.sugarmags.com

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Savory Sunday at Cala’s in Manchester

Posted: April 14th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: American, brunch, Cala's, Manchester | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

Sunny spring weekends inevitably mean yard work, but on Sunday we decided to fuel up before heading to Corliss Brothers to ogle shrubbery and went in search of brunch. We ended up at Cala’s in Manchester, a cute storefront on Beach Street in the center of town. The interior is warm and contemporary with lots of wood and eye-catching oil paintings by local artists.

Being brunch, we had to begin with the requisite Bloody Mary, which was good sized and respectable, though not particularly spicy, if that’s your thing. We decided on the blueberry pancakes ($7), the pan seared lobster cake ($11), and an order of applewood smoked bacon to share.

Two to a serving, the pancakes were lovely—light and fluffy, with a hint of cinnamon and citrus, certainly not your average flapjack. They were served with a standard side-cup of fruit and fried potatoes, which were nice and savory if a bit heavy on the peppers. The bacon was crisp, tasty and not greasy.

The lobster cake was small but quite flavorful and packed with lobster meat. It was served with a root-vegetable and squash fricassee, which included some sautéed greens that were terrific. The whole thing was nicely complimented by the light and tangy chive crème fraiche.

Indulgently, we ordered dessert, the chocolate terrine with berry compote and crème anglaise ($7) The dense chocolate slices and rich cream hit the spot on their own and didn’t really need the barrage of sauces striping the plate.

With reasonable prices, appetizing offerings, and friendly waitstaff, Cala’s makes a pleasant brunch destination, and if you need to walk off those calories, you can take a turn around the park by the bay or pop into the surrounding shops. Before you get back to the yard work, that is.

Cala’s
7 Beach St., Manchester
(978) 525-3304
www.calasrestaurant.com


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Maria’s is the Place for a Hearty Breakfast

Posted: October 30th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Breakfast, Maria's Place, Salem | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

There is no shortage of great places to grab breakfast on the North Shore, and we’ve got another one to add to your list.

On Sunday morning, we stopped by Maria’s Place in Salem for carbs and caffeine to jumpstart our day. Set at the end of a strip of storefronts on Jefferson Ave., the dining room is large and open, giving it a sort-of cafeteria feel, with a counter and grill along one wall. The atmosphere is warm and friendly, with locals chatting up the kitchen staff and waitresses calling out “See you next week” to regulars. We were greeted and seated right away, our helpful server promptly filling our coffee cups.

The menu featured all the usual suspects, and we had a hard time choosing, so we decided to order several things to share. The first was the popular hungry man breakfast, which includes two eggs, sausage, bacon, homefries, toast, two pancakes, and a glass of juice for $9. The menu warns there are no substitutions, but for a $1 more we had the blueberry pancakes in lieu of plain. It turned out to be a huge amount of food, and while the homefries were ordinary, the blueberry pancakes were excellent: large, nicely browned, and full of flavor.

We also ordered the Belgian waffle ($6), along with sides of corned beef hash and grilled kielbasa, an unusual addition to the menu ($3.75 each), While it tasted fine, the corned beef hash was too finely ground; we prefer larger chunks of meat and potatoes. The waffle was quite respectable, and one taste of the kielbasa made us glad we had ordered it. Salty and savory, it was a welcome change from the usual side dishes.

Although Maria’s Place is bright and clean with terrific service, it somehow lacks the charm of local diners or places like Red’s and The Driftwood. Still, if charm’s not your thing and you’re looking for a no-nonsense friendly place for a solid breakfast, look no further. Maria’s is open 6:00-3:00 Monday through Saturday and 7:00-2:00 on Sunday. It also features an extensive lunch menu.

Maria’s Place
10 Jefferson Ave, Salem
(978) 744-1817

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The Driftwood Serves Up Local Charm on Marblehead Harbor

Posted: September 25th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Breakfast, Diner, Driftwood, Marblehead, Seafood | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

The Driftwood Restaurant has been a Marblehead institution for so long we’re surprised it hasn’t been granted official historic landmark status. And while its reputation has gone up and down over time, and earlier this year it was closed for a while due to a tax issue, it remains a local favorite and still boasts a line out the door on weekend mornings.

The interior décor is diner meets clam shack, with nautical doodads and work by local artists adorning the counter area and walls. The small tables covered with red and white checked vinyl cloths are set pretty close together, and on a busy day, you may end up chatting with your neighbor as you chow down. The crowd includes everyone from crusty old locals who all know each other to young families and summer tourists.

On a recent visit we decided to try a breakfast special that included two eggs, two pancakes (we chose blueberry), bacon or sausages, and tea, coffee, or juice for $7.75 as well as a mushroom cheese omelet ($6.25) with a side of corned beef hash ($3.75)

The coffee arrived quickly, and while it’s never going to threaten the local coffee house business, it was respectable. The omelet was decent, and we liked the wide range of breads on offer for toast. The waitress warned us ahead of time that the corned beef hash was cooked to order so it could take longer, but the wait wasn’t noticeable, and the hash was quite good—savory and not greasy.

The breakfast special was definitely satisfying, with crispy bacon and eggs cooked to order, and the winner of the morning was the blueberry pancakes. Fluffy, golden, and studded with fresh berries, they were delightful. The waitress was quick to refill our coffee and didn’t rush our check, two things we appreciate anywhere, but especially at a busy diner.

The restaurant is primarily known for its breakfast, as it opens at 6:00 a.m. and closes at 2:00 p.m. We hear the lunch menu features a pretty good lobster roll, though we haven’t tried it yet, and the famed fried dough served only on weekends and holidays sounds inviting as well.

Like a weathered old wharf rat sitting at the town landing, the Driftwood may be rough and tumble to look at, but it’s full of salty charm.

The Driftwood Restaurant
63 Front Street, Marblehead
(781) 631-1145

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Breakfast With a Side of Cheer

Posted: April 12th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: American, Breakfast, Diner, Little Depot Diner, Peabody | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Stepping into a vintage dining car often gives you the feeling of stepping back in time, but that isn’t quite what happens when you enter the Little Depot Diner. It’s more like you’ve stepped into some bright and happy idealized version of the past, and you’re glad you’ve stumbled upon it.

Built in 1929 by the Worcester Lunch Car Company, this diner car was moved to its current location in 1950 where it has had a succession of owners, most recently Jim and Judy Miles who re-opened the diner just over a year ago.

A tiny place with no booths and just fourteen stools, waiting for a seat on the weekend looks highly probable. The interior is a warm yellow with the ceiling painted sky blue and accented with clouds. Just below the ceiling is a model train track that runs the length of the car. The black and white tiled floor, reproduction tin signs advertising Moxie, and a small shelf with courtesy books for those wishing to linger over their coffee complete the atmosphere. The background music, hit tunes from the 1930s and ’40s was perfect. (I wasn’t the only one humming along to Judy Garland singing “Zing Went the Strings of My Heart;” the cop on the stool next to me was, too.)

The owner and her sister Terry, wearing vintage-styled waitress dresses, greeted me with smiles and an immediate offer of coffee. When I mentioned this was my first visit, Terry gave me a “train ride” by blowing the whistle and making the little train run the length of its track. This honor is generally reserved for those ordering the All Aboard breakfast, which consists of two eggs, two bacon, two sausage, two pancakes, and homefries or baked beans. ($9)

The menu is small and straightforward, with all the usual diner fare, though I was sad to see they don’t offer waffles, one of my personal favorites. The counter was almost full with locals and regulars chatting, and every meal I saw go by looked generous and tasty. I decided on the little stack of pancakes (2 for $3.75) with a side of homefries ($1.50) and bacon ($2.50) The homefries were a bit bland, but the the bacon was terrific, crisp and plentiful, and the pancakes were large and dense. I opted to try the Special Butter, which turned out to be a brilliant decision. The maple caramel cinnamon butter, whipped together on site, was absolutely delicious on the pancakes.

The coffee is quite respectable, rich and fresh ground, and for those on the run, diner features The Honest Cup of Coffee, a self-serve station for take-out coffee at the bargain price of $1. (They are a cash only business, but there’s an ATM just around the corner.) If you want your breakfast to go as well, take out is available.

On weekdays, the diner serves both breakfast and lunch, open 7 a.m. until 2 p.m. On the weekend, they serve breakfast only and close at 12 p.m.  The lunch specials sounded great, and there’s no doubt you’re in Massachusetts because one of the sandwiches offered is the infamous Fluffernutter.

The Little Depot Diner is a place that just plain makes you feel good. Even without the siren call of that luscious Special Butter luring me back, I’d still return and bring my friends. Welcoming and comfortable with tasty food at good prices, this car is on the right track.

The Little Depot Diner
1 Railroad Avenue, Peabody Square
978-977-7775
http://www.thelittledepotdiner.com

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Craving Coffee and Carbs

Posted: March 8th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: American, Breakfast, Diner, Red's Sandwich Shop, Salem | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

A small dog who shall remain nameless woke us up quite early this morning, so Lunch Guy and I made the best of the situation by heading over to Red’s for breakfast. For those not familiar, Red’s is an old-style family restaurant with great food at terrific prices. It’s located on a small side street in Salem, but there’s plenty of parking nearby. Especially at 7:30 in the morning.

Feeling the need for carbs, I ordered blueberry pancakes. The waitress asked if I wanted one, two, or three pancakes, saying they were large. She wasn’t kidding. I ordered two ($5), but since they are as big as a platter, one would have been sufficient. The blueberries were small and tender, and the pancake was fluffy.

Lunch Guy was very pleased with his western omelette ($6), which came with a generous portion of delicious home fries and toast. He enjoyed his side of sausages ($2.50), although they were a bit mild for his taste. The bottomless cup of coffee ($1.75) was topped off so frequently he never came close to reaching the bottom.

That kind of service holds true for lunch, according to Lunch Guy. In fact, the American Chop Suey at Red’s ($6.50) is one of his favorite lunches. Hot, delicious, and served quickly, the portion is so large he often can’t finish it. And there are plenty of other choices on the large and varied lunch menu, all at extremely reasonable prices.

Red’s Sandwich Shop
15 Central Street, Salem
(978) 745-352
www.redssandwichshop.com

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