Monday, June 16, 2008

Auntie Em's Kitchen and being the 'regular'.

What is it to be a regular? You want to feel at home--no, that's not quite right, is it? You want to feel like you are visiting home when you decide to become a regular at a place.
You want to be like the dazzling first born son coming back to visit your widowed mother and younger siblings after your first month at a university (the first person in your family to go!). You haven't been gone long enough to really be missed, just long enough for the routine of home to be broken and for you to be treated with an extra measure of kindness and deference. There's no way anyone is going to ask you to do the dishes.

I've sought out that 'regular' status before. I was oh-so-close to being one at House of Pies. A combination of the House of Pies staff change(Britney, the waitress from Texas, we were almost friends!) and my moving out of the neighborhood robbed me of my burgeoning status. Now I am but a "I might have known you once" ex-lover of the House of Pies.

The closest place I now have is the Eagle Rock standard, Auntie Em's Kitchen.

Auntie Em's is a fine place. Dishes are made from scratch daily with farmer's market produce. You know the drill for this sort of neighborhood breakfast joint. Mismatched coffee mugs and table cloths and brightly painted walls are a bit old hat nowadays. Ten will get you twenty that one wall will be canary yellow, another a sea foam green and the other an inoffensive orange. There's a formula to these places, but that doesn't mean the food isn't good.

Auntie Em's is almost always crowded. If you go there on a weekend expect to wait for a table. The staff is always friendly and personable. These are just some cool kids making their way baking their ciabatta bread and looking for the freshest berries, man. Their positive attitude and friendliness are two of the greatest components of becoming a regular. After all, you don't decide when you're a regular, they do. One of the waitresses yelled at me to "sit down!" when she thought I was rushed into leaving to free up a table. I assured her that I did really have to go.

The first time I ate at Auntie Em's, I ordered the Mabel's shortstack with berries and coconut, which was so beautifully presented and tasty. The fresh fruit and the subtle syrup (poured from an old school Coke bottle) put this head and shoulders above your average pancakes.

And then a cupcake, one of their specialties. I found the cupcake to be too thick, too solid. It was good, but in one bite I felt like I had eaten a brick of Swiss chocolate.

The next time I went, I had the Honey Orange French Toast. also crazy good. Ciabatta bread french toast! Your mind has been blown. The bread was heavy, but easily cut with a fork.

Then I tried the apple pie. Good apple pie; ain't gonna kick Grandma Nellie's to the curb or anything, but it was good.

I rolled in one afternoon not too long ago and got the French Toast Special that day. The ciabatta (all the bread is ciabatta) french toast served with a cherry, blueberry and rhubarb compote. I was sold with that combination. Normally, I can pass on cherry nine times out of ten, but the addition of blueberry and rhubarb (which I love) sounded too good to pass up.

The dishes are just beautiful here. The colors trap your eyes. It would be a disservice to just describe them with 'red' or 'yellow' or 'green.' These dishes are deep crimson, harvest yellow, and emerald; A Crayola box of color.

With each bite I got every flavor present. "ah, there's the cherry, and now the blueberry and here comes the rhubarb!" I was like Violet Beauregard stealing the experimental chewing gum from Wonka.

The perfect portioning filled me up without giving me 'the bloat.'

My friend Professor Nefarious just moved into the neighborhood, and Ulrich Von Hurtem and I decided to take him out to breakfast. We took him to Auntie Em's. For the first time, walking in during prime breakfast time, I didn't need to wait. They sent us out to the patio, my first time out there as well.

Surprisingly, we all went with savory over sweet.

I got the meatloaf open faced breakfast sandwich. Since I can't seem to find it on the online menu, I think it must have been a special. Meatloaf and eggs sounded good at the time. It only sounded good though. It was decent, but certainly not something I would get again.

Ulrich originally wanted the Cajun turkey sausage, but as can be the case when you go to a place that gets everything local and fresh, they had just run out of 10 am on a Sunday. He had to get the Applewood smoked bacon. It was good, but it just wasn't what he really wanted. Breakfast is how you start the day, and you don't want to start the day disappointed. That's what the rest of your day is for.

The Professor got a simple toasted bagel with scrambled eggs and tomato. He said it smelled "fishy," but otherwise it was fine.

This was my one disappointing experience at Auntie Em's. I will keep going, though. Their numbers are up after all. The staff always seems the same. Eventually I may even get a name and remember it. Maybe someday one of them will remember my name. Maybe they'll say things like "Oh go ahead and take a table out back, Mike. You'll love the french toast today. We're trying something new: caramel and bacon pancakes." I'd say "Sounds great," and then smile to myself knowing that my friends at Square One already do that. Oh, I'll get there one day.

You may also want to note that Auntie Em's does brisk take out business and has a tremendous selection of gourmet cupcakes, cookies and other baked goods, as well as various salads and cold noodle dishes available.

Food: Great--Stick to the french toast and pancakes, which seem to be a sure bet.
Service: Friendly
Price: 7-14
Pie: Yes, as well as other delicious pastries.

1 comment:

O Pechanga said...

We dined there for lunch 3 weeks ago. Pretty good, even though it wasn't what we expected.

The wait staff was friendly and smiled when I said, " what, no french fries?" She said, "we have potatoes on Saturdays" Good comeback.

I'd go back.