esencia urban kitchen Chicago

WEBSITE

Good Morning Gators!

It was a beautiful morning in the Lakeview East neighborhood. There are nearly as many Dogs as people. At this time in the morning there was a fair amount of open parking. We were a bit early so we sat in the Gatormobile and listened to some tunes for a bit.

OK it’s almost opening time (8:00) so its time to get going. As per standard Gator operating procedure I took a few exterior shots and Diane went in to snag a table.

esencia Chicago
All that is missing is U
esencia Chicago
Exterior

The place is TINY. 6 tables and 4 counter stools. On the counter there was an assortment of baked goods. The place was carpet free   9   with Urban Hipster music playing in the background.   8    The music fit the venue. The decor is mish mash coffeehouse. Speaking of Coffee, it wasn’t ready when they opened. This shouldn’t happen. On a more positive note when we got some it was delicious. Im not a flavored coffee fan. I’d much rather have a cup of single origin coffee than some Hazel caramel mocha salted something. The house coffee is flavored with Cinnamon and was worth waiting a few minutes for.   8  

esencia Chicago
Interior
esencia Chicago
Interior

 

The menu is small.   8   It didn’t take long to make a decision.

1st Up

 

This dish was a riff on an Eggs Benedict.  The Canadian Bacon was your run of the mill grocery store stuff.   6   I was actually pretty surprised at this. The Sunny Eggs were a little under. I wasn’t surprised at that.   4    The Poblano Cream Sauce was good but it was a little bland   7    It was served atop a Buttermilk Biscuit. The biscuit was decent but a little tough.   7   It was served with cubed and Mexican spiced potatoes that were pretty tasty. They were the highlight of the dish   8    A salad rode sidecar. It was fresh, crisp, and properly dressed. A good addition.   7   This wasn’t a particularly strong start but it was an overall decent dish.   7   

esencia Chicago
poblano eggs
esencia Chicago
poblano eggs
esencia Chicago
poblano eggs
esencia Chicago
poblano eggs

 

I saw that one of the featured bakery delights was a maple walnut coffeecake. I thought that we should give it a try. It was a good choice. It was buttery, nutty, mapley. cinnamony and had good texture. this cake was worth the drive.   9   

esencia Chicago
Maple Walnut Coffee Cake
esencia Chicago
Maple Walnut Coffee Cake
esencia Chicago
Maple Walnut Coffee Cake

 

Next Up

First a Hibiscus lesson.Dried hibiscus is edible, and it is often a delicacy in Mexico. It can also be candied and used as a garnish, usually for desserts.

The roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) is used as a vegetable. The species Hibiscus suratensis Linn synonymous to Hibiscus aculeatus G. Don is noted in Visayas in the Philippines as being a souring ingredient for almost all local vegetables and menus. Known as labog in the Visayan area, (or labuag/sapinit in Tagalog), the species is a very good ingredient in cooking native chicken soup.

Hibiscus

 

I have never eaten flowers as a main component of a dish so I of course had to order it.

The sauce (mole?) was rich, smooth and silky but it didn’t have a ton of flavor. Maybe this was by design. This dish is really about texture. It had that in spades. It was crunchy and tender crisp. It was tasty but it had a lot of grittiness. It crunched like it had a lot of sand that wasn’t cleaned from it. It wasn’t like anything that I’ve  had before. It was a solid   7   Served with some flavorful rice that was a   7    

esencia Chicago
Hibiscus Enchiladas
esencia Chicago
Hibiscus Enchiladas
esencia Chicago
Hibiscus Enchiladas
esencia Chicago
Hibiscus Enchiladas
esencia Chicago
Rice

Finally

While we were waiting the bus person came by cleaned off the table and brought new flatware.   9    

The cakes were light fluffy tender and lemony. They were served with jasmine syrup and ginger butter both of which were good. This was an overall   8    I liked em.

esencia Chicago
Lemon Ricotta Pancakes
esencia Chicago
Lemon Ricotta Pancakes
This was an interesting visit. I got to have a couple of things that I haven’t had before such as a flower (not Flour) enchilada.
So that’s it Gators Another decent downtown dining experience. As for us we’re of to another adventure.
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The Scrambled Diner Dyer Indiana

The Scrambled Diner WEBSITE

Good Morning Gators!

Diane is back and ready to get  Gatoring.

We arrived at The Scrambled Egg Diner Shortly after the opened and they were already abuzz with customers. We came to find out that they have a lot of regular early birds and the place fills up fast. As usual Diane went in to procure a table and I took a few pics of the outside.

The Scrambled Egg Diner Dyer Indiana
Exterior

 

Diane made a good table choice and I didn’t have to relocate her. The interior of the place was decorated in Mom’s Kitchen Style. Black White and Gold. It was SMALL. About a dozen tables. There were pictures of kids on the wall eating various and sundry foods. The music was a mix up of stuff from Reggae to Country.   7

The Scrambled Egg Diner Dyer Indiana
Interior
The Scrambled Egg Diner Dyer Indiana
Interior
The Scrambled Egg Diner Dyer Indiana
Interior
The Scrambled Egg Diner Dyer Indiana
Interior

Our server Mallory brought coffee while we studied the menu. The Coffee was unremarkable. Pretty standard Diner glug.   6   There was a skillet on the special board that looked interesting but I suggested a House made Cinnamon Roll to start. There was no objection by my partner.

The Scrambled Egg Diner Dyer Indiana
Cinnamon Roll
The Scrambled Egg Diner Dyer Indiana
Cinnamon Roll
The Scrambled Egg Diner Dyer Indiana
Cinnamon Roll
The Scrambled Egg Diner Dyer Indiana
Cinnamon Roll
The Scrambled Egg Diner Dyer Indiana
Cinnamon Roll
The Scrambled Egg Diner Dyer Indiana
Cinnamon Roll

Sweet, Gooey, Cinnamony, but a touch dry. It was delicious though.    8    

Diane weighs in (figuratively, of course):

I have rarely met a cinnamon roll that did not make me swoon. This one, however, I compare to that Summer crush of my pre-senior year in High School.  You know the kind….. looked so yummy on the outside but dry and boring on the inside. The upside is that the icing and cinnamon sauce the roll sat in was very delicious and served as a dip for each bite of the dry roll.  Nonetheless, I rate this morsel.   5

 

Next up Big Daddy Skillet

Shaved Rib Eye, Hash Browns, Mushrooms, Blue Cheese.

I want to start with the Hash Browns. As most of you know I always taste the Hash Browns but Rarely do I eat them. 99% of the time they are commercial frozen Hash Browns. Not bad but pretty dull. OMG these HBs were A –  MAZING. Freakishly Good. Probably the best Iv’e had. They were lightly crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. They were salty, buttery, and had great potato flavor. I didn’t LIKE them. I LOVED them. I would give them a 10 but you know that I never do that.   9       The House Made Ketchup was delicious and a good compliment.   8    They also make a pretty good hot sauce   8   The beef was super tender and seasoned properly.   8   The mushrooms were cooked perfectly and earthy.   8   The Eggs were near perfect.   9   I could live without the Blue Cheese.It was a bit overpowering and distracts from the dish. I love Blue Cheese but I think Goat Cheese would have been better here. The skillet was on point. A study in deliciousness.   9   

Diane:

One of the coolest thing about blogging with my guy is that it satisfied my natural penchant for disecting and analyzing food, people, situational behavior, and well….most everything around me. Being asked to assist makes me happy, and the plus is your taste buds are invited along for the ride. That said, while Gene is taking photos and sizing up the physical attributes of a site, I am busy taking in the interactive quotient….the People piece. The first thing I noted was the genuine joy on the server’s face in being part of the Scrambled Diner experience. This may sound hokey-pokey to you, dear Blog readers….but I firmly believe that anyone in the world can find joy in their work, whether it is serving up hot plates of deliciousness or shopping for the freshest ingredients for family before a dinner celebration, or simply making yourself a single poached egg and a perfectly toasted bagel. Mallory, our server was a delight to spend a while with, always patient and very curious about our mission at hand. Guests were familiar with the staff and there was cross talk between patrons here. Babies were smiling and all was well with the world in the Scrambled Diner. I rate the vibe a 9

The skillet we ordered was scribed on the huge chalkboard above the open kitchen, where two cooks dressed all in black (super cool) were silently crafting plates of breakfast.  That’s something I marveled at first thing, utter concentration on their part as they worked. So back to the skillet…Big Daddy, you say?? I am not quite sure how they named this, I am sure there is an inside story. I would call it Savory Sexy Skillet. The mushrooms were thinly sliced, the tender beef seasoned perfectly, and the blue cheese a perfect bite to the buttery, fine shred of the made-from-scratch Hash browns. The guy thought Goat cheese would have been a better choice, I disagreed and thumbs upped the Blue.  I do not say this often, but this would rival  WHISK creator  David Rodriguez’s Shrimp and Grits to get up early for on a Sunday morning.  Its a toss up but both of those dishes make me dream yummy dreams. It was difficult not to finish this dish, as we had more to come.  9

The Scrambled Egg Diner Dyer Indiana
Hot Sauce
The Scrambled Egg Diner Dyer Indiana
Big Daddy Skillet
The Scrambled Egg Diner Dyer Indiana
Big Daddy Skillet
The Scrambled Egg Diner Dyer Indiana
Big Daddy Skillet
The Scrambled Egg Diner Dyer Indiana
Big Daddy Skillet

 

Orchard Omelette. Ham, Cheddar, and House Made Applesauce. It came with House made Sausage and we ordered a short stack of their House Made Pancakes. I normally don’t order Omelets because they are usually improperly cooked scrambled eggs with stuff either mixed in or folded inside. The menu was short like I like it and this wasn’t something I’ve had before.  The House Made sausage was porky salty and seasoned well. It was a little overcooked for me. I liked it though.   7   Toast. The Omelet came with toast. EH it was toast and as usual it was unbuttered, chewy, barely warm and toasted on one side.   6    The House Made Apple Butter was tasty subtly spiced and not overly sweet and had good Apple taste.   8   I was pleased that the Eggs were not hammered. I like them soft. They were more medium well. This dish was an overall   8   I liked it. Oh and some more of those Hash Browns. Mmmm. Pancakes. OMG Home made deliciousness. Light Fluffy Puffy and slightly sweet. These cakes and the Hash Browns are worth the trip. As usual they were served with bootleg maple syrup. Why O Why do places make incredible Pancakes and serve Crappy Syrup. I would pay a couple of bucks for the real deal. These Pancakes were almost as good as Davids from WHISK   9   A GREAT finish.

Diane:

This is one of those dishes that you spot on the menu, read the description over a few times and go “hmmmm, well maybe that combination will work, but then again maybe not”. Gene and I both spotted it at the same time and locked eyes and nodded. We either totally agree or not, thats US. So we asked Mallory to hook us up, and when it came to the table, I was smitten. The plating here is very important to the owners as they pay attention to how the dish appears.   8     Creamy melted sharp cheddar, perfectly small cubed smoky ham, and homemade apple butter, it tasted as smooth as it looked. The only thing that threw me off was that the apple butters I have seen were dark amber due to lots of cinnamon and this one looked like apple sauce. It did taste like apple butter though so I give the apple butter   6    The pork sausage is house-made and was very tasty, yet a tad overcooked   6   Good quality bread for the toast, but it was dry and not hot but truly,  restaurant toast rarely impresses 4

The marriage of flavors in the fluffy, but not too airy omelette worked, so overall the dish is a solid 8

OH the pancakes!! These are most definitely mixed from scratch and they only need butter. I wanted to slather on the apple butter and roll them up like edible blankets! But we were out of the apple butter and the place was HOPPING people were waiting for tables and Mallory was busy as a bee, so  I ate them with a tad of fakey syrup. They would shine brighter with real maple syrup. These cakes are light and fluffy and just right  9

 

The Scrambled Diner Dyer Indiana

The Scrambled Egg Diner Dyer Indiana
Toast
The Scrambled Egg Diner Dyer Indiana
One Sided Toast

That does it Gators. A road trip to Dyer that paid off. Get out there!

As for us we are off to or next adventure.

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Jakes Bagels and Deli Aurora Illinois

JAKES WEBSITE

Good morning Gators!

It’s been awhile since we’ve posted but we’re back. This review is going to be short and sweet. Sadly Diane wasn’t with me on this visit. She had to work.

I normally wouldn’t review  a place that has essentially one main item but their star employee Natalie convinced me to do a review. I buckled so here it is.

I arrived at Jake’s at around 6:30 about an hour after they opened. I waited because I wanted to have some daylight to take pictures. The Fall and Winter months suck for the photography side of blogging. It’s often dark when I get to a place.  I took a couple of pics and went in.

Chicago Sun Times Anyone?

 

Natalie greeted me immediately. I told her I was there on business. Gator business. I told her to set me up with a Bagel sandwich, some bagel chunks, and some cream cheese samples. She grumbled a bit but made it happen.

The place is in an OLD building reminiscent of someones big unfinished basement. It’s kind of funky and retro like me. This is a relocation. They were on the East side of Aurora for 10 years and have been in their current spot for 8. I took a seat by a window and unpacked my camera gear.

Jake’s has the usual Bagels and Cream Cheese with the addition of cookies, muffins, and popcorn for some reason. They make a variety of lunchie type sandwiches. I didn’t try any of these. You’ll have to tell me how they are. Beverage wise they have an assortment of juices and a coffee bar. They also have a gas station style cappuccino machine. Ewe.

What is a New York style bagel you ask?

New York bagels are fermented overnight  which allows tasty yeasts to grow and create complex flavor compounds. They then poach the bagels before baking them. The poaching is what gives them a great chewy texture. Most of the bagels that you get in the chain places are more like big round puffy dinner rolls.

Natalie arrived with the grub.

This is Natalie

Natalie

 

This is the Grub

Grub

I tasted the coffee. It was pretty mediocre but I have had worse   6    and no Splenda

I’ll start with the sandwich. Most of you know that I am not a fan of sandwiches or wraps for breakfast so keep that in mind when you read my commentary.

Bacon Egg and Cheese on an Egg Jalapeño Bagel.

The Egg was a fluffy and puffy egg disc. I’m pretty sure it was microwaved. It was scramble-esc with a fair amount of bacon mixed in. It was actually pretty tasty. It was moist, tender, and bacony. It could use a bit of salt and some sort of bread lube like Country Dijon mustard or mayo. The bagel was buttered and excellent. I would actually order this again   8   

Bagel Chunk Assortment and Cream Cheese
They have fantastic Bagels here. Right up there with Kaufman’s in Skokie.   9   My current favorites are the Egg and the Multigrain. I love Jakes’s Bagels. I get them toasted with Butter AND Cream Cheese. The Cream Cheeses are great overall.   9   
Here is a rundown on the ones that I sampled today. They have LOTS more.
Cinnamon Apple- One of my favorites along with the Blueberry   9   
Giardiniera- Although I am a big fan of the stuff, I didn’t think that it translated into a cream cheese flavor very well   7   
Pineapple Walnut- Pretty good   8
Chocolate Chip- Yummy   9   
Green Olive- Briny and salty and tasty   8   A new one for me.
Salsa- A bit of spicy heat. A good mix   9
OK Gators. That wraps it up. I’m out of Bagel talk. There isn’t much excitement for the average person.
I have been coming to Jakes fairly regularly since moving to Aurora and will continue. There really isn’t anything not to like about Jake’s Good Food Good Service. If you’ve never had a “real” bagel you’d better get over here.
As for me I’m off to my next adventure.
I never found a Sun Times by the way.
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Prasino LaGrange Illinois

Prasino WEBSITE

Good Morning Gators!

It’s a beautiful morning in downtown Lagrange. It’s about 7:35am. Diane and I are in the Gatormobile listening to some tunes waiting for the 8am opening of Prasino. Another place that doesn’t open until the middle of the day.

At 7:55 we get into Gator Mode. Diane goes inside to procure a table while I start the photographic endeavors.

Prasino LaGrange Illinois
Exterior
Prasino LaGrange Illinois
Exterior
Prasino LaGrange Illinois
Exterior
Prasino LaGrange Illinois
Geno @ Work

The Interior of the place is woody, bricky, brown, modern and carpet free. Here are a few of my pics and if you click the restaurant link at the top there are much better shots on their beautiful website.

Prasino LaGrange Illinois
Interior
Prasino LaGrange Illinois
Interior
Prasino LaGrange Illinois
Interior
Prasino LaGrange Illinois
Interior
Prasino LaGrange Illinois
Interior
Prasino LaGrange Illinois
Interior
Prasino LaGrange Illinois
Napkin Art

The background music is somewhere between Jazz, New Age, and Spa music. It fits the venue.

Geno:

As usual we start with water and Coffee. The Coffee was good, fairly strong and hot. It wasn’t too complex but that’s OK for breakfast Coffee.   8    They had Splenda, Truvia (makes your drink taste like grass clippings), and a container of Turbinado sugar.

Diane:

The coffee was very hot and bold, as I like it. Loved the angular little cream dispenser. Everyone from the front desk hostess, to our uber efficient server (she even brought us fresh cups of coffee mid-meal), to  the young gents taking away our plates were very gracious and made us feel like they were happy to see us. This is so important to my overall satisfaction when dining out.  8

Prasino LaGrange Illinois
Coffee Condiment Butler

Geno:

They have a fairly extensive Alcohol menu. As most of you know I never order Alcohol at breakfast. My world was about to change. As it turns out my partner Diane is a Boozer. She orders up something called a Berrymosa. Our excellent server Marina drops off a pair of glasses containing a magic red liquid. She split it into 2 glasses. Maybe she was concerned of the possibility of Cooties. Oh and it was delicious.

Prasino LaGrange Illinois
Berrymosa

The menu was small-ish. We had a bit of discussion on what to order then jumped in.

Prasino LaGrange Illinois
Menu

Paris-  poached eggs, ham, brie, truffle hollandaise, butter croissant

Geno:

Poached eggs. The poached eggs were prepared via the cooked in plastic wrap process. I’m OK with that. My friend Michele hates it for some reason. It makes for better presentation. They were a bit overcooked.    7    The Hollandaise was smooth, creamy, eggy, with a hint of citrus.    8    The house potatoes were spiced warmly. Possibly an Indian spice blend.    7    The Ham was well, Ham. Thin and smokey   7    It had a buttery Croissant base.    8    The Croissant was topped with Brie. I’m not a big Brie fan but  I get why they made the choice. Overall this was a Hit.    8

Diane:

Lagrange is near and dear to me. I lived in Countryside for many years and frequented many of the fine eateries that are part of the current landscape as well as some that did not last over time.  Prasino was not a place that I had tried before so I was anxious to try it with the dude.  However, I must state a rebuttal of  my new nickname…. ” Boozer”.   I indeed suggested we order a breakfast cocktail from the extensive list, and he agreed quickly,  with a sparkle in his brown eyes. In addition, he slurped his down in record time whlst I sipped delicately on my half glass of ruby goodness. And so, faithful Breakfast Gator blog readers, who REALLY is the Boozer?? Berrymosa  9

The Paris Benedict was very pleasing to the eye, with the grill-marks on the ham, the creamy sauce and perfectly round and shiny poached egg white. I liked the Brie and Croissant along with the truffle in the sauce. I assume Truffle oil was used for the pungent quality. I only had to poke one tine of my fork into the egg to know it was a STEER CLEAR for me. The ham was not smoky and just plain unremarkable in the overall symphony of this dish.  6   The potatoes were deliciously spiced with a cumin, peppery flavor and just the right amount of finely diced onions that were nicely browned   8

Prasino Lagrange Illinois
Paris Benedict
Prasino Lagrange Illinois
Paris Benedict
Prasino Lagrange Illinois
Paris Benedict
Prasino Lagrange Illinois
Paris Benedict
Prasino Lagrange Illinois
Paris Benedict

   

Marina brought us fresh flatware throughout the visit.    10   I love when servers give you fresh flatware.

Short rib skillet- potatoes, peppers, onions, cheddar

This came with a choice of side carbs and egg styles. I chose Pancakes and Sunnyside Ups

Geno:

The Eggs were pretty undercooked and snotty. I was surprised that they were THAT under. Pretty unacceptable.    4    I love Short Ribs It’s a gator favorite. Unfortunately for me the Short ribs were just OK. They were a bit one note. They were beefy and tender. The veggies were tender crisp and a little too green peppery for me. I’m not a big fan of GPs. They are generally sour and astringent. The Pancakes were average. They could be a mix cake. Eh. A bit of a letdown after the last dish.  An OK    7   overall

Diane:

I will not deny it, I love breakfast meat. Smoky ham off the bone, sage sausage patties, thick pepper bacon cooked to a snappy, chewy near-crisp, Skirt steak medium, thankyouverymuch…..give me MEAT with my breakfast. I tried to be a vegetarian when my daughter announced in junior high that she wanted to eat only vegetables. I lasted about one day. Okay I  made my point.   When Geno suggested this dish  my heart jumped. YES. The ribs were very tender and the portion was very generous but they were under-seasoned. I scavenged under the gooey SSU eggs  which I will give a 2    only because they made me smile  when I folded them UP to get every last shred of meat. 8   Our super accommodating server furrowed her brow when she saw we did not touch the eggs so Geno informed her that they were undercooked. She looked very concerned but we do not know if she passed on our comment to the Chef.

Prasino LaGrange Illinois
Short Rib Skillet
Prasino LaGrange Illinois
Short Rib Skillet
Prasino LaGrange Illinois
Short Rib Skillet

Sweet Time

Pretzel croissant french- toast white chocolate sauce, salted caramel

Geno:

I’ll tell you right off the bat that this one made up for the last one. I would drive back here just for this. NO they will NOT get the Dreaded Alton Brown French Toast Link because they don’t need it. This was expertly prepared. The Croissants were cut into slices. I wasn’t quite sure were the pretzel part was. They were pretty well soaked and properly cooked. They were crisp on the outside and tender. soft, and eggy on the inside. An almost never happening occurrence. This was On Point!    9

Diane:

Well this is most definitely worth leaving the jeans at home to wear your Presentable-for-Public-Eye Yoga pants for. OMG. As Geno mentioned, I did not taste pretzel or saltiness in the thinly sliced croissant French toast, but it did not matter. Each bite was melt in your mouth tender.  The white chocolate sauce had a thicker texture than I expected, it was more custardy that saucey. The caramel complemented the dish perfectly.    9   This is one of those sweet entrees that you hear yourself moan Oh, mmmmm, Yes!!!!….just a little too loudly. This is a family restaurant after all 🙂

Prasino LaGrange Illinois
Pretzel Croissant French Toast
Prasino LaGrange Illinois
Pretzel Croissant French Toast
Prasino LaGrange Illinois
Pretzel Croissant French Toast
Prasino LaGrange Illinois
Pretzel Croissant French Toast
Prasino LaGrange Illinois
Pretzel Croissant French Toast

Well My Gators, That’s it. We had a good visit at Prasino. Good Food and Impeccable service. From flatware swaps to continuous coffee refills to fast food delivery. Get over there and be sure to sit at one of   Marinas tables.

As for us? We’re off to our next adventure

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The Mason Jar Cafe Benton Harbor Michigan

The Mason Jar Cafe WEBSITE

Good Morning Gators!

We have a special long distance treat. Junior Gator Diane and myself are bringing you a review all the way from Benton Harbor. I was visiting Diane in her beautiful Air B&B rental property in Union Pier Michigan. Since I was going to be up there I thought that we should take advantage of it and do some Gatoring. After some discussion on  some possible locations a decision was made.

Geno:

The Mason Jar didn’t open until 8 on Sunday. Yet another place that doesn’t open till the middle of the day. We were there a minute or two after and the place already had customers. Diane went in to secure a spot and I took the required exterior and interior photos.

Diane

On holiday weekends, I usually shy away from going out for breakfast or dinner, since all of the out-of-towners are in town  for the long weekend. Waits are long and frustrating, especially when you need that first strong cup o’ Joe to pry the eyelids apart.  We found only a few tables occupied at 8:05am when we arrived. Gator likes to find a table near a window with lots of  natural light so I sat down and as soon as i saw him ambling toward me after walking in the door, I saw the teasing furrowed brow and head shake. In other words….Sorry girly you picked the wrong table. So we moved to the Sunny corner, and I ended up eating breakfast with my aviators on.  Within ten minutes, the place was filled with folks of all ages.

Mason Jar Cafe Benton Harbo MI
Exterior Complete With My Shadow
Mason Jar Cafe Benton Harbor MI
Interior
Mason Jar Cafe Benton Harbo MI
Interior
Mason Jar Cafe Benton Harbor MI
Mason Jar Cafe Benton Harbor MI
Interior

Geno:

With the job complete I went to take a seat. I found Diane at a table. Just like last week I didn’t approve of her choice and made her move. I’m going to make her gun shy on table choosing. She is going to stab me with a table knife. We took our seats and met our very friendly server Stephanie.

Coffee and water of course. The Coffee was strong but didn’t have a ton of personality.   7   The mug was cute and they DID have Splenda.

Diane:

Stephanie, our pleasant and perky waitress, arrived with a carafe of hot and strong coffee. It was very rich and a tad acidy, maybe a  Colombian roast. Heavy cream in a tiny pitcher was poured into my cup as i smiled widely in anticipation of that first sip (gulp).      8  

She conversed with us about the local fresh ingredients, and told us that if she could pick any place to eat in the area, she would pick Mason Jar. She knew the menu very well, and was able to answer each question we posed about the menu.   9

Mason Jar Cafe Benton Harbor MI
Coffee Mug
Mason Jar Cafe Benton Harbor MI
Sweetener Butler

The place is small and cute. The right size for a weekday visit but if you don’t get there early you are in for a wait. It was clean and carpet free. There was some kind of music playing but you really couldn’t hear it. There wasn’t a lot of tables but they were of reasonable size and reasonably spaced. The style of the place is a mish mash of stuff. It fits the neighborhood and the clientele. The place was devoid of Hipsters.

Geno:

The menu was of moderate size and a good mix of standards and more interesting choices. We had some discussion on the choices and the order of appearance. I insisted that we get an order of Nueske’s Bacon. The Nueske’s are 3rd generation meat smokers since 1933.    Nueske’s WEBSITE   The Bacon was ordered. We drank Coffee, chatted, and waited. Stephanie appeared with a plate.

The Mason Jar Benton Harbor MI
Nueske’s Bacon

Fantastic! Salty Smokey and a tiny touch of sweetness. This Bacon screams for a BLT with a garden fresh heirloom tomato, Toasted dense country white bread and some good Mayo. Alas it was not to be. Surprisingly there was not one on the menu. There really should be. I find this criminal. C’mon Mason Jar, fix this error and call it “The Gator” This Bacon is a   9    You could wrap this bacon around a Birkenstock and it would taste good.

Diane:

Several days before we decided on a place to Gator in the area of Michigan known as Harbor Country, we checked Yelp for spots to breakfast. Geno noted that the Mason Jar had 4.5 Stars and did a bit of research on the menu. NEUSKE’S BACON!!!! He shouted in text to me. One thing I do know about this dude, he knows good quality food purveyors and I figured that this $4.00 order of bacon was going to be Oh Yeah Baby bacon. Smokey sweet, medium crispy, not crackly, and not super salty. Now if you are a bacon lover, you can relate to wanting to consume an entire pound in one sitting. But this bacon was so rich and tasty, you only need two slices to be sated. 10

Next up

Crab Cake Benedict. This is an on and off special that does not appear on the menu. I know what you’re thinking. “Another Crab Cake Bennie”?! Yes I know but Dammit I love crab and I can’t seem to help myself. Diane doth not protest too much so the order is placed.

Pretty standard stuff. English Muffin, Crabby Cake, Poached Eggs, and Hollandaise. It was served with fresh local Asparagus and house spuds.

The Hollandaise was smooth Eggy and spicy. It could have used a touch more citrus. I like my Hollandaise with a bit of pop.    7    One of the muffins was well toasted (YAY) one was only partially toasted (UGH)    7    Toasting of the muffin is a crucial step. A crunchy English Muffin base provides a much needed textural contrast to a Bennie. This step is almost always a FAIL. The Mason Jar got it 1/2 right. The eggs were a touch under    7    The Asparagus was delightful. Tender Crisp fresh and grassy.     8    The house potatoes were fresh tender seasoned well and had the proper amount of char.    8    The Crab Cake was fried lightly. It was Crabby, seasoned well, and didn’t have too much filler. A good Cake.    8    This was a good rendition of a classic. An overall    8    A great start.

Diane:

In perusing the menu, I knew that Gator would want to order the CCB. The dish was delivered to our table relatively quickly after ordered. The local asparagus was thin, crisp tender and absolutely fresh and delicious, with light coating of olive oil from being sauteed.  The crab cake was full of crabmeat and was seasoned perfectly yet I took a pass on the egg and mushy muffin   7

 

The Mason Jar Benton Harbor MI
Crabcake Benedict
The Mason Jar Benton Harbor MI
Crabcake Benedict

 

Geno:

I like Ketchup or Catsup or America Sauce with my potatoes. Most of you know that I’m an HH or Heinz Hater. Mason Jar was stocked with a local Ketchup that had great Tomato flavor and the proper amount of sweetness.    8    

Diane:

I was a ketchup dope before I met Gene. Since I only use it on the occasional order of french fries, I buy whatever is on sale. However, all it took is taking the cap off the bottle of this locally made sauce to know how fresh it is. The natural sweetness of fresh tomatoes is all that comes through.  It was simply delicious with the red skinned breakfast potatoes.  7

The Mason Jar Benton Harbor MI
Local Ketchup

 

Next up

GOAT CHEESE AND GRIT CAKES *GF
Two pan seared grit cakes with goat cheese topped with two organic eggs any style and a side of breakfast potatoes

Geno:

Sunny side Up Eggs as a test. Test Passed. They were only a tad under and a bit brown but good over all. The three Grit Cake Squares were grilled crisp on one side only. The other side was warm but  they were soft, tender, creamy, corny, and salty  on the inside. They had just the right amount of funk from the goat cheese. They were a great second round.    9     They were supplied with more of the delicious Spuds.

Diane:

Unfortunately,  the eggs are cooked perfectly perfect, I cannot handle runny whites so I only ate the crusty perimeter of each egg. However, I was very intrigued by the grit cake with goat cheese, and after one bite, and many “mmmm’s” and “ahhhh’s”, deem this dish a win simply for the grit cake and taters.  7

The Mason Jar Benton Harbor MI
Goat Cheese and Grit Cakes
The Mason Jar Benton Harbor MI
Goat Cheese and Grit Cakes
The Mason Jar Benton Harbor MI
Goat Cheese and Grit Cakes
The Mason Jar Benton Harbor MI
Goat Cheese and Grit Cakes
The Mason Jar Benton Harbor MI
Goat Cheese and Grit Cakes

 

Next Next Up

CORNED BEEF HASH
House made corned beef hash with poblanos, onion and potatoes topped with two eggs any style and served with choice of Bit of Swiss toast

Bit of Swiss as I was told by Diane is a local Bakery. I love toast and I love it Buttered and Jammed. (See Rant Page) The Toast was pretty well toasted and much to my surprise and delight it was pre buttered. This is super rare.    9    Crispy Flavorful Sourdough. I was so excited about this toast that I took a big chomp before I took pictures so you get the photos with bitten toast.

Corned Beef Hash again Geno? Well Gators it was house made so I almost always order it. I am certainly glad that I did. The Over Medium Eggs were a little over and a bit brown. Eggs should not be brown.    7    OMG this Corned Beef was on point! I can’t even tell you why exactly. The seasoning was perfect as was the salt level. It was Salty and Beefy. The Poblanos added just the right touch of green pepper like astringency. It was a touch crispy and tender. This was some of the BEST Corned beef that I’ve ever had.    9      Drive to Benton Harbor and get some. Did you leave yet?

Diane

Gator ordered the eggs over medium for the sake of variety, and they were overdone so  of course I was delighted. The homemade corned beef was out of the world….rough cut chunks of tender CB with tons of flavor, sweet vidalia onions finely chopped, and tiny bits of crisply sauteed poblano pepper. You simply cannot believe how tasty this hash is, people. It is worth a stop off the highway to eat here, and order this dish. 9

The Mason Jar Benton Harbor MI
Corned Beef Hash
The Mason Jar Benton Harbor MI
Corned Beef Hash
The Mason Jar Benton Harbor MI
Corned Beef Hash

 

A side trip

Lavender Lemonade

Geno:

Lavender is really tricky. Too much and it tastes like Yardley Lavender Soap. This Lemonade was perfectly balanced. Sweet Tart with a touch of flowers.    8    

Diane:

I had to try this. The Mason Jar has quite the variety of handcrafted beverages such as blueberry buckle juice, cinnamon apple juice, and this lemonade. I enjoyed it after the egg and taters and CB hash as a refreshing palate cleanser.  8

The Mason Jar Benton Harbor MI
Lavender Lemonade

 

Local Hot Sauce

Stephanie inquired if we would like to try some local Hot Sauce. DUH. Bring It. All three were good and from Chicago.

The Mason Jar Benton Harbor MI
Hot Sauce
The Mason Jar Benton Harbor MI
Hot Sauce

 

The Final Next

ZUCCHINI BREAD WAFFLE *GF
Gluten-free waffle made with almond flour and topped with whipped butter (Yes we are serious!)

Geno:

When I ordered this I really didn’t expect much. I rarely order waffles. They are usually not crisp and usually don’t have a lot of flavor and I like mine with EXTRA Gluten. OOOOH Charlie. This waffle was spectacular. Crisp Fluffy Puffy Goodness. I don’t know if it was the Almond Flour or the little chunks of Zucchini. It was A great representation of the Waffle World. Gluten Shmooten.    9    The only thing bad about this Waffle was that there wasn’t 2 of them. It was served with REAL Maple Syrup. Good Job MJ.    9     

Diane:

For our sweet entree, we could not decide between this unique waffle offering, or the Sweet Banana Oat pancakes. We opted for the waffle and I am sooooo glad we did. Upon tasting the first little compartment of goodness, I thought of a french cruller…. a bit crisp on the outside, but airy, puffy, and tender on the inside.  The fruit on top was full of flavor and very sweet. It was served with sweet whipped butter and real maple syrup. OMG delicious.   9

The Mason Jar Benton Harbor MI
Zucchini Bread Waffle
The Mason Jar Benton Harbor MI
Zucchini Bread Waffle
The Mason Jar Benton Harbor MI
Zucchini Bread Waffle

 

 

Mason Jar Cafe Benton Harbor MI
Suppliers

Random Musing from Diane:

One of the things I loved most about the Mason Jar was their propensity to use small independent suppliers as much as possible. The sauces, the meats, the breads…..all local and unique and delicious. Our server Stephanie took great pride in sharing this with us.  10

Well that about does it Gators. This was an excellent visit. It was quite a surprise. A Pearl. You know what I didn’t like about the food? Nothing

As for us we are off to our next adventure.

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