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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Who’s That Cutie?

The Baked Apple Breakfast Company Downers Grove Illinois

Baked Apple Website LINK

Good Morning Gators!

You are in for an unusual treat. I’m breaking in Junior Gator Diane Anderson this morning. She is going to be adding a new spin to my reviews. I’m not exactly sure on the format yet so bear with me while I iron it out. The plan at first is to get each of our takes on the place ala Siskel and Ebert. So here we go.

Geno:

We arrived at 6:05 (five minutes after opening) Yes, I know I’m never late. There were already 2 cars outside. I hate that. I try to get a photo of the outside of the building without the cars in the way. Oh well. Gator in Training Diane went inside to get a table while I got the pictures.

The restaurant is at the end of a strip. We drove past it once.

 

Baked Apple Breakfast Company Downers Grove
Exterior
Baked Apple Breakfast Company Downers Grove
Exterior with 2 Cars

Unbeknownst to me Diane was already chatting it up with the owner George. She was already seated at a table, but I made her get up and move to a booth by a window. George met me at the door. Diane had already informed him that we were on a mission. I told him to start a baked apple pancake because I know that they take close to 1/2 an hour to produce. I went over to the booth and stuffed myself in. The booths are the ones where the tables are affixed to the walls so that they don’t adjust for rotund people such as myself.

As per usual Coffee and water was requested and delivered. The Coffee is standard Suburban stuff. A bit weak and not a lot of personality   6   somewhere in the midst of all of this our server Gina came into the picture.

The restaurant is woody and brown. It’s adorned with Apple themed pictures and knick knacks. It’s BIG and bright. It’s super clean and carpet free. There is some kind of music way in the background but I couldn’t tell what genre it was.

Baked Apple Breakfast Company Downers Grove
Interior
Baked Apple Breakfast Company Downers Grove
Interior
Baked Apple Breakfast Company Downers Grove
Interior
Baked Apple Breakfast Company Downers Grove
Interior
Baked Apple Breakfast Company Downers Grove
Interior
Baked Apple Breakfast Company Downers Grove
Interior
Baked Apple Breakfast Company Downers Grove
Interior

The menu is a bit big for my taste. Mostly your usual suspects. It’s what I would call an upscale Greek family restaurant. It took awhile to peruse the menu and make a decision. OK ready to go.

Ranchero Benny
Chorizo and poached eggs over corn tortillas, with chipotle Hollandaise sauce
This is an interpretation  that I haven’t had before. The substitution of Corn Tortillas for the usual English Muffin was an interesting twist that I thought might be a fail. As it turned out it fit in with this rendition perfectly.
The Hollandaise was on point. It was Spicy Hot, Smokey, Silky Smooth, and not overly Thick. It would have been good on the bumper of a Chevy Cavalier.   9    The poached eggs were just a tad overcooked which is ok with me. I’d rather not have snotty whites.   8   The Chorizo was Super Spicy and salty and had the proper amount of fattiness.   8   The Factory Made Tortillas were tender and fresh   7   The Hash Browns were decent. Crisp Tender but a touch dry   6    Why don’t more places make home fry’s like  Mr A’s Restaurant in Roselle?  Overall this was  a great rendition of a classic Benedict.  I give it a High   8   or a low    9    in spite of it’s hap hazard platingThis is a definite re order item.
Diane:
So when I learned that  my new pal Geno loved breakfast and was even so bold to BLOG about it, I was pretty jazzed to be invited to join him on an adventure weekday breakfast treat. But as I work a Monday through Friday gig, this was possible because i am recuperating from foot surgery and was able to join him. He explained the basics….get up early to be the first patron, find a seat with lots of natural light, and remind him to check in to Facebook and Instagram.  Hmmmm, I thought…easy breezy!! However when my alarm rang at 5:30am, I questioned if I was really  hungry and ready to rise to this challenge. However, I decided this was going to be a blast, and got dressed, grumbling under my breath  but looking forward to that hot cup of coffee awaiting me. I found a table but it was not acceptable to the Gator, so we moved to a table along the wall with a window.  The only other customers in the restaurant were an elderly couple that was discussing homemade soup and were partaking of said soup at 6:00a.m. (Cream of spinach and Beef noodle on this Wednesday) On their way out they shared that they come to the Baked Apple every day for soup. Soup Groupies, I thought. Gina, our server, approached with a warm smile and it was evident she knew the menu inside out.
When Geno ordered a Ranchero Benedict ( this is a Gator MUST), I thought “uh oh, I may have to break my 25 year streak of no poached eggs”.  I waited patiently to taste the sauce, chorizo and taters, but only after his encouragement, did I try the egg nestled on the corn tortilla, with a spicy blanket of sauce. Oh, MMMM I was  missing out all these years and Geno said the eggs were a tad overdone. But I like my eggs over hard, so it was delicious to me.    7
The Baked Apple Breakfast Company Downers Grove
Ranchero Benny
The Baked Apple Breakfast Company Downers Grove
Ranchero Benny
The Baked Apple Breakfast Company Downers Grove
Ranchero Benny
The Baked Apple Breakfast Company Downers Grove
Ranchero Benny
The Baked Apple Breakfast Company Downers Grove
Ranchero Benny
The Baked Apple Breakfast Company Downers Grove
Ranchero Benny
The Baked Apple Breakfast Company Downers Grove
Ranchero Benny
Geno:
I was about to ask Gina the if I should order the next entree or wait for the Apple Pancake and Viola there it was. I have had these at a dozen places. The premise is pretty simple. sliced apples, sugar, or brown sugar, or both in a deep pan. Heat the pan to get the stuff cooking. Put the batter on top of the aforementioned mixture and bake. Turn the pancake over onto a plate and depending on your preference dust it with powdered sugar. The Baked Apple Breakfast Company’s version of this baby is about a foot across, smells like a hot apple pie and tastes like it too. A ton of Apples a lot of cinnamon nice and sweet but not overly so. A bit crispy outside soft and ooey gooey inside. It could have been cooked a little longer for my taste.  This was a lot of chopped Apples held together with a little batter.    8    
Diane:
 The last Baked Apple pancake I had was when I was a waitress at the Prime Minister Restaurant in Highland, Indiana. I dreaded when a customer ordered one, especially on Sunday morning with the busy after-church crowd. But, being  new and compliant (so far) Junior Gator, I looked forward to enjoying the sweet dish. There must have been at least six tart sweet apples in this pancake. I expected a cloyingly sweet aftertaste after my first bite, but I was pleasantly surprised that the tart apple taste was dominant. I liked the fact that it was not overly cooked and the texture of the custard was silky and smooth.  This dish can easily feed 4-5,         9
The Baked Apple Breakfast Company Downers Grove
Baked Apple Pancake
The Baked Apple Breakfast Company Downers Grove
Baked Apple Pancake
The Baked Apple Breakfast Company Downers Grove
Baked Apple Pancake

 

Strawberry Shortcake
French toast stuffed with sweet cream cheese; topped with fresh strawberries
Geno:
We didn’t order this. This was a house specialty that was a gift from the staff. What they didn’t know is that they were serving French Toast to the worst possible person to serve French Toast to. So How was it? Well the Strawberries were fresh and delicious. The Cream Cheese filling was rich creamy and tasty. It would have been good on a Chuck Taylor. The French Toast? Unfortunately it was your usual sub standard restaurant French Toast. See the rant page for the full explanation. Of course they are going to get “THE LINK” Alton Brown Makes French Toast. Anyway overall it still tastes good.   6   
Diane:
When Gina stated that there was homemade cream cheese in this dish, my eyes grew round as saucers.  Cream cheese, any cream cheese, is good cream cheese. But HOMEMADE, you say?? Well with my fork poised in midair, I waited not so patiently for Gator to take his photos, and when he gave the nod, I dug in happily. The berries were ripe and sweet, the creamy cheesy goodness was delicious but the toast was dry and just…..well, dry.   5
Baked Apple Breakfast Company Downers Grove
Strawberry Shortcake French Toast
Baked Apple Breakfast Company Downers Grove
Strawberry Shortcake French Toast
Baked Apple Breakfast Company Downers Grove
Strawberry Shortcake French Toast

 

El Mariachi Skillet
Bacon, avocado, jalapeno, and melted jack cheese
Geno:
I mean REALLY. Bacon Avocado and Cheese? How can you possibly miss? I ordered the Eggs SS up as a test and they were actually cooked pretty close to perfect. An unheard of 9. The veggies were tender crisp and the spuds were cooked pretty well. This was another good dish.   9   
Diane:
I learned a lot from Gator in regards to how to spot a properly cooked egg. As my style of choice is scrambled beyond recognition, I scowled when he ordered eggs with the yellow so, well….yellow. However, I agree that these SS looked perfect, there was no translucent yuck jelly on them. They tasted quite lovely with the tender crisp veggies, smooth avocado and crispy hash browns.
Note: there is only one hot sauce offering, which is a bit unfortunate since the dishes are very good but a nice choice of hot juice would spice things up nicely.     8      As a side note, this was super yummy the next day, heated up in the foil to-go container with a bit of Tajin seasoning sprinkled on top.
The Baked Apple Breakfast Company Downers Grove
El Mariachi Skillet
The Baked Apple Breakfast Company Downers Grove El Mariachi Skillet
The Baked Apple Breakfast Company Downers Grove
El Mariachi Skillet

 

Healthy Start Panini
Egg white scrambler with avocado, green peppers, and mushrooms on panini pressed multi-grain bread
Geno:
This was another gratis dish from George. (Thanks George) What he didn’t know was that I’m not a fan of sandwiches for breakfast. I’m also not a fan of healthy for breakfast but that won’t stop me from giving it a fair shot.
This dish was supplied with a fruit cup. The Strawberries were red ripe and delicious but the melon was under ripe and under whelming.   5    Generally veggies and egg whites don’t play nice together. they end up watery and separated. Surprisingly this wasn’t the case. Everything stayed glued together pretty well. The veggies were tender crisp and earthy. The bread was decent and well toasted. Except for the fact that it needed a little salt it was actually a pretty good sandwich for being healthy.   A surprising    7  
Diane:
It is evident that the owner George is proud of his establishment and the pride shows when he placed this sandwich down in front of us.
At first I thought, after all this carboliciousness, I suppose this healthy dish is a nice offering from him so we can see there is something for everyone on the menu. I loved the avocado which made the omission of cheese not so bad. In my book, everything needs cheese.    Strongly concur with Gator     7
The Baked Apple Breakfast Company Downers Grove
Healthy Start Panini
The Baked Apple Breakfast Company Downers Grove
Healthy Start Panini
The Baked Apple Breakfast Company Downers Grove
Healthy Start Panini

 

Well that’s it Gators. A good visit with George and his staff. This is a good clean suburban stop that you should add to your list.

As for us we’re off to our next adventure!

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