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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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?
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
A side trip
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
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
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 Final Next
ZUCCHINI BREAD WAFFLE *GF
Gluten-free waffle made with almond flour and topped with whipped butter (Yes we are serious!)
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
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
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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