Restaurant Reviews

Same as it ever was

The long middle table at John's Cafe was full last Saturday morning, and there was only one newspaper, so it made the rounds of the table, handed to the next person down as each finished reading. There aren't very many cafes like John's left; Greenville Avenue used to be lined with them and there were several years of my life when nearly every Saturday morning was spent at Little Gus' (where Daddy Jack's is now), sharing breakfast with a family of strangers. I'm afraid that a concern for physical health is wiping out breakfast. Who eats eggs anymore, or bacon? My kids don't even like bacon and eggs. And when people do indulge themselves, they seem to want a more indulging ambiance than John's offers: You are likely to end up, as we did, eating family-style at the long center table, and the very most you can hope for in terms of cushiness is a vinyl booth.

Line up at the counter and place your order: the basic eggs and bacon plate, pancakes, omelettes. Orange juice comes in a glass; grapefruit juice comes in a can. Get your mug of coffee yourself and try to find an empty table, or at least an empty place at one.

The food at John's is hardly imaginative, the opposite of creative. It is reassuringly familiar, which is good for breakfast, a time of day when you want to know it is the same world in which you went to bed. Pancakes are thick, airy, and plate-sized, topped with a scoop of fatty fluff that substitutes for butter in a place like John's, and accompanied by a glass syrup server of fake maple syrup, thick as glucose. Fine. I ate it all, along with three strips of thick-cut bacon, salty and fat, the perfect foil for that sticky-sweet syrup. Eggs, over easy, were, with gelid whites and runny yokes to be sopped up with soft toasted bread from the bag. The omelet, a half-moon of pale yellow, enfolded stringy cheese and came with a side of breakfast potatoes, perhaps frozen at one time, but now crispy brown from a panful of fat.

Breakfast, if you eat it, is the most intimate meal of the day. It's the closest to your sleeping, so you often break your fast with people you woke up with. These days it's my family; in former days, it was the people who had stayed out together the longest the Friday night before. At John's last Saturday, the crowd included three-generation family groups, morning dates, buddies, and singles. And somehow, drinking the first cup of coffee together made the day's beginning brighter.

Of course, I like John's for lunch, too--the burgers are fine--but that's another story.

--Mary Brown Malouf

John's Cafe, 2724 Greenville Ave., 827-4610. Open Monday-Saturday, 7 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday, 8 a.m.-2 p.m.

John's Cafe:
Breakfast special $2.99
Cheese Omelette $4.05
Pancakes (till 11 a.m.) $2.75
Coffee $.75

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Mary Brown Malouf

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