Blueberry Café Serves Up A Plateful
By Tom Baker
One thing the Midwest has going for it is the fact that you’ll often get more than you can eat in one sitting. In fact, you’ll probably end up with two meals, or at least one meal and a substantial snack for later. Bellbrook’s Blueberry Café flies the flag of large portions proudly, offering breakfast and lunch seven days a week, plus dinner on Fridays — and plenty of it.
Tucked away in Bellbrook’s downtown, Blueberry Café is a cozy joint. They’ve got the small L-shaped dining area filled to capacity with tables, and it doesn’t take long before the place fills up, so heading down early is your best bet. Upon entering, the area opposite the host has been converted into a small store selling Vera Bradley and other gifts, so if you’re in the market for a purse, Reds mug, or a peace sign key chain — you’re in luck. Both recent visits required a short wait — not bad, however the greeting both times wasn’t terribly friendly. Not unfriendly per se, but aloof, bordering on somewhat disinterested. On our first visit we were asked how many people we had with us, and then the host simply walked away. We had to stop her again to clarify how long we’d have to wait. Once we were seated, however, service was very friendly, helpful and hummed along as they moved quickly through the dining room.
The first thing you’ll probably notice are the colorful plates the servers are carrying as they whiz by. The pancakes hang off the sides and the heaps of hash browns necessitate a special balancing act when servers carry multiple meals. The quantity of food here is no joke — nine bucks might seem a bit steep for some people, but when they put that oval-shaped platter of breakfast down on the table, you’re probably thinking about how you’re going to tackle the behemoth before you. I hate to say it, and many might disagree, but it’s almost too much food. They serve what looks to be close to a pound of hash browns per order, the pancakes are about a foot in diameter and the French toast is around three inches thick. Don’t get me wrong – the breads here are excellent, sourced from Rahn’s Artisan, a local bakery that has a booth at the 2nd Street Market downtown. I just prefer that mine be soaked a bit more thoroughly, and when you’re dealing with that much bread, you only get a bit of that great custard and spice.
Blueberry Café makes a great quiche, and if you’re not in the mood for breakfast, just order lunch, as both are served from 7a.m. – 2p.m. all week long. We tried the Veggie Quiche ($8.29), a substantial slice flecked with spinach, artichokes, roasted red pepper, onions, swiss and parmesan. You can get it with salad, or better yet with that pound of potatoes. This time around it was a bit later in the morning, so we also tried the Griddled Tuna Salad Melt ($6.99), served with their thick house-made chips. The chips were crunchy and lightly seasoned, and I’m always excited to see people making their own. These were a bit thicker than I’d usually prefer, but tasty nonetheless. The tuna melt was really good — served lightly toasted on some fantastic wheat bread on which the melted cheddar, tuna salad and tomato came together for a great sandwich. I only ate half — big surprise there.
Now I would be remiss to leave out what might be the most unique part of the Blueberry Café — the Muffin Man. If you’re there at the right time, you might have a chance to meet Tony Darden, aka the Muffin Man. The Muffin Man makes gourmet muffins such as Pineapple Upside Down, Banana Nut or the signature “Stud Muffin” (cherry and chocolate chip — the staff wear shirts depicting the famous muffin). Each muffin is garnished and thoughtfully presented, and if the Muffin Man happens to venture out into the dining room to peddle his wares, you can get up close and personal as he visits each table. These are serious muffins. However, I would use the term loosely. Most of the Man’s Muffins are on the sweeter side (some very sweet) and about the only things clearly distinguishing them from cupcakes is the frosting and their size. Again, don’t get me wrong, but these are muffins on steroids. I shared the one we took home because eating the whole thing was clearly not an option, which is par for the course.
Nothing here is terribly fancy — this is a place that serves a broad spectrum of people and families from Bellbrook and beyond, and although I haven’t tried dinner yet, I assume it follows the established trend — good, affordable and simple food in an impressive quantity. Although I was turned off by the somewhat gruff greeting on my first visit, the food and tableside service ultimately won me over — that, and the fact that I already have tomorrow’s lunch ready and packed.