Bellbrook’s Blueberry Cafe serves the basics

Photo: Blueberry pancake and sausage at Bellbrook’s Blueberry Cafe; photos: Paula Johnson

By Paula Johnson

The Blueberry Cafe is the kind of neighborhood breakfast joint where it seems just about everybody in the place is either known by the hosts and servers, or lives in the town.

PIP (Palate In Progress) and I arrived for breakfast around 9, snagging the very last table squeezed in next to the front door. There is a waiting area lined with chairs, which filled up immediately after our perfectly timed arrival. We were seated next to an exuberant gaggle of six soon to be graduating high school seniors clearly taking advantage of the flexibility the end of the last semester of high school allows: “OMG I STILL have no idea what I am going to do this summer! My parents are ready to KILL me!”

Elsewhere, the dining room was packed with couples, families, co-workers, and friends, all getting together at what seems to be the nexus of the entire population of Bellbrook. All getting together for one thing: breakfast. And that, along with lunch, is all that Blueberry Cafe does, closing at 2 p.m. every day.

Breakfast Basics

The modest sized lunch menu features sandwiches, salads, and soups. The breakfast menu offers no surprises, either. This is not a place where you will find crêpes or an omelette with creme fraiche and caviar. Brunch? Look elsewhere for your Hollandaise, my friend. What you will find is straight-ahead, no-frills breakfast standards like eggs, french toast, pancakes, and biscuits and gravy. (For the adventurous, there’s “Fried Mush.”)

We looked around and quickly decided what not to order, noting the jumbo-sized stack of French toast on one plate and a mega pancake hanging off the edges of another. Those would be too daunting for even my appetite if I wanted to try a range of what was offered.

There was a quiche on the menu, my favorite classic Quiche Lorraine. I asked our server if it was made in-house. She answered “yes.” “The crust, too?” I asked. She said “no,” so I passed. I did go with a normal sized pancake, along with eggs, hash browns, and sausage ($8.25), adding blueberries to my pancake ($1.45 additional charge). We also wanted to try a half order of Biscuits and Gravy ($3.39), Corned Beef Hash ($3.89), the Mush ($4.75) of course, and a Fruit Cup ($2.95) to balance all that out. As an afterthought, I added a blueberry muffin to go. I noticed that all the servers wore shirts with variations on a muffin theme (“Keep Calm and Have A Muffin” and “Do You Know The Muffin Man?”) I was assured there was indeed a muffin man who baked them every day.

Greater Expectations

So how do you judge a breakfast place? I mean, breakfast is breakfast, right? Nope. While there isn’t a wide variation in the dishes served at a breakfast place like Blueberry Cafe, the level of quality in ingredients does vary. If there isn’t an appreciable difference in the ingredients used between a mom and pop place and a place like Bob Evans, then I can’t get excited about that breakfast joint, no matter how beloved and popular it may be. My expectations for Bob Evans are not the same as those I have for an independent, individually owned, non-chain restaurant. There are individually owned places with similar menus that are vastly different from the chains—I’ve reviewed some. Blueberry Cafe isn’t in that category.

What do these other places do that Blueberry Cafe doesn’t? They use higher quality ingredients and prepare them skillfully. What is served in the places I love isn’t ordered from a food supply warehouse; it’s made in-house. Case in point: the Fried Mush and the Corned Beef Hash. This is the same stuff you can buy in the supermarket in a plastic tube (the mush) and in a can (the hash). There’s nothing unusual or noteworthy about that. Then, there’s the syrup. We all know that high fructose corn syrup is killing us—in addition to the fact that it tastes crappy. Why not use real maple syrup instead? Tons of it is made right here in Ohio—put that on your menu if you have to raise the price and folks will feel good and not complain.

So while overall the food I ate was acceptable (the pancake was a little tough, the sausage gravy a little bland), there was nothing that made me say, “Wow, that’s the best fill-in-the-blank I’ve ever had!” And how was that muffin? I tasted it when I got home and found it overly sweet with a blueberry jam covering the top, and heavy, not the light, fluffy, crumbly blueberry muffin I was hoping for.

The Blueberry Cafe is a fine neighborhood joint with very friendly service. It has a nice warm and welcoming vibe, not at all a greasy spoon kind of place. While it’s not the best breakfast in town, it’s a really pleasant place to fill up when you aren’t looking for anything special.

 

The Blueberry Cafe is located at 72 Bellbrook Plaza in Bellbrook. For more information, please call 937.848.5900.

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Dayton City Paper Dining Critic Paula Johnson would like every meal to start with a champagne cocktail and end with chocolate soufflé. As long as there’s a greasy burger and fries somewhere in the middle. Talk food with Paula at PaulaJohnson@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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