Breakfast at Ironworks cafe shines through bad reviews

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Goodman Community Center – home to Ironworks Cafe

After stumbling upon the Ironworks Cafe in the Goodman Community Center a couple months ago I was intrigued by their breakfast offerings and decided I would have to return to try it out myself. I couple weeks after that a Groupon for Ironworks Cafe went up and it made my decision to return to the center even easier. Before I ventured over there on a Saturday morning I looked the cafe up on Yelp and it had mixed reviews. The service was bad and the food was lacking (since my visit there have been several positive reviews posted!) so I was prepared for anything.

We got there a couple minutes after they opened but were greeted right away. The person behind the counter was really nice, took our order and gave us a number. The only bad part about the service was that the coffee wasn’t brewed when we got there and we had to wait but not very long and the quality of the coffee was definitely worth the extra 10 minutes to let it finish brewing!

Tomato, bacon, cheese scramble from Ironworks Cafe

The menu was standard breakfast food but the ingredients listed were quite a few notches above diner food. The special of the day was homemade maple donuts, which is something I’ve never seen before on a menu at a cafe. I ordered an egg scramble with tomatoes, cheese and bacon, and my mom ordered eggs benedict. We both got the fruit cup as our side and were pleasantly surprised. The fruit cup had a generous amount in it and it had yogurt and honey drizzled over it, which was very good!

Eggs benedict from Ironworks Cafe

The rest of the food was very good (even though my mom and I had to trade because they didn’t put the hollandaise sauce on the side or switch out poached eggs for fried eggs – a consequence of the service and I’m sure they would have redone the order but we were happy to trade). My mom loved the scramble but I think I got the better end of the trade. The eggs benedict was traditionally prepared except for the hollandaise sauce. Their sauce had lemon juice in it which gave the dish a much needed break from the heaviness that eggs benedict traditionally is. As first I wasn’t sure about the sauce but a couple bites in and I was a believer of the citrus addition.

A couple days later I ended up meeting someone who works at the Goodman Community Center and they told me Ironworks employs high school students through a work-study program and the service ranges from excellent (toward the end of a semester) to remedial (at the beginning of a semester when a new crop of students are just starting).

Bottom Line: The food was great and, combined with the coffee, worth the risk you have to take with the service. It would also be interesting, as you continue to go back, to see the different types of specials they offer.

I give a hoot about the Green Owl Cafe

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Green Owl Cafe

The Green Owl Cafe fits perfectly into two of my favorite things: eating healthy and owls. Putting my decorative owl obsession aside, I really enjoy trying new foods and the healthier the better so the Green Owl seemed a perfect option. However, I was a little disappointed.

The menu had quite a few options on it and I give them credit for introducing me to meat substitutes I had never heard of before. However, I was hoping their focus would be on vegetables instead of meat substitutes.

Crabby Cake Po’Boy with Kale Chips

I got the Crabby Cake Po’Boy after much internal conflict because I was just as interested in the Vegetarian Meatball Sub. So I got the po’boy and my friend got the sub. The crabby cake itself was pretty good but the sandwich as a whole was not spectacular. The chipotle sauce was overly hot without the flavor spicy things should have in addition to the heat and the sandwich was mushy. I understand the lack of meat makes things a little less textured but adding a large leaf of romaine lettuce or slices of cucumber would have added a much needed crunch to the sandwich. As for the kale chips, they were very salty, which was elevated by the fact that we never got a water refill and because of that I couldn’t make it through my entire side of salty kale chips.

Vegetarian Meatball Sub with Roasted Red Potatoes

My friend (who is a vegetarian) loved all of the options and is pretty excited to go back! She got the vegetarian meatball sub made with eggplant. She was pleasantly surprised because she generally doesn’t like eggplant but thought the meatballs were good. However, she did not love her roasted potatoes. They were oddly seasoned with lemon and overly garlicky. She is very excited to return and I may go back to try their intriguing entrees like stuffed red pepper and vegan schnitzel.

Bottom Line: love the decor, love the idea, execution was not perfect, too much meat substitutes and white bread, should focus on veggies and needs better servers.

Monty’s Blueplate more than just a 'diner'

>Three years ago I went to a concert at the Barrymore Theatre and planned to eat the Monty’s before the show. When we got to Atwood the line to get into Monty’s was longer than the line for the concert so we walked down to Tex Tubb’s Taco Palace (a review for another day!). Our dinner at Tex Tubb’s was good but I really wanted to go to Monty’s. So a couple months later made a special trip out to Monty’s with some family and absolutely loved it!

I have gotten everything from a specialty burger and their vegetarian meatloaf (“Meatless Loaf of the Gods”) to breakfast specials and some of their “Weekly Grilled Cheese.” But the Eggs Mornay is what keeps me coming back, for the same thing over and over again. Eggs Mornay is like eggs benedict but instead of a cheesy hoolandaise said it is made with a peppery cream sauce. And Monty’s mornay sauce is so good that when I don’t order eggs mornay but am getting an entree that comes with a form of potato I order a side of the mornay sauce just to dip it in! It is not too creamy and has the perfect amount of flavor from the black pepper that works really well with potatoes.

Monty’s is right next to a sculpture garden on Atwood Ave.

I have gone to Monty’s with everyone from my mom and grandma to vegetarian friends and everyone has enjoyed Monty’s food as much as I do. My next foray into Monty’s obsession will be their dessert menu. Every time I go for dinner I plan on getting dessert too but am too full to even think about something sweet. So a new plan is going to be a dessert-only visit to Monty’s. I’m especially interested in the Peanut Butter Brownie shake! One dessert item I had to take home one of the first times I went was the red velvet brownie the size of a grapefruit. That was amazing and had to be eaten in three sittings it was so big!

Bottom Line: I will continue to go back on a regular basis for Monty’s eggs mornay while periodically trying something new on the menu!

Yelp it out!

>Going along with my new restaurant reviewing Blog posts I decided to create a Yelp account. Yelp is this wonderful website that lets anyone create an account, and rate and review restaurants and other businesses. It is really easy to use and it is searchable by location, category or key words (like restaurant name). The site averages out all of the rankings and aggregates reviews for a main review of the restaurant and then lets users look at all of the individual rankings below. Reviewers can be as specific or general as they want because Yelp allows you to either write a review, use their ranking and question system, or do both!

Yelp Search for Monty’s Blue Plate Diner

I have done three reviews and plan to do to keep adding to my profile of reviews because I just installed the Blackberry application that lets you look up reviews and enter reviews from your phone. On a restaurant’s main page it tells you everything from average rating, type of food, parking, price range, whether they take credit cards or reservations, and they even give you a little clickable map on the right side.

I recommend using Yelp to find restaurants when you’re traveling and giving your favorite restaurant a boost in ratings! Creating an account is easy and looking up information is even easier! My most recent review only took a couple minutes!

Mermaid masters mochas and mood

>The Mermaid Cafe is a tiny blue building that inconspicuously sits on Winnebago Street at the very East gateway of the Schenk-Atwood-Starkweather-Yahara neighborhood. The blue bricks and big front windows do not give justice to the great neighborhood atmosphere and amazing coffee options of the Mermaid. They have free WiFi and large tables which are both very conducive to staying for awhile, enjoying a nice lunch and a coffee, and getting some work done.

Mermaid Cafe on Winnebago Street

I thoroughly enjoyed the chalkboard wall where it looked like anyone could write a message or  draw a picture. The large wood booths (that looked like old church pews) were surprisingly comfortable and there were a bunch of different seating options for groups, individuals, table or no table, and outdoor seating will be added once the weather warms up. One of the best aspects of the cafe is that it is locally owned and the owner can usually be found making the lunch special behind the counter!

Mermaid Cafe front window

After reading online reviews of the Mermaid I decided to get a mocha because they got rave reviews and oh boy was that a good choice! The mocha was smooth, rich and made with real chocolate sauce and topped with read whipped cream! I was very happy with my experience at the Mermaid and it will definitely be a regular stop when I’m in the neighborhood.

Bottom Line: I will go back for the coffee and the atmosphere but am very anxious to try their sandwich and breakfast options.

Rumor mill from the Mermaid’s Facebook page: they may be serving dinner options soon!