Monday, April 24, 2006

The first "old standard"

Update: the Modern is closing. Tears. I'm going to miss their pampered eggs and extra large booth in the back for large groups.

The Modern Cafe
337 13 Avenue NE
Minneapolis, MN 55413

Given that this is a restaurant review blog, there probably should be some reviews posted. Here is the first review. The Modern Cafe is one of the "old standards". When the picky group of six cannot agree on a location The Modern is often one of the default selections. You would think that as one of the old standards it would receive a stunning review. You would be wrong. The Modern is an old standard for one reason, the special big table in the back of the restaurant. This table is reserved for parties of five or more and is usually open. Finding seating for six very hungry people can be a harrowing experience at 9:30 on a Saturday morning in the Twin Cities. We've been known to walk into a restaurant glance around for two seconds and immediately veto it due to the wait. Even if it means we have to spend more time driving around the city finding a different place to eat, that is better than standing in no man's land at the door, watching steaming plates of food go by. Immediate seating means A LOT.

The food unfortunately, can be hit and miss. Every time we go, at least one member of the party gets the famous Modern hash. Half of the time, that person spends the entire breakfast raving about how good the hash is while the rest of the table quietly seethes because they weren't bold enough to order it. The other half of the time the hash orderer complains that the hash is a disappointment because it was not made with enough beer (beery hash is gooooooood) while the rest of the table smugly thinks to themselves, "I knew the hash wasn't going to be good today."

The hash browns are also hit and miss. I have had some one THE best hash browns ever there, and I have also had some of the mushiest, soggiest hash browns ever. It is like Russian roulette, but with hash browns.

One guaranteed winner is the pampered eggs. A very nice combination of scrambled eggs, bacon, scallions, and cream cheese.

The group also has one major issue with the Modern, cream dispensation. Our group likes their cream. The coffee drinkers and the tea drinkers both use copious amounts of cream. Even if there are three coffee orders and two tea orders at the table, the Modern servers provide the table with a pitcher of cream approximately the size of a thimble. When more cream is requested, another thimble of cream is provided. This is repeated three or four times, until the table is cluttered with multiple empty thimbles of cream. This results in some members of the group hording thimbles of cream by their plate of food in anticipation of their next cup of coffee.

The Modern is a solid "B". There are times when it receives an A+ (beery hash and crispy potatoes) and other times when it is lucky to receive a C. You may ultimately be disappointed with the food, but at least you didn't have to wait for a table...

Where are We Going to Eat?

Breakfast club actually begins about 2 hours before we arrive at the restaurant. Being a slave to the schedule of a teacher, I get up early. Judy, being insane, is up long before I open my eyes, and Jimmy, who has to sleep next to her, is usually up, too, because Judy is a lot of things, but she is not quiet in the morning. So, around 7:30, after sitting around my apartment getting hungry, I make the call.

On those Saturdays when Judy doesn't have to do rounds at the hospital before breakfast club, Jimmy tells me to get in my car and come on over. This means, roughly translated, "Judy and I have not yet taken our shower, read the paper, or had a cup of coffee, but when we do, we'll be ready to go." Before he hangs up the phone, he asks the inevitable question: "Where are we going to eat?" We will hear this question many more times before we arrive at the restaurant.

I holler upstairs for Sarah who lives in the upstairs of our duplex, but she doesn't like to carpool, so sometimes we drive separately over to Jimmy and Judy's. On a good day, we see one of Beau or Rachael's cars parked out front when we arrive. Most days, however, the first stage of breakfast club involves waiting and thinking about that question.

Back in the day, we'd all cram into Jimmy's station wagon, with Judy volunteering to squeeze in the back end. She would tell us that she was quite comfortable, and she liked it back there. However, this tradition has recently ended (possibly because the back of a station wagon is not really that comfortable...), and we now take two cars. Before we leave the comforts of Jimmy's kitchen for our cars, we ask the question again: "Where are we going to eat?" With the new two-car arrangement we have to answer this question before we leave the house.

It's a difficult question. We have six people. Six very picky people. We can't just eat anywhere. Some of us like a lighter breakfast. Some like the traditional twoeggsovereasyhashbrownsandwholewheattoast. We don't like small tables. We hate to wait for a table.

We do have some old standbys (which I hope will be reviewed in more depth later in these pages).
  • There's the Modern, with its booth reserved for parties of 5 or more. We like that booth, but you can't count on the Modern's potatoes.
  • We had a brief love-afair with the Bandbox, but it's so small with so few tables, and it can be overwhelmingly greasy.
  • The food at the Bryant-Lake Bowl is good, but who designed those itty-bitty tables, anyway?
  • Everybody else in the party likes Trotters, but I don't like their counter service, and, besides, there is too little grease at Trotters. It's a bit too granola for breakfast.
  • We've just started going to Barbette, but I'm afraid the food might be a bit too fru-fru for Beau.
  • Judy liked Bakery on Grand. Thank goodness it closed down indefinitely for remodeling, because Beau was running out of vetoes.
  • Sometimes we book it over to St. Paul for that one place with all the photos of the Eiffel tower, but it never seems worth the drive.
So "Where are we going to eat?" question is the first order of business of every meeting. Once it's decided, we can begin the real business of critiquing of the potatoes...

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Cast of Characters

Jimmy and Judy
The parents. They are the official "Breakfast Club" treasurers. Jimmy likes his eggs over easy, his toast whole wheat, and his sausage in link form. Judy is the hash brown queen. According to her, they must be extremely crispy and never frozen.

The daughter. She's a math teacher and a runner. Alex is banned from drinking coffee, so she has tea with an obscene amount of cream and sugar.

The son. He works in the food industry, abhors any breakfast that doesn't include eggs, meat, toast, and potatoes, and drinks too many cups of coffee during the meal.

Alex's best friend and charter member of Breakfast Club. Sarah enjoys a nontraditional breakfast (BLT anyone?) and strong earl grey tea.

Beau's fiancé. Rachael is a completely unpredictable orderer, and consequently is often disappointed with her meal.

A Brief History

Circa 1998. Two parents decide to take their 20 something children out to breakfast on Saturdays on a semi-regular basis. This allowed an already close family to reconnect and discuss any developments in their lives on a regular basis. Important decisions and revelations were made over a plate of bacon, eggs, and hash browns. The cast of characters expanded and contracted depending on the living/relationship situations of the children. The group has been to almost every breakfast restaurant in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area, searching for the perfect place. The search continues to this day...