Saturday, January 24, 2009

Esselon Cafe - Truly Something for Everyone

Sorry I've been MIA lately. I got an infection, which can be pretty serious with the RA meds I'm taking, so I've been down for the count for a few days. I also hadn't eaten much more than toast and graham crackers since Tuesday, so I didn't have much to say. But I know I'm on the mend because my appetite is back! So this morning we headed out to try a new (to us) breakfast place in Hadley.

I've passed Esselon Cafe many times, as it sits right on Rt. 9 between Hadley and Northampton. But I didn't realize they served breakfast until we recently went by earlier than usual and I saw parking lot full of cars. To me, a line out the door or a packed parking lot is one of the best signs of a good restaurant, so I knew we had to check it out.

As I entered the cafe, I thought I'd stepped into a Moroccan bazaar with the heavy fabric drapes around the front door, the dark walls interspersed with bursts of playful color in the artwork and the gold-gilded ceiling. I knew we were in for something more than your basic pancakes and eggs.

It took us a minute to figure out what to do because there appeared to be a hostess stand, but there was no hostess, nor a sign telling us to seat ourselves. But then we noticed an "order here" sign at the coffee counter, so we figured it must be a seat yourself/cafeteria kind of thing. We grabbed a couple of menus at the hostess stand and looked over the specials on the board, too. I was really surprised at the variety they had - everything from omelets to pancakes to breakfast tortillas. And they had quite a few vegetarian, gluten-free and vegan options.

I went with the Challah French toast and Mr. ValleyWriter picked the blueberry pancakes. We also ordered 2 Costa Rican coffees, which they roast right there on the premises. We got our coffees at the counter when we ordered and were told to pick a table and someone would bring out our order when it was ready.

We chose to sit in the main dining area, but there was also a porch area (closed in for the winter). I imagine it would be a beautiful place to have breakfast on a nice spring or summer morning. We sipped our coffee, which was excellent by the way - well balanced and smooth - just like I like it. As we waited, we noticed a lot of people on laptops and then saw the sign that advertised free wi-fi. This definitely seems like a cool place to sit back and browse online while sipping a coffee or cappuccino (they have those too).

Our order came out within about 10-15 minutes. I was really impressed at the careful presentation, with both the pancakes and French toast lightly dusted with confectioner's sugar and topped with a small piece of fruit and a sprig of mint.

At each table was a small pitcher of local maple syrup, the perfect accompaniment to both of our breakfasts. Both breakfasts were good and just the right portions. We left feeling satisfied, but not stuffed to our gills.

My only negative comments are that the seat yourself/pick up your own dishes when you're done atmosphere is a bit out of sorts with the overall decor of the restaurant and presentation of the food. It almost makes it feel like a high-end cafeteria. And for $23 (before tip) for 2 breakfasts, I guess I expected a bit more. A bit more what you ask? I can't quite put my finger on it, but it felt like something was missing. Maybe it was the interaction with a server or hostess or at least someone. I felt like if the person running the register hadn't told us the total, we might not have been spoken to at all.

Nonetheless, Esselon Cafe makes a decent breakfast and can accommodate a wide variety of dietary needs. So if you're in the area and looking for something different, vegetarian, vegan or even gluten-free - why not give it a try?


Ricardo said...

why why why....people keep teasing me with pancakes photos ...aww I love em so much..thx for sharing anyway lol

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

I adore Esselon Cafe, I have to go there at least 2 times when we are up north. They have great lunch too! Yum!