Until a recent weekend morning, I had never set foot in Sweet_ness 7 cafe on Grant Street, although I’ve been in the neighborhood dozens of times. Then I got a look at the online menu and within days I was lining up a Cheap Eats there.
What got me in the door was the combination of laid-back vibe for customers and serious-as-can-be attitude toward the food. The menu has a list of “Brunchy feasts,” and explains: “Just what does brunch mean to us? Sitting, sharing, spending time with friends and family. This should be a daily celebration as far as we’re concerned. So we serve brunch all day, every day!”
The food is local and seasonal whenever possible, nutritious and made fresh.
The cafe feels cozy although the room is large, with brick walls, well-worn wood floors and a lovely tin ceiling. Most of the seating is at small colorfully painted tables, but people also perch on padded stools at a high counter, and a huge industrial-looking table near the center of the room is also a comfortable spot.
The menu is written on a large chalkboard behind the counter, but because we like to make a plan before ordering and also have a hard time deciding while standing, John, Pat, John and I grabbed plastic-enclosed copies of the menu and sat down.
The menu, it must be said, is charming. Yogurt with homemade granola and fresh fruit ($5) is called the Highland Cow; two scrambled eggs with melted cheddar and tomato on a homemade toasted English muffin is called the Grant Slam ($4.50). Get it? Grant Slam?
Three items in the Brunchy Feasts listing are $10 – Birkenstock Madness, which includes pancakes, yogurt, fruit and honey; the Spanish Scramble, which is three eggs, sausage or spicy chorizo, tomatoes, carmelized onions, red peppers, cheddarjack, hash browns and toast; and the Huevos Rancheros, which is made with two eggs, sliced chorizo, Mexican beans, guacamole, sour cream, salas and pepperjack on a flour tortilla.
We stayed in the midrange of the menu, and found plenty of choices. We ordered at the register and waited an expected amount of time for cooked-to-order food. When they called our name, all the plates were there at once and all the food was hot. Bravo.
How could you resist ordering a meal called “Love and Butter” ($7)? We couldn’t. It was two slices of French toast served with, of course, butter and a small saucer of real maple syrup. We added bacon for $2.50, and like all the meats we had with our meals, it was exceptional – thick sliced, probably maple-cured, cooked perfectly with a good amount of crunch. We have run into some sketchy baconesque products in our day, and this was the real thing.
The Farmer’s Breakfast ($9) is made with two eggs (ordered scrambled), bacon or chorizo (we picked bacon), homemade russet hash browns, toast and baked beans. The hash browns were a slightly crunchy patty, and the beans, which were the standard canned beans in slightly red sauce, were served in a small, tall dish set in the middle of the plate like a crown. Although beans at breakfast are common in Ireland and Britain, they are unusual here. But after a few bites, our friend appreciated the concept.
We don’t know why the pancakes with maple syrup were called Irish Peasant, but we had to order them anyway. The two large cakes ($7.50) were thick and fluffy, sweet and delicious, and very filling. Like the bacon, the sausage on the side ($2.50), made locally, was an exceptional oblong grilled patty.
Megan McLeod’s Stacks was an unusual and delightful creation, built on two grilled slices of slightly spicy grits topped with that same sausage patty, melted cheddar and two large eggs. It was a generous amount of food, and utterly delicious. Good job, Megan!
Finally, we ordered a totally unnecessary medium-sized bowl of Proper Porridge ($5) with organic steel-cut oats cooked to soft but slightly yielding perfection and garnished with walnuts and slices of crisp apple and juicy strawberry. In both preparation and presentation, this humble dish was sublime.
Sweet_ness 7 Cafe on Grant Street: 3.5 pennies (Out of four)
Where: 220 Grant St. (883-1738)
Hours: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday; from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.
Wheelchair-accessible: There is a very shallow half-step at the door.