Birchwood Cafe

29 Aug

Visited Saturday, August 14th with Sarah and CM

Ryan
On a recent Sunday morning, Lauren and I met up with friends Walsh and Sarah to take in the Birchwood Cafe. This really hit home for Sarah as her sister Rachel is a waitress there!

My first impression—it reminded me a lot of French Meadow in Uptown, a trendy natural/organic restaurant that would likely serve healthy but overpriced, under-portioned local items… not my cup of tea. In fact I feel downright out of place and uncomfortable in a restaurant like that. The fact that a restaurant serves local items just doesn’t do anything for me. But I didn’t want to judge too quickly!

At Birchwood, just like French Meadow, you walk in and order from the counter, then go sit down and wait for your food. The four of us must have stood there for five minutes studying the menu before ordering. The breakfast menu consisted of about ten options, plus the lunch menu was about to begin. I eventually opted for the $9 savory waffle special which came highly recommended by Rachel, and also ordered some of their homemade lemonade.

We found a booth and sat down moments before the big rush. Good timing! Things like condiments, silverware, napkins, water, etc. were not to be found at each individual table, but were available near the counter. Our food was relatively quick to arrive, and I was very surprised at what was set before me.

The wildly imaginative waffle I ordered.

The wildly imaginative waffle I ordered.

This waffle was unlike any I’ve ever ordered or seen before. When I think waffle, I think a plain circle waffle with butter and syrup. This concoction basically used the waffle as a plate for more traditional breakfast items. In one quarter there was an over-easy egg. On top of that were pieces of bacon. On another quarter was some sort of mango-based salsa Lauren note: Ryan’s fruit salsa was muskmelon based — very exotic! — not mango. Another quarter featured tomato-basil butter and walnuts. And lastly there was a cup of natural maple syrup. I was pretty intrigued!

The waffle itself was one of the best waffles I’ve ever had—way fluffier and delicate than most tough waffles. I enjoyed sampling each bite with a different combination of toppings. The thick-cut free range bacon was really tasty. Lauren and I shared an order of wild rice pork sausage as well. Astoundingly, between the single waffle shown above and that one sausage patty, I was nearly full! I had held out almost zero hope that this breakfast/brunch would leave me fulfilled, and maybe it was just a one-time fluky thing, but it left me only slightly hungry after consumption.

Birchwood's house-made Pork Wild Rice Sausage

Obviously our waitress was very attentive and helpful. Despite all the rave reviews I’ve heard of this place, there was amazingly no line to get in on a weekend at 11am. Between the $9 waffle, the $3 lemonade, and the $2 for my portion of the sausage, I thought perhaps things were a little overpriced, but one must know what they’re getting themselves into when they go into a place that serves local natural ingredients. Not a bad experience at all, but I must say I’m still not sold on paying extra for local/natural items. I’ll go back with Lauren if she wants to.

Food: 8
Portions: 5
Value: 6
Atmosphere: 8
Staff: 10
Experience: 7

Lauren:
I always draw a blank on breakfast places. On a recent Saturday morning, I even pulled up this blog on the computer, scoured it and told Sarah, who was on the phone, “Uh, I don’t think we have any breakfast places on the list. Where do you wanna go? French Meadow?” Duh! Birchwood Cafe has been on our list since the very beginning! Luckily Sarah’s older sister works there, so she thought that it would be fun to visit her, and I agreed (plus, Ryan and CM both hate French Meadow and most of the other Uptown-y breakfast joints).

We met up with Sarah and CM and attempted to decipher the menu. I was a little bit overwhelmed by all of the choices, as it was getting towards lunch time, maybe I would like to have a nice turkey sandwich? Instead I went for the “Saturday Scramble” which had eggs, cheese, onions, and fennel (and maybe some other bits and bobs that I can’t quite recall; their menu changes very frequently). Sarah ordered a side of the pork-wild rice sausage and that sounded delish and came recommended by Rachel, so Ryan and I ordered a side of that as well. I got a tasty cold press coffee to sip on.

The "Saturday Scramble"

My dish came with a side of whole grain toast (very tasty) and rosemary roasted potatoes (sounded good, execution not so great) and a bit of fruit.

The scramble was quite tasty, I very much enjoyed the fennel and caramelized onions but as I told Rachel, I found it far too salty, but that perhaps it was just too much cheese? She said this was a frequent comment and that she agreed that a lot of their savory dishes came out salted with a heavy hand. (why hasn’t the kitchen staff been told to chill out with the sodium then?! I am perfectly able to add salt at the table if I feel it’s necessary, but I am not able to remove it.)

All in all, I thought Birchwood was good but not great. I give it points for local sourcing, fair trade et cetera but I cannot forgive a kitchen staff that abuses the salt for no good reason. It’s worth another try, perhaps to pick up a pastry or two (we did grab a German chocolate brownie for the road, more for Ryan than for myself although I did try a nibble and it was pleasingly fudgy).

Ambience – 4/5. It wasn’t too busy when we were there, so we were not crowded, but I could see it getting cramped on a busy weekend morning.
Service – 5/5. Thanks Rachel D! Although, I have to say that I am confused by restaurants that have “self serve” water and condiments as they never seem to have enough little dishes for jam or what-not. Should I just bring my whole plate over? Just my toast? Or try to manoeuvre a knife-full of jam back to the table? But really, I think that’s just my personal issue to work through… 🙂
Food – 3/5. My eggs were intensely salty. Loved the bread and the house-made sausage patties; rosemary potatoes were OK. Ryan was pleasantly surprised by his savoury waffle.
Overall experience – 3.5/5. Good! I would try other breakfast places before returning to Birchwood (that is, if I can remember them in a pre-coffee haze of decision making) but it would be a place I’d like to visit again.

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One Response to “Birchwood Cafe”

  1. wurstman August 29, 2010 at 8:00 pm #

    Whether it’s local/sustainable or industrial/commodified the fact remains that we support a broader set of values with what we eat.

    Factory farming and industrial fertilizers make food more affordable, but they also pollute groundwater, sterilize soil, harm farm workers and farm animals alike. Visit a concentrated animal feeding operation and tell me you think its fine to eat meat raised with these standards.

    We can’t unplug from our current food system (we’ve become dependent) but the revolution has started. One waffle at a time…….

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