When we started the research for the best breakfast north of Boston show, we didn’t realize how hard it would be to find a good place for breakfast in our area. We found it difficult to find a place for breakfast that is uses real ingredients and takes time to prepare food properly. We started with some well-known diners, one of which was #1 in the country on The Daily Meal list. This diner used a lot of frozen prepared items, did not cook the food correctly and used cheap ingredients. In addition, service was slow and when the bill came, it was also no bargain.
We tried another local diner that is always busy. On a Saturday about noontime, we waited for a half hour despite the size of the restaurant.
Service was actually pretty good but we knew the server from another restaurant. The food however was below par. Again, items that used to be homemade were now not, cheap ingredients used and care was definitely not taken with cooking food. To top it off, they served some kind of processed cheese sauce as hollandaise. The cost of our meal was the same as Boston Prices. This became the norm for most local eateries serving breakfast. Fortunately, it forced us to go way outside our usual routines. Here are a few of some bright spots for breakfast.
The Breakfast Café, Bradford
The breakfast Café is located in a small strip-mall in Bradford, MA. It is run by a family that has owned other small restaurants in the area. Our hopes were not high when we saw the location of this tiny restaurant. Upon entering, you see about 10-12 tables with a few counter stools. Lots of delicious smells hit you as you walk in and that’s where our hopes began to rise. The owner greeted us warmly as we entered. She brought us a good cup of coffee and an even better cup of ice coffee. The menu was decent size with the front cover listing the specials of the week.
The owner came by to see if we were familiar with the menu and give us some info about the menu items. First, EVERYTHING is made in-house. They make their own baked goods, corned beef hash, hash browns, and the hollandaise sauce for the bennies. They have several versions of eggs benedicts and tried both the Crab cake benny and the steak and cheese Benny with shaved Ribeye and cheese. Both were fantastic. Hollandaise actually is homemade and done really well.
We also ordered corned beef hash and one of the specials which was a strawberry shortcake French toast. It had a café cream on the top of it, which was flavored mascarpone cheese. The topping was addictive, the bread was actually a grilled angel food cake and the whole thing was phenomenal. All in all, we recommend The Breakfast Café highly. They are committed to using high quality ingredients and doing things right. It won’t be the cheapest breakfast you buy but it will be one of the best. 695 South Main Street, Bradford www.facebook.com/Breakfast-Cafe-102544596467910
The Noshery, Amesbury
The Noshery is in downtown Amesbury in a vintage brick building that has been re-purposed into a restaurant. It is warm and inviting when you step in. The décor pays homage to Amesbury’s Past as a hat manufacturing history. Vintage hats of all kinds are displayed throughout the restaurant and portraits of men and women wearing vintage hats are hung on the walls. There is an immense blackboard with the menu on it above the counter where you order.
The Noshery specializes in French crepes, both sweet and savory. They serve both breakfast and lunch crepes, as well as salads, soups and sandwiches. Owners Jon Mooers and Virginia Fox are behind the counter and are always willing to help you find what you are looking for. Everything is homemade. For instance the day we went in we ordered the Fiesta lunch crepe which comes with slow-roasted pulled pork. Jon mentioned to us he had just taken the pork out of the oven. The pork along with homemade salsa, black beans and saffron rice in a perfectly made crepe made for an absolutely delicious lunch.
We also tried a bonanza breakfast crepe with smoked ham, onions, peppers and Monterey Jack cheese. The eggs were fluffy and the veggies cooked enough, all folded into a golden brown crepe served with real maple syrup. We also had a sweet crepe, the bolero with fresh squeezed lemon, sugar and butter. The menu offers other mouth-watering items such as lobster crepes, crepes with ham/apples/brie, Italian inspired crepes and even a bahn me crepe. On the sweet side there are several varieties of Nutella crepes, crepes filled with homemade cheesecake and others. Beer and wine is available and they feature live music on Thursday and Friday nights. Located at 11 Elm St, Amesbury www.nosheryamesbury.com
Tuscan Market, Salem NH
Tuscan Market is part of the Tuscan Kitchen brand. The market is in Salem, NH with another one in Portsmouth, NH. The market building is set back and across the parking lot from Tuscan Kitchen. When you enter, to the right is the restaurant and to the left is the market. It really is a wonderful place to visit. I recommend for the safety of your wallet that you have breakfast before heading over to the market. It is difficult enough not to buy everything, but if you are hungry it may be near impossible.
The combination of smells between the cheese and bread of the market to the aroma from the kitchen is delightful. Tables are comfortable and service is friendly and quick. The menu isn’t huge but you can find something for everyone on it. We started with a couple of breakfast appetizers, the prosciutto with roasted tomatoes and the Salmone Affumicato (Cured Salmon) which came with a house-made bialy, hand-dipped ricotta, roasted onions, capers and a drizzle of EVOO. Both were fantastic!
Between us we ordered Eggs Benedict (theirs comes with prosciutto), breakfast pizza, Ricotta Pancakes, Maple Polenta with pancetta, spinach and an egg, and a side of sausage. The eggs benedicts came with truffled hollandaise and the breakfast pizzas came with regular hollandaise. The pancakes were light and fluffy and the polenta was smooth with flavors that seemed unusual but were delicious. This is a great spot to go for breakfast, lunch or dinner. The prices are reasonable and it is never crazy busy. Our meal with 8 meals and 2 ice teas was $88 including tax. 67 Main Street, Salem NH www.tuscanbrands.com/Market/Salem
Carleen’s Coffee Shop, Lawrence
Carleen’s is a cute coffee shop in South Lawrence. It has some great blown up pictures of old Lawrence on the walls and some kitchen antiques sprinkled throughout the restaurant. It is much larger than most of the neighborhood places and feels warm and inviting. There is usually a mix of families, elderly couples and police. The menu is typically diner-like with most things homemade. The service is fast and friendly. Make sure to order homemade raisin toast with your meal, not many places are baking their own bread. I also recommend the homemade corned beef hash if you like chunky hash.
Breakfasts come with a choice of homefries, beans or fresh fruit. The fruit is a $1.29 upcharge but it is real fresh fruit (honeydew, cantaloupe, grapes, and pineapple). Choice of meat includes not only bacon, sausage and ham but also chorizo and linguica. They are open from 5am – 2pm. The parking lot is small and Carleen’s only takes cash although there is an ATM on-site. Located at 209 South Broadway, Lawrence www.facebook.com/Carleens-Coffee-Shop-117157158302649
Al’s Family Diner, Methuen
Al’s Diner is in Methuen next to Whirlaway Golf Center on the banks of the Merrimack River. Al and Kelly Silva are the owners and you will see them there every day taking care of customers. My favorite thing at Al’s is the Italian breakfast sandwich which comes on a piece of Piro’s Italian bread. There is plenty of meat and cheese on this sandwich to make it an ooey-gooey delight. 500 Merrimack St., Methuen MA
Vic’s Waffle House, Tewksbury
A small breakfast diner in Tewksbury, they specialize in breakfast fare: waffles, omelets, eggs and various other breakfast items. Vic’s is crazy busy on weekends and holidays with wait times sometimes over an hour and it reminds you of the southern Waffle House chain. Vic’s has been in business since 1992 but for the first ten years it was TD Waffle House. The same family has been part of the ownership since the beginning. You will notice that although it is busy, the place runs smoothly. There is plenty of staff to handle the volume.
The best part of Vic’s is the food. The orange juice is fresh squeezed, the corned beef hash and chili is homemade and the waffle batter is their own. Ham, onion and cheese are available as toppings for the hash browns. Biscuits and gravy is homemade and so is the hollandaise. In addition to the regular breakfast meats they also offer kielbasa, linguica, ham, turkey sausage and steak tips. The waffle choices make it almost impossible not to order one. First they are light and fluffy and then you can get fruit waffles, chocolate or Nutella but my favorite is the Chocolate Pig Waffle with bacon and chocolate chips. Vic’s also serves lunch and is open from 6:30 am to 2pm every day. Located at 283 Ole Main St (route 38), Tewksbury www.vicswafflehouse.com
Somebody’s Place, Andover
We found this place by accident and discovered they have one of the best breakfast sandwiches around. They do have a limited breakfast menu, only serving sandwiches and homemade donuts, muffins and malasadas (Portuguese yeast donut). Somebody’s Place also offers delicious coffee, cappuccino, espresso and iced cold brew, chai and tea. Definitely grab yourself one of the homemade malasadas. They are light and airy with a delicate flavor.
Sandwiches choices are Texas toast, croissant, bagel or Portuguese sweet roll. Do yourself a favor and choose the house sandwich on a Portuguese sweet roll. The house special egg comes with herbs, onion, pepper, mushrooms and carrots shredded into the scrambled eggs. The roll is just slightly sweet and you can add meat and cheese. It is one of the best breakfast sandwiches I have ever had. A popular place for lunch sandwiches, especially the roast beef and cheese steak, made with shaved rib eye. Plenty of other subs, sandwiches, soups and salads on the menu as well. Located at 38 Andover Street, Andover MA www.somebodysplace.net
Owl Diner, Lowell
The Owl Diner also known as The Four Sisters Diner sits in an original Worcester Lunch Cart Diner in Lowell, MA. Brought to Lowell in 1951 as The Four Sisters Diner and renamed Owl Diner in 1982 when it was purchased by the family that still owns it today. The first part of the diner is the original car with all of the stainless steel etc. and there is an additional room with more seating. One thing to order at The Owl is the ham steak which they cut in house right off the bone. It is a thick moist piece of ham with a slightly sweet taste. Once you have it, you will never come here without ordering it. They also make their own baked beans, homefries and hash. Serving staff is friendly and everyone gets a big greeting upon entering. This is a place that has lots of regulars but welcomes new-comers. Don’t forget to try one of their big-as-your-head cinnamon rolls. Located at 244 Appleton St, Lowell www.facebook.com/Owl-Diner-113474758685450
This was also a tasty little find for us. Tasty on the Hill is a family run café in Medford near Tufts University that prepares fresh food to order. We split a Francesinha (meaning Little Frenchie in Portuguese), a Portuguese sandwich originally from Porto, made with bread, wet-cured ham, linguica, fresh sausage like chipolata, steak or roast meat and covered with melted cheese and a hot thick tomato and beer sauce served with french fries.
Ours came with ham, steak hotdog, amonean cheese, and egg. It was so good! The tomato beer sauce is such a unique flavor. The French fries were nice and crispy with just the right amount of salt and the Irish eggs benedict had homemade hash and hollandaise sauce and served with homefries. We also ordered a traditional Portuguese dish with steak, rice, beans, eggs, and fried plantains. Honestly the beans were the sleeper here. They were unlike other Dominican or Puerto Rican beans that we have had. Tasty on the Hill also offers a full lunch and dinner menu as well with entrees, salads, sandwiches, flatbread pizzas and more. Located at 321 Boston Ave, Medford www.tastycafeboston.com
Cracker Barrel, Tewksbury
Normally we don’t recommend chains but for breakfast, Cracker Barrel does a fine job. They have thick-cut bacon, homemade hash brown casserole, homemade biscuits and cornbread. I’m not sure people realize that each Cracker Barrel bakes their biscuits in house and prepares pies, hash brown casserole on site as well. The hash brown casserole should be called crack casserole since it is so addicting. The biscuits are light and fluffy with a nice flavor.
They have their own sourdough bread in white or wheat which toasts beautifully with just a bit of a chew and tanginess. The bacon is some of the best that you can get in a restaurant as it is cooked on a grill and never deep fried. Meat choices include bacon, sausage patties, sausage links, chicken fried steak, fried chicken, pork chops, hamburger steak, sugar-cured ham, country ham, and turkey sausage. Side choices include hash brown casserole, fried apples or grits. It does get quite busy during peak times but the line moves fairly quickly. Service is usually good and you can roam around the gift shop while you are waiting for your table. Located at 1795 Andover Street, Tewksbury www.crackerbarrel.com
IN THE NEWS
Certified Meatball Company, a member of the Boston Nightlife Ventures family, opened August 4th at 429 West Broadway in South Boston. A specialty cocktail program accentuates the menu in a relaxed, familiar atmosphere. The restaurant will focus on “globally inspired meatballs,” with offerings like shrimp and grits, chicken fried steak, turducken, turkey mole verde, Moroccan lamb, spicy Korean pork and others. Regular balls cost $9 for 4 and come with your choice of sauce (Basil-Parmesan Pesto, Roasted Garlic Marinara, Mushroom stroganoff gravy, spicy Coconut Lime curry). Sides of pasta are available at $7 each. In addition, there are several different selections of sweetballs available such as Lemon Coconut Meringue (Coconut encrusted lemon curd-marshmallow cake) and Salted Peanut Butterscotch (Chocolate cake with peanut butterscotch filling and salted peanuts). Located at 429 West Broadway, Boston www.certifiedmeatball.com
There’s a new player in the home delivery meal system and this one is for people who REALLY don’t cook. Tovala sells healthy pre-prepped dinners that you cook in their $400 smart oven. Each meal has a barcode on the package that you scan with the oven. The oven reads the code and then applies a combination of cooking methods for that product. The oven will steam, broil and bake the food according to pre-determined specifications. Once the meal is finished cooking the oven will send you a phone message. The downside is it is probably the most expensive home delivery meal option. First you have to purchase their $400 oven and then a package of three single-serving dinners costs $36. Like most of the other services, Tovala offers meals with quinoa, faro, and other fancy ingredients. After trying Tovala out, Wall Street Journal reporter Geoffrey Fowler declared that all the dishes were “at least diner-quality and most better than that.” You can check this out at www.tovala.com