Food: Sunday Brunch Strikeout

Since our evenings have been packed with things to do recently, my wife and I decided we’d hire a babysitter and go out for Sunday brunch in Northampton, where we live.

If the Green Street Café were still in business, there would have been no question about where we were going. But without that legendary mimosa mecca, we were a bit stymied. We’d heard good things about the Wiggins Tavern in the Hotel Northampton, but we didn’t want a buffet. We wanted to sit down and relax, watching our coffee cups magically refill themselves without our having to move.

After some hunting on the Web and asking around, we decided to head over to 30 Green Street, a small lunch spot with amazing croissants that also serves a simple breakfast. We got there at about 11:05 a.m. and were greeted with the overpowering smell of baking bread and freshly brewed coffee. Standing at the counter, I decided I’d have the ham and egg croissant sandwich, while my wife settled on the omelet. When we placed our order, though, the waitperson smiled sadly at us.

“Breakfast is over,” she said. “After 11, we only serve lunch. We don’t have a big enough kitchen to accommodate two menus.”

While this did sound sensible, I couldn’t help noticing that at that moment on a Sunday morning, they also didn’t have enough clientele to serve anyone anything. Unabashed, we shrugged and beat a hasty retreat to our Plan B.

I’ve written several times about how much I enjoy the Dirty Truth beer bar on Main Street in Northampton. More than once, I’ve been delighted to be reminded that with an afternoon beer, I can also order a plate of eggs. So there was no regret when we ambled to the bar and started to review the menu. It was full of intriguing possibilities, and we were excited. We weren’t alone: even though the place had only been open about 20 minutes, many of the tables had hungry patrons at them.

“Sorry, guys,” the bartender announced as he came over to us. “The kitchen is closing down for 10 minutes. We got swamped and need a chance to catch up.”

Really? Not a half-hour into serving brunch and the wheels had already come off the bus? My wife, who had spent many years working her way through school as a waitperson, remarked that standard practice was simply to take the order and apologize later on for any delays the kitchen was suffering. Let people relax and have a drink, happy in their anticipation of good things to come. If things get really backed up, give the patrons something on the house. Just don’t do anything deliberately that shakes their confidence.

Closing down the kitchen seemed a desperate, unprofessional move that might have made the kitchen staff breathe easier, but left these patrons nervous, unsettled and profoundly lacking in confidence. We sipped our beers for 20 minutes, watching plates of food being delivered to other tables. The owners of the bar came in, sat down, and ordered their meals. When we asked if it was our turn yet, the kindly barkeep informed us that the kitchen was still closed, but that we were the very next on the list. We paid for our beers and left.

By this time, our third choice (which we now wished had been our first) was swamped. There was a line outside the door at Jake’s. Under new management, the downtown eatery has been improving weekly, it seems, and by the looks of the people inside, its brunch was being well received.

Our clock was ticking and we needed to be home to the babysitter in about an hour. My wife jokingly suggested we get some egg sandwiches at McDonald’s, but I pointed out that their breakfast also closes down before 11.

We stood on the street for a few minutes, perplexed and really not wanting to admit defeat. Eventually, we settled on an old, longtime favorite that doesn’t serve brunch per se, but serves its distinctive breakfast all day long.

Amanouz Café on Main Street dishes up scrumptious Moroccan and Mediterranean fare for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Even though they seemed to be pretty busy and also were serving lunch, the counter person didn’t wilt when we stepped up and ordered. My wife had Pasha’s Omelet with feta, mushrooms and spinach. I had the Brie Omelet that included mushrooms and green peppers with the namesake cheese. We both had their Portuguese muffin and spicy home fries. She had a Moroccan green tea and I had a coffee.

It was delightful, but as we stepped outside, both of us agreed that the next brunch we had would be at home.•

Author: Mark Roessler

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