Mustard Seed Cafe
While I love breakfast (especially for dinner), mine typically consists of coffee and a piece of fruit on the go, and Saturdays, generally, are no exception. However, last Saturday I was feeling uncommonly ambitious and convinced my husband to an "early" breakfast.
Mustard Seed Cafe in Jacksonville had been "on my list" for some time, specifically because I pass it on my way in and out of Jacksonville, an acquaintance of mine had formerly worked there and because the Mail Tribune had never featured it in this column.
A year ago to the week, Jeannie Inman purchased the quaint, little establishment from Tammy and Dwayne Johnson. Inman, who grew up working for family-owned businesses, spotted the restaurant for sale on Craigslist and eagerly jumped at the opportunity of owning her own restaurant. Under the Johnsons, the restaurant had drawn a large following, so Inman made changes gradually to retain the restaurant's regular clientele.
Sean and I arrived at the tail end of breakfast. There were three parties ahead of us waiting to be seated, but we welcomed the wait that gave us a few minutes to peruse J'ville Farmers Market across the street.
The cafe is cozy with five tables, a short counter and a long worn, rustic bench squeezed in the small seating parlor. However, during the summer, there also is seating outside on the patio beneath bright, cheery umbrellas. Covering the entire back wall is my favorite feature: a giant blackboard that highlights in colorful chalk local events, restaurant and soup specials, the quiche of the day, local providers and clever, little quotes. The blackboard was Inman's first addition to the restaurant.
The breakfast menu, served until 11 a.m., includes classic egg scrambles and "scramlets" alongside sweeter French toast, pancakes and the like. Sean chose the country scramble ($8.99), a sampling of all his favorite breakfast foods, including biscuits and gravy, a protein (ham, bacon or sausage), scrambled eggs and country potatoes. I was intrigued by the "scramlet" and ordered the sausage-green chili variation ($9.99) along with a cup of GoodBean coffee.
I also indulged and ordered "Jeannie's nearly famous, giant, homemade cinnamon rolls" ($3.99) advertised on the blackboard because who could resist a sweet roll of such acclaim?
After ordering, I had a brief moment of regret when I spied Gorgonzola-caramelized onion quiche, featured on the specials board, but the quiche would have to wait until a subsequent visit can be made.
A scramlet, I discovered, is egg layered with ingredients: diced green chilies, sausage bits and slices of melted pepper-jack cheese, in my case. I personally enjoyed the pairing of such warm, bold flavors, but people with more sensitive palates might be wary of this scramlet's spicy contents.
Inman says the "scramlet" was originally a special but garnered enough fans to be promoted to entree. Other varieties include ham and cheese, veggie and "the ultimate," made with ham, bacon, sausage, peppers, mushrooms, onions, cheese and tomatoes.
My scramlet was served alongside a slice of toast and a mound of crispy, golden country potatoes perfectly seasoned with garlic, paprika, dill, parsley and onions. (A similar seasoning also is used on the cafe's french fries.)
Sean's country scramble wasn't fancy, but it was hearty — two eggs scrambled with bacon and country potatoes and one biscuit with creamy sausage gravy on the side. The eggs were neither brown nor weepy — a medium sometimes hard to attain. The biscuit was crusty on the outside and soft and flaky inside, but the gravy was slightly bland, lacking in complexity.
Not long after our meals arrived, dessert was delivered — a glorious cinnamon roll that lived up to its name. Inman, who makes the rolls daily, says it is her grandmother's recipe. She says there's no trick to it, just yeast and real butter.
The cinnamon roll was large, more than can be safely eaten in one sitting, and soft with just the right amount of sugar and cinnamon. A small ball of homemade, cream-cheese frosting was served on top and slowly melted into all the layers of the roll.
While breakfast tends to draw the most business to the cafe, lunches are becoming more popular. A few lunch favorites include the Reuben sandwich, with homemade Thousand Island dressing and old-fashioned sauerkraut on rye bread, and the turkey-avocado sandwich. There also is an array of burgers and salads, all reasonably priced under $9.
Inman puts special emphasis on local products and features Apple Cellar and Dave's Killer breads, Butte Creek Mill oatmeal and local meats and produce.
Sean and I left full, happy and wondering why we don't eat breakfast out more often.
— Teresa Thomas