Sunday, June 13, 2010

Cafe Express breakfast is passable

We decided to go to Cafe Express this morning for breakfast. Apparently, Cafe Express is added breakfast to the menu. After experiencing it firsthand, I think they have a lot of work ahead of them or they should just quit before they even get started. The entire family agreed.

First, let me say that I have never been a big fan of Cafe Express. I think they are overpriced for their food - amount given and quality. That being said, I have had their turkey spinach burger and while it's not awe-inspiring it is a decent burger. Really, I only go because the wife like's to go but even she is a little jaded at their price versus food quantity/quality. Usually when we go now, we will split the turkey burger with a side of sweet potato fries because it's like $10. We share the burger and aren't overstuffed but sometimes aren't fully content either.

Second, knowing my lack of enthusiasm to pay so much dinero for so little food, the only reason we went to breakfast today was because they mailed me a coupon for a buy-one-get-one breakfast "entree" to help promote their adding breakfast to their lineup. The only problem was the wife and I were going to BOGO but then the kids wanted to go so we actually had to pay for an extra "entree." It was more like a buy-two-get-one free but what am I going to do when the kids want to go too?

Okay, all that being said, we got to the restaurant and looked over their breakfast menu as we've never seen it before. The pictures of the items looked pretty good but don't all pictures. Have you ever seen a Big Mac look like the advertisement when you actually get one? Or even a Nachos Bellgrande look just like the picture on the menu? Didn't think so but we knew this.

Anyway, the wife and I ordered the Scrambles Chipotle Chicken ($6.99) and the kids each ordered French Quarter French Toast ($5.49 x 2). I got a coffee, the wife a beverage, and the kids water (although they filled some tea to give the water a little flavor).

About ten minutes later, the wife and I got our "entree." I keep quotationing entree because it really isn't what I'd consider an entree. It's more like an appetizer. The portion serving was quite disappointing. The presentation was blah and the flavor was bland. The sliced chicken strips were dry and some of the ends of the strips were very dry like a jerky texture. The scrambled eggs were, well, scrambled but they didn't burst (or even squeak) with taste and flavor. The bacon bits were scarce and I didn't know there were any until they sort of fell off from...somewhere...when I took my first bite. It said it came with cilantro but I can't even recall if I saw any...maybe it was hidden or the order before mine got it all. All this came on top of a "bed" of diced potatoes -- if I puzzle-pieced the dices together, it'd probably be the size of a half deck of cards. The chipotle part of the "entree" was a supposed chipotle-flavored salsa. The wife and I both agreed that our vision was more of a smothered sauce on the chicken strips or spread over the "entree." The "entree" came with a slice of wheat "toast." I didn't have any of the "toast" because it didn't seem toasted to me. It was basically one slice of wheat bread that you can get at the grocery store and this one slice was cut into two triangle pieces. Overall the "entree" lacked any presentation, flavor, taste or need-to-tell-others wow factor. For $6.99, I would expect more. It was almost like being at Rusty Taco again with their lack or vision and sustenance.

The french "toast" was not ready with our order. They said they'd bring it to us. What could be the hold up with french "toast?" I'm sure it had to do with the "toast" needing to be cooked unlike our pre-cooked chicken on our "entree." About 7 minutes later, a "chef" came by our table to ask if we were waiting on two plates of french toast. I said, "Yes," and he left and came back with two plates. He set one each in front of my kids and left. No "Enjoy!" or "Is there anything else you might need?" Nothing!

Anyway, the french "toast" sort of looks like the picture (left). The main differences would be they had maybe two slices of strawberry and three blueberries. I don't recall much powdered sugar if at all and I know there wasn't any garnish for overall presentation. The kids thought the "toast" was good after the first few bites. A few more bites and the perception changed a bit. The "syrup" was more like a molasses. It was very, very sweet and a little overwhelming after a while...and that's from kids who LOVE sweetness. The outside of the "toast" was crispy and flavorful but the farther to the center of the "toast" it was more of a gooey, soppy bread mess. I'm not sure if this is the way it was supposed to be but it wasn't as appetizing to us. The kids ate around the core and I finished it off because I don't waste food, ever, especially at these prices. There were pecans on the "toast" but it was like they were more minced than chopped. The kids came away with thoughts of, "The syrup is too sweet," and "I wish they had more fruit toppings," and "They were good until you got near the center." The "toast" looked more like an odd-sized/shaped hush puppy. I'm not sure if that's what is meant by "french quarter" but we prefer our french toast to be cooked a little more through.

So, we left with these final impressions: french "toast" over the chipotle (dry) chicken anyday, BUT...we will never have breakfast at Cafe Express again unless they really improve. I know they are just starting the breakfast menu but with so many options in the area, a restaurant new to the breakfast menu must hit the ground running instead of walking or it will be a wasted venture very quickly!

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