Cherie Inn

(Grand Rapids, MI) — We don’t do many breakfast reviews, but once in a while the mood strikes us to get up early on a weekend and seek out nourishment before noon. This is one of those days. On a grey, autumn Sunday morning, we head to “East” Grand Rapids and one of the local mainstays: Cherie Inn. It has been a while since we’ve visited the small restaurant, so we’re curious to see what the intervening years have wrought...

He Fed:

I remember eating at Cherie Inn many years ago, shortly after we moved to Grand Rapids, but I don’t really recall what we had. I do remember being somewhat uncomfortable in the tiny cafe, so when we show up on this Sunday morning, I’m pleased to see the interior seems to have expanded somewhat. There is breathing room, although we end up standing in line for a table (no longer than 15 minutes, I’m sure).

We are shown to a small table that has been recently and quickly wiped down. The top is still wet and the menus that have been lain there are now also wet. Yuck! This is one of my pet peeves. Nothing worse than picking up a wet menu. I am not shy, so I make a production out of using my napkin to dry everything off, then later asking for more napkins. Our table is precariously close to a curtained window as well, and the dusty curtain brushes against my shoulder. I end up pulling the curtain toward the center of the table so it won’t touch me (never mind the less than appetizing view of the dilapidated vestibule beyond the cracked window). There is dust coating the fake ivy that hangs overhead, too. Someone should really take a dust rag to it.

We order coffee, water, and ruby red grapefruit juice, plus an Iced Cinnamon Roll to start. The roll is warm and coated with thick icing. It parts sensuously beneath my fork, exposing ribbons of cinnamon. My first bite is sweet, sticky, with curious undertones of citrus. Is there orange flavoring in the icing? I believe so. It helps elevate the roll beyond the mundane.

For my main dish, I fall back on a staple: Chicken and Chorizo Sausage Omelette. It arrives looking bold on a blue plate with pineapple on the side. I’m a little worried about the smattering of black beans on top; I thought they’d be inside the eggs? Not to be, however. Instead, there are dry chunks of chicken and spicy sausage inside, with cheddar cheese. Even with the sour cream and salsa on top, the omelette just lays there on the plate (and, later, deep in the bottom of my gut). I’ve had better versions of this egg dish at Denny’s or IHOP. It is deeply unsatisfying.

In addition to my lackluster meal, there is some confusion about Juliet’s hash brown omelette which has an “add-on” of the Sausage Bake. They actually put the sausage bake inside her hash brown, rather than the side, so we accidentally order an additional sausage bake. At least I get to try it this way, and the bake itself is pretty damn good...kind of like scrapple but light and crispy.

As it turns out, we may not be “breakfast” people after all. There are only so many ways you can do an omelette, and you just don’t see the same kind of variety or ingenuity in morning dishes that you might for lunch or dinner. I think it’s back to cereal and bagels for me.
She Fed:

We went to Cherie Inn a few years back and I remember enjoying an outstanding grilled ham and cheese with soup. I'm not sure why we haven't been back, but when Jeremy suggests Sunday breakfast there I leap at the opportunity. The place is hopping from what we see through their window as we drive by searching for street parking. We find a spot just up the block and as we walk up to the back door, there are a few patrons leaving with smiles on their faces giving me hope for a short wait and some good eggs.

The host explains that we need to sign in at a makeshift hostess stand and can either wait there or in the gallery. The entrance wall is lined with old-timey photos and menus from the original Cherie Inn. Being a sucker for both sepia-toned pix and nostalgic menus, I easily occupy myself. Looks like there was a massive fire at the original location, a rebuild and then a relocation to the current site. Cherie Inn has a legion of regulars who knowingly walk up and sign in, greet the host by name and preorder a cup of coffee to sip while they wait. In less than 10 minutes we are seated with ice waters and coffee on the way.

There are three specials our server shares with us, including coconut pancakes with pineapple mango topping, an "Ann Arbor" omelette filled with veggies and a filet mignon eggs Benedict. Today I just want a simple breakfast. I'm almost tempted to order the oatmeal, but unless I'm travelling on business, paying for oatmeal seems insane when it can be made at home so reasonably. I opt for the Idaho omelette with hash browns, cheddar, sour cream and scallions. For $1.25 more I add the sausage bake which I've heard is a favorite at Cherie Inn.

We split a cinnamon roll while we wait and it's huge and tasty. I prefer raisins and nuts in my cinnamon rolls, but I can't really complain while I'm munching on a cinnamon rolls sipping my hazelnut coffee with cream now can I?

Our breakfasts arrive quickly and my omelette is also huge, smothered in a thick layer of cheddar and accompanied by thick-cut English muffin toast. But no sausage bake, which our server runs to go grab out of the kitchen. Once I dig into the omelette I realize the sausage bake is in the filling; it was easy to miss what with there only being five slivers of it. The waiter brings two slices of the bake and when I tell him I found it in the omelette he leaves the slices explaining there's no charge. (I still haven't figured how $2.95 buys two generous meatloaf style slices and $1.25 yields only five slivers.) Even with cheese, scallions and hashbrowns, my omelette is downright bland. The sausage bake and toast are the highlights of my plate. I probably won't come back for breakfast, but the prospect of another grilled cheese and homemade soup beckons for lunch.

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