The American Kitchen

(Saint Joseph, MI) — On a rare, sunny Sunday, we found ourselves tooling around on local business and in need of sustenance. A quick Google found a little restaurant called The American Kitchen nearby, in what used to be a donut shop not long ago. Although it’s tempting to judge a book by its cover, we tried to look past the Bauhaus architecture and hoped we find an oasis of eggs inside...

He Fed:

Honestly, I’m not expecting much of The American Kitchen. The name seems too plain, too “countrified”. Their website is a simple GoDaddy freebie. I full expect dingy curtains and dead flies on the window sills, with grease stains on the drop ceiling.

Imagine my surprise, then, when we walk into a wide open dining room with high ceilings and bright, lively decor. On the walls are various works of art, presumably shown by local artists. To the right is the kitchen, into which we can peer through a window to see the cooks at work. After only a few moments, we’re shown to a nice booth near the back...right under a photograph of the Gerald R. Ford museum in Grand Rapids. What are the odds?

As I look over the extensive menu—they serve breakfast and lunch 7 days a week—I can’t help but be struck by the families with raucous children. I try to tune them out and succeed for the most part; eventually the herd thins. I enjoy a cup of Infusco coffee, roasted in Sawyer, Michigan. It’s not particularly distinctive but a solid cuppa.

The restaurant bills themselves as “a finer diner” and from what I’m seeing being delivered to other tables, I’m inclined to agree. Portions are good-sized, creative, and look delicious. Juliet suggests we split a candied bacon pancake and I immediately agree. From the first bite, it’s almost impossible to stop picking at it. Sweet, fluffy and filled with pork, it’s everything you want for breakfast. Smear some whipped butter on a piece, dunk it in maple syrup, and feel it slide across your taste buds like a magic carpet to nirvana.

Today’s special is a Breakfast Quesadilla. Decision made. Some places try to jump through hoops when it comes to this dish, but AK keeps it enticingly simple: light scrambled eggs; chunks of bacon; cheddar cheese; and red pepper aoili. Pico de gallo on the side adds a little fresh zing. Definitely one of the best breakfast quesadillas I’ve had. The side of potatoes don't thrill me; they taste either stale or over-roasted. Drown them in hot sauce (Cholula!) and ketchup, they go down easy.

As we pay up and continue with our day, I’m very glad to have found The American Kitchen. Good food, great service, and a comfortable environment make for a restaurant I want to visit more often.

She Fed:

You probably already know I’m not a big fan of eating breakfast out. We’ve had some abysmal brunches and breakfasts in the past (one even made my Worst of 2013 list) and I just don’t see the point. First of all, I can make a fabulous breakfast at home for less money than going out. Second, we have a kick-ass espresso machine, making it hard to find lattes better elsewhere. Third, when we eat breakfast in, I can stay in my jammies and sneak bites to the cats.

So, it is with some eye-rolling that I accept Jeremy’s offer go out to breakfast this sunny Sunday. We’ve got an afternoon of running errands ahead of us and I agree, if only to fuel up for a long day. As we pull into their lot, there are enough cars to let us know it must be decent, but not so many cars that we’re scared away. Once inside, the atmosphere is comfortable and the servers are incredibly personable.

The American Kitchen serves breakfast and lunch all day, which is perfect for us on weekends when Jeremy’s hankering for eggs and I’m already thinking about lunch.

But today, I want breakie! My eyes fall on the Candied Bacon Pancakes and I suggest we order just one pancake (they come two per order) to split as a “side” to our breakfast entrees. Jeremy agrees! I consider the Grunt Omelette with bacon, sausage, and sausage gravy or the Truffled Pig Omelette with ham, mushrooms, and truffle oil. In the end I go with my breakfast standby: Biscuits with Sausage Gravy and Eggs (poached medium).

This dish is my measuring stick of a good breakfast joint so I brace for the worst...but hope for the best. Instead of light and fluffy biscuits, these are made with wheat flour, making for a slightly crunchy crust. The denseness of the biscuits helps them stand up to the gravy. Indeed, my last bite isn’t gloppy or mushy but still very toothsome. The gravy is full of sage, cream, and sausage...a trifecta of flavor. The eggs are perfectly cooked and the AK Fries on the side are perfect for mopping up leftover gravy and yolk.

The pancake is studded with candied bacon and served with sweet whipped butter and maple syrup. It’s downright amazing! Years of coast-to-coast travel and I find my breakfast nirvana in Saint Joseph? You read it here first!

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