Monday, May 4, 2009

Breakfast in the Jailhouse

Recently, we had breakfast in a Moab (UT) residence, a courthouse, a post office, a store, and an art gallery--all in one sitting.

The Jailhouse Café has a history of serving as each of these venues in its long existence. Built in 1885 as a private residence, its most interesting use was as the Grand County Courthouse from 1892-1902. The present kitchen, with its two-foot thick adobe walls, held prisoners during this period.

Following its other uses over the years, the building sat empty in the 1980s. Fortunately, it was opened in 1992 as the Jailhouse Café, in recognition, we presume, of its unique past use. A seasonal restaurant, the Café is open from 7:00 a.m. to noon, serving only breakfast.

The morning we had breakfast there, the temperature was in the high 60’s, the sun was shining, and the sky was a bright blue. So instead of eating in the small interior dining area, we took one of the sixteen tables for four on one of the two covered outdoor patios.

The menu is not extensive, but is distinctive. In addition to the normal eggs with country fried potatoes and sausage or bacon, buttermilk pancakes, and a bacon and cheddar omelet, they offer more unusual items like: Swedish pancakes (crepes) with lingonberry compote; a whole grain waffle with mixed fruit topping; a spinach, feta, and mushroom omelet with potatoes and toast; a roasted red pepper, mozzarella, basil pesto, and tomato omelet, again with potatoes and toast; and their take on eggs Benedict with a spicy southwestern hollandaise.

Chuck chose the Jailhouse Chorizo Scramble which was three eggs scrambled with seasoned potatoes and chorizo sausage and served with sour cream, salsa, and soft white corn tortillas. To this, he added a side of “soul food” style bacon that the menu describes as being inspired by a Greenwich Village restaurant and is thick, salty, and smoky. The bacon was a pork lover’s dream. When fried crisp it was slightly chewy so your mouth had more time to savor the wonderful smoked bacon flavor.

His scramble, also loaded with spicy sausage, was very good. As a surprise, the dish was also covered with fresh jalapeno peppers. He ate a few and declared that maybe this was too much spice so early in the morning. My only criticism of his eggs is that they were cooked too dry and lost much of the light and fluffy egg texture that I like.

My choice was one of the café’s specialties, a stack of three ginger pancakes with Dutch apple butter. I also ordered a side of bacon. If you like ginger snaps or gingerbread, you would love these pancakes. I love the flavor and heat of ginger. I love the taste of fresh ginger in Chinese food, marinades, and salad dressings. I love to suck on pieces of crystallized ginger. I love the flavor of dry ginger in desserts. I loved these pancakes. The Dutch apple butter was good, but the portion was so skimpy that it covered only one of the three pancakes. Fortunately, there was a dispenser of good maple syrup on the table. And, I had to ask for butter. Isn’t butter a given with pancakes? But the great bacon was the ideal side dish for the sweet pancakes.

Now here is my complaint. This place is expensive. Remember Chuck’s breakfast at the Sunglow Café and Motel – two of the best pancakes ever, two scrambled eggs, two slices of bacon, two sausage patties, and hash browns – that cost less than $8.00? My three pancakes – while good – were not worth the $11.99 price. Yes, $11.99 for three pancakes with maybe two tablespoons of apple butter and no fresh butter. Way over priced.

So with that in mind, the disparity between price and value only warrants a 4.0 Addies on our 5.0 Addie scale.

We left the Jailhouse and spent the rest of the morning visiting galleries, gift shops, and, of course, the Moab Information Center. Moab is a very walkable town. The main downtown area is about five blocks long. Beyond this area both north and south are motels and inns, restaurants (about 40), and tour (hiking, biking, canyoneering, rafting, ATV, buses, jeep and horseback) businesses. The town has a population of less than 5000, but it seems larger, perhaps due to its length (a little less than three miles) and width (about eight blocks.

Four lanes through the town are already carrying a lot of traffic--even before the peak summer season arrives.

I'm glad we're early.

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