If the five plastic-resin benches lining the sidewalk to English Muffin's entrance don't trigger an image, then the banquettes lining the lobby just might. Long breakfast lines on the weekend require seats for hungry patrons (as well as complimentary coffee and muffins). But as locals and out-of-towners have learned: it's worth the wait.
Breakfast is served until 2 pm every day and, as Bill noted, the generosity of portions is a Rhode Island tradition. Nonetheless, few places could match the plate-sized pancakes, the whole-can-sized serving of corned beef hash (not homemade), the four-extra-large-egg omelets, or the slab of Delmonico we saw drift by with three eggs, a wide swath of home fries, and four pieces of English muffin.
Our companion Baiba ordered the hash and eggs ($7.95); Bill the omelet with ham, mushrooms, and Swiss cheese ($8.15); and I got the eggs Florentine ($8.95). The latter two were served with the eponymous muffins; Baiba had rye toast.
As mentioned, the amounts of hash and of potatoes were astounding. We all agreed that we preferred our potatoes a bit crispier, but they were nicely seasoned with paprika. Bill exclaimed over the numerous bits of ham in his omelet; and I knew at a glance I could never finish all the spinach atop the muffin halves on my plate. The Hollandaise was nice and creamy; the eggs were poached just right. However, I would have liked more zip in the sauce.
As we waited for our orders, we took in some of the homey homilies hung near the kitchen door and around the TV near the U-shaped countertop: "Be Nice or Go Away"; "Beware of Attack Waitress"; "If you are grouchy, irritable or just plain mean, there will be a 50-cent charge for putting up with you!" But, though they were always bustling and the service sometimes slowed down, the waitstaff was actually quite helpful, and their accents added another Rhody touch.
The dining room at English Muffin is a high-ceilinged space (almost barn-like), with country colors and accents. The lights are elegant wrought iron with cup-shaped fixtures, hanging singly, as chandeliers, or as sconces. The walls are toffee-shaded with raindrops; the wallpaper trim above the wainscoting has rustic-hued coffee cups, with the theme recurring in framed prints of coffee cups.
There are approximately 10 booths (with a double-sized corner one for large parties), 10 tables, and 10 seats at the counter. Three large windows and a buffet currently display various St. Nicholases (one has a waving Mrs. Claus), with lots of cotton snow around them. There's a full set of Christmas mugs for those bottomless cups of coffee, plus cocoa or tea (even herbal).
And there's a blackboard of tempting lunch specials, plus dinner is served Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. Last Tuesday (as a weekly tradition), shepherd's pie — "just like mom's" — was a popular order by regulars; the shaved steak and turkey burger sounded enticing. But, ultimately, as take-out items, the grilled chicken and rabe plate won out for me ($9.95) and the Delmonico sandwich ($8.95) for Bill.
Again, the portions were impressive, with Bill's sandwich (the addition of sautéed onions thrilled him) cut in halves and each half accompanied by almost a half-pint of coleslaw. The steak was flavorful and tender, and the slaw was deliciously dressed with vinegar as well as mayo.