The Spot Café

To spot the great diner, check out the bread
By MC SLIM JB  |  February 3, 2010

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Your typical cheap-eats reviewer spends a lot of time in diners: they're America's original inexpensive quick-service restaurants, and most are a step up from modern fast-food franchises. Still, despite often being family-run and offering quaint atmosphere, many diners serve grim, dispiriting food.

The Spot Café | 385 Main Street, Watertown | Tuesday–Sunday, 7 am–3 pm |  617.923.2339.
I'm not looking for originality in my $5 plate of eggs, but decent bread is a good start, and too many diners buy squishy, Wonder Bread–like Pullman loaves. I've decided that bread is a useful signifier of quality. At the Spot Café, a tiny, 20-seat restaurant just outside of Watertown Square, they buy dough from Au Pain Doré, a French bakery in Montreal, and bake it on-site. It's wonderful stuff, and emblematic of the many small choices in favor of quality that elevate its French-accented fare above the pedestrian. 

Breakfast options include seriously good pancakes ($5.75), worth the extra dollar for fresh bananas, blueberries, raspberries, or cranberries. The Belgian waffle ($5.25) is practically a paragon of the style: crisp without, fluffy within, beautiful by itself, and gorgeously dessert-like with fresh strawberries and real whipped cream ($6.95). Griddle cakes this wonderful deserve a splurge on pure maple syrup ($1.65). French toast ($5.25) is terrific because its bread is terrific. Three-egg omelets ($6.55–$7.95) like feta/tomato and pastrami/Swiss are light, not overcooked, and include excellent homefries and toast. You can replace the homefries with fine fresh fruit (bananas, berries, melon, pineapple) for a dollar, or get the fruit cup ($5.45) layered with quality vanilla yogurt and topped with granola. Lunch options include big salads ($5.95–$7.75), lovely sandwiches (again, that bread), and fresh-tasting house-made soups ($3.55/cup; $4.90/bowl), like a puréed butternut-squash soup that for once is not oversweetened. The delicious grilled cheese and tomato sandwich ($7.25) includes a cup of soup, like the superb vegetarian lentil.

Beverages include good strong filter coffee ($1.85–$2.15), decent café au lait ($1.85–$2.15), bottled juices ($2.35), and Nami teas ($1.85–$2.15). The décor is grandma-charming, featuring a room-ringing teapot collection and Parisian prints and photos by way of HomeGoods. The restaurant's very friendly owners bake fine versions of crumb cake ($2.99) and just-sweet-enough baklava ($1.99), revealing their Greek heritage. Throw in free parking and it's not hard to understand the weekend lines out the door. In all, the Spot Café is a heartening corrective to the stereotype of the lackluster greasy spoon: proof that a casual eatery can be made into something memorable with care and impeccable ingredients.

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