Mr. Peabody's café is the kind of neighborhood spot where locals gather for an annual get-together with their state senator, there's a rotating library of book donations on the window sills, and the coffee and tea have their own self-serve corner. In an eatery with only seven small tables (more outside on the sidewalk when it warms up), you're bound to strike up a conversation with your neighbors and quickly feel like a "regular" yourself.
Michael Quigley and Becky Dupuis — whose business card declares the spot as "the home of 'white trash/gourmet fusion' " — set up their café and catering business almost six years ago, naming it after Quigley's cat, Mr. Peabody.
The feline theme takes over the fringes of the restaurant: a large Haitian folk art cat on the check-out counter; a tiger-headed hobby horse in the corner nearby; vases, picture frames, and the outside of the front door done in leopard prints; and, yes, a photo portrait of Mr. Peabody himself .
But the walls are a restful plum, with eggplant trim, and a dream-like blue-sky-and-clouds motif covers the ceiling. Lime curtains screen the kitchen area, and a few mirrors with burnished steel frames give depth to the tiny dining space.
The menu is just as eclectic and welcoming. Daily breakfast specials abound, alongside the everyday eggs, omelets, bagels, and pancakes. Among the specials on a recent Sunday morning were zucchini walnut pancakes with maple cream cheese, and "gianormous" or "mianormous" omelets, with a chef's choice of veggies.
The other specials that pulled us in were salmon cakes with sautéed spinach, poached eggs and wasabi aioli ($13.95 or $7 for a half order), cinnamon raisin bread French toast with sliced grilled chicken, crumbled Gorgonzola, and warm honey ($8.95), and a breakfast pizza ($5.95).
Bill and I split the breakfast pizza, a half-order of salmon cakes, and a chocolate brownie muffin ($2). The pizza was superb: roasted garlic with scrambled eggs, sliced tomato, melted mozzarella, and chopped fresh basil. It was a truly wonderful addition to the lexicon of omelet-like dishes.
I can't really say the same for the muffin. The chocolate idea drew me in, and there were indeed pieces of brownie chunks throughout the buttery muffin, but it turned out to be not my kind of thing. I'm also not a chocolate brownie or cookie-dough ice cream fan, so my reaction might have been predicted.
The salmon cake was superb, the eggs poached to perfection, the spinach fresh and tender, the aioli not very hot from the wasabi — it was merely a color accent. Our tablemate Mike loved his full order of these fish cakes.
Our other tablemate, Elaine, was extremely adventurous in ordering the French toast with Gorgonzola. There were generous amounts of all of its ingredients, and she admitted that it took her a while to warm up to the sweet/savory combo of cinnamon raisin bread with that particular cheese. With the chicken, sure. With the French toast and honey? That was a stretch for my taste-buds.
But, hey, chef/co-owner Becky and her jill-of-all-trades/waitress Zoey Spahn love hearing diners' reactions to the kitchen's daily concoctions. They are also very helpful and accommodating, quirky and humorous. This comes across as endearing rather than cutesy on the menu, where special sandwiches are labeled "notable pets," salads are "rabbit food," drinks are "bevys," and the difference between a six-inch sandwich and a nine-inch sandwich is archly proclaimed: "good date, great date."
We ordered sandwiches to take home for later, and Dupuis, experienced caterer and take-out person that she is, packed the filling for Bill's sandwich in plastic wrap to keep it from sogging the croissant, and she packed my wrap as a do-it-yourselfer.
Bill's Tigger ($7.95), named after Zoey's pet, is roast beef with mascarpone, mushrooms, and red onions on a buttery croissant. He warmed his components slightly and put them together for supper that evening and pronounced it "terrific." His sandwich came with a side of pasta salad.
My "compost" had veggies, "cat"-amala olives, Havarti slices, and Russian dressing, with a giant tortilla to wrap around its contents. I sautéed the carrots, mushrooms, peppers, broccoli, and spinach, laid the cheese on top, warmed the wrap and stuck everything inside with the dressing. It was very tasty. I did, however, miss the cauliflower and sprouts in the description of this sandwich. My accompanying fruit salad was very fresh and varied: a blackberry nestled in with the melon and fresh pineapple pieces.
So, meet friends at Mr. Peabody's and work your way through the menu. Please ask if the lemon crumb pancakes and the chicken pot pie are coming back anytime soon. And let me know.
Johnette Rodriguez can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.