Good food does not need gimmicks. It does not need to anchor itself to some other pleasure to succeed. So, when Brandon and Sarah Bryant set up in the corner of Black Forest Square that previously housed The Breakfast Club, they stripped all of the '80s decor away. The Bryants' 2-month-old establishment, Mountain View Café, is instead full of things that are clean, simple and good — and menu-wise, those things are very good.
That's no great surprise, given that head chef Brandon has spent the past 20 years in the industry, after graduating from the Pennsylvania Institute of Culinary Arts. Most recently, he operated a restaurant outside Houston. He chats affably with my dining companion (also a Houston-area transplant) and me, and the guy knows what legit looks like. His eyes light up discussing the hole-in-the-wall Mexican joints of coastal Texas, from scorching salsa to lines out the door.
On a first visit, I try a perfectly seasoned pecan-crusted chicken sandwich, featuring juicy slices of baked chicken breast on wheat bread with lettuce, tomato and basil mayo. Like most plates, it lands between $7 and $10 with a side. As a side, a tomato, basil and fresh mozzarella bowl catches my eye. Though the tomatoes and basil are a little overwhelmed by tender cheese cubes, fresh pepper added plenty of flavor for a pleasant enough side.
Farmer Brothers Coffee runs diner-standard, but it's a good partner for house-made chocolate pie. Creamy and rich but not heavy, the filling biases more pudding than custard. But for a slightly undercooked crust, it's great.
Breakfast, served all day, fares awesome. Brandon whips together a velvety and bright hollandaise, with subtle cayenne giving the lemon notes plenty of pep. Try it on the Mountain Harvest Benedict, which sees traditional ham replaced by sautéed spinach and red peppers. Said peppers pop with flavor to spare, especially when the perfectly cooked yolks ooze out and elevate everything. Burgers arrive on soft ciabatta rolls. The Rocky Mountain Swiss Burger — ordered medium-rare, comes out pretty much spot on, dripping delicious juices. The bacon comes crisp, but the sautéed mushrooms and onions don't play much of a role in the bite overall.
At this point in the visit, I'm pretty sure Brandon figures out who I am, because he serves up another two plates of his favorites unrequested "to sample." I have to do a lot of insisting to pay half of the $14 the plates cost together. His pride-and-joy double-decker BLT comes heavy on lettuce and fresh tomato, the mayo kicked up with basil. As a side, he serves green beans and potatoes, cooked with butter, salt and pepper. Given the freshness and quality of the green beans, we're surprised to learn that they came from a Denver restaurant supplier rather than a local farmer.
We finish with a from-scratch cheesecake, served stupid-creamy on a crust of crushed oatmeal cookies under a puree of fresh and frozen strawberries. The purée rocks, neither too sweet nor too tart, bearing a cleaner strawberry taste than most strawberries.
Though mostly diner-appropriate food, it's hard to find a kitchen doing so right for the style. But that's the realness that comes out of Black Forest: simple food, done correctly, John Hughes be damned.