Double Duty 

Diner does it all -- under two different names

We've all heard the stories of ordinary people living double lives. The model Midwestern family man who turns out to have two separate families, each unaware of the other. The fresh-scrubbed college girl with the Breck hair, perfect teeth and honor-roll grade-point average who dances naked on table tops at night. Or the insurance salesman who turns out to be a commando-trained, automatic-weapons-toting undercover agent, a la Arnold Schwarzenegger.

We can accept these multiple personalities in our friends and loved ones. Can we accept them in a restaurant?

During the day, this place is Simply Breakfast and purports to serve "simply breakfast, simply brunch and simply lunch." When the sun sinks over the mountain, however, it becomes the Dinner Nook with a mere flip of some proverbial switch.

The scope of the menu is ambitious, no matter what time of day you wander in. The omelets (all served with hash browns and toast, or pancakes) contain fillings ranging from tomatoes, onions, peppers, mushrooms and broccoli, topped with cheddar and Swiss, to diced bacon and mild homemade chili. You have several choices of pancakes and French toast (including one topped with fresh strawberries and orange sections), and eggs in every possible combination.

You can also select from a list of Sensational Hash Brown Creations. The cook takes yummy, perfectly cooked hash browns, sauts them with your choice of ingredients, then tops them with two eggs and serves them with toast or pancakes. I sampled the Chicken and Chili Creation, which I found to be both tasty and filling. The hash browns are cooked with diced Cajun grilled chicken, tomatoes, green peppers and onions, then the whole concoction is topped with mild red chili and shredded cheese. It was wonderfully balanced between the potatoes and the other ingredients, not like some places where you get a plate full of hash browns with a stray cube or two of ham and one little limp slice of green pepper. My only complaint is that my over-easy eggs were cooked a tad too long. I like the yolks nice and runny, so I can mix them easily into the other ingredients.

On the lunch portion of the menu, you've got the sandwiches, salads and burgers that you'd expect. The House Specialty Burger is something of an indulgence, however. The ground beef is seasoned with minced garlic and freshly ground pepper, cooked to order, then topped with "special sauce," sauted onions, thinly sliced ham, cheddar and Swiss, served on grilled Texas toast. It's one humdinger of a burger, tailor-made for carnivores. If you aren't craving beef, you can sample the regular or Cajun grilled tuna-steak sandwich or the julienned chicken sandwich, wherein thin slices of chicken are tossed with sauted mushrooms, onions and green peppers, stacked on a hoagie roll with melted Swiss.

The most interesting menu, however, belongs to the Dinner Nook. Entrees are divided into chicken breast, center-cut boneless pork chops, beef, seafood and pasta. This is one menu I can't wait to explore further.

I had to try the Chicken With 40 Cloves of Garlic, since I make a pretty darned good version myself. The Dinner Nook's version was different, but highly enjoyable. The garlic cloves (about a dozen) are first blanched, then simmered with the chicken to tame their bite. My version is slow-cooked, so the garlic assumes a buttery softness. Here, the garlic is firmer, although still tender and mild. The sauce was piquant with black pepper and sparked with some fresh tomato, and the breast itself was tender, not cooked to the point of dryness. I can't wait to try the Sauted Chicken With Tomato-Onion Marmalade (a thick-cooked combination of fresh tomatoes, onion, garlic and brown sugar) or the Chicken in Red Wine and Balsamic Vinegar, which is sauted with pearl onions, mushrooms and spices.

The Cajun Grilled Pork is quite tasty, properly blackened with spices and not burnt on the grill. The flavor sparkles without setting your mouth on fire. The Grilled Ribeye is a juicy, tender piece of meat that has been marinated for 12 hours and then grilled. The Rosemary Pepper Steak, however, really sings. The sirloin is marinated, seasoned with rosemary, garlic and cracked black pepper, then served with a sauce of red onions, mushrooms, zucchini and Dijon mustard.

This double-duty restaurant is still fairly new, and while the food is very good, they do have a couple of small serving glitches to work out. Our breakfast waitress "forgot" that she hadn't taken our order. We had to request steak knives more than once with our entrees, since we didn't even get butter knives with our silverware. And when the bread basket came to the table, the plate of butter had a knife intended for everyone to share. That can be romantic for two people but becomes impractical when four people must share one butter knife. If the party is hungry, it can get downright ugly.

You won't spot Simply Breakfast or the Dinner Nook from the street unless you have X-ray vision or a pair of binoculars. But the food is definitely more than worth the short time it will take you to locate the restaurant.


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