SHE ATE: Breakfast stout

By Gabrielle Lawrence

The third time was a charm for our dining experience at Edmund’s Pastime in downtown Lansing. The first two visits? Virtually charmless.

Let’s revisit Edmund’s in reverse chronological order. We had breakfast one recent Sunday morning. There was an unmistakable and inviting vibe to the place, a feeling absent during the first two visits. I detected a strong heartbeat the second we walked in. For one thing, there were real, live customers, and more coming in after we were seated. Plus, the waitstaff was vivacious and prompt without being fawning.

First off, I applaud any restaurant willing to go out on a limb with its breakfast menu, even if it turns the occasional stomach. No, I didn’t order the buttermilk pancake heaped with meat-laden sausage gravy. Ditto the Hound Dog — peanut butter, grilled banana, crumbled Oreo cookies and caramel on a pancake. And, yes, I was a tad disappointed that the Koegel hot dog with eggs, which was still on Edmund’s website menu, was removed from the actual menu some time ago.

I settled for homemade corned beef hash and eggs. The eggs were done as I like them and the hash was hearty and crisp, a far cry from hash found in many restaurants (which looks remarkably like canned dog food). My breakfast companion had a tasty Ernie Harwell Memorial:  Two pancakes with warm peaches, pecans and a peach schnapps whipped cream. The Harwell could have used more whipped cream, or something like a fruit syrup to sweeten things up a bit, but, they have the right idea.

And for those who care to imbibe at breakfast, Edmund’s serves a standout Bloody Mary for $4 every weekend.

Before we travel backward in time, let me state clearly that our server and the other staff we came in contact with that Sunday were cheerful and attentive. Maybe they were just glad they made it through another Saturday night, but they truly seemed happy to be working on a Sunday morning. In a minute, you’ll know why I bring this up.

Now, let us clamber into the WABAC Machine and travel to the previous weekend … . 

Friday nights are considered the biggest dining time in American restaurants. You wouldn’t know it by visiting Edmund’s on this particular evening. It was warm and listless inside, just like the air outside. OK, so we hit a slow Friday night. The empty-ish restaurant must have dulled the senses of our waitperson, who barely hit perfunctory on the Friendly-O-Meter.

The meals the three of us ordered and shared, for the most part, peaked below perfunctory. The Edmund’s Black and Bleu — a burger with provolone and bleu cheese — was a travesty. The burger was ordered medium; it arrived very well done. If there was bleu cheese in there somewhere, I couldn’t detect it.

One dining companion ordered tater tots and chicken nuggets. Well, she’s a teenager, and she got just what she ordered. ‘Nuf said. My other companion had the Irish Nachos, which are an affront to two entire cultures. Fries with Ground Beef and Cheese: that’s what they should call the dish. Don’t doll up a mess like that with an ersatz folksy name, and don’t mess with my Irish heritage, you little squints.*

(*Squint skwint n. : Irish slang for a toady; a person of worthless bearing. See John Ford’s classic, “The Quiet Man.”)

Fortunately, the taste of the nachos was somewhat erased by an estimable bowl of sturdy tomato soup, a pure made with plenty of fresh basil. Thus ended Friday night at Edmund’s.

Flash back to an early Tuesday night, our first visit. I expected an after-work crowd, young urbanites who thrive on places where the drinks are good and the WiFi is free. Alas, there were six others drinking or dining. Between the diners and servers, there were barely enough to field a football team.

The service was uninspired, as in “These People Are Old Farts and Probably Rotten Tippers, Too.” I ordered the Mac & Cheese, made with three cheeses. It was creamy and hot and plentiful. I urge Edmund’s to be a bit daring with this dish. Put it under a broiler for a few minutes to give it a nice brown crust. In fact, the next day I sprinkled buttered breadcrumbs on the heated leftovers and broiled it for two minutes. Not too shabby, if I do say.

My wife ordered fried perch, and we were both pleased with the outcome. The fish was breaded in-house, resulting in a thin, crisp finish that didn’t overpower the taste of the delicate fillets.  

Bottom line: Our experiences at Edmund’s Pastime were hit-and-miss. I’ll go back — for breakfast.