04 March 2013

Sonny's

ojos grandes
Dining Date: 03.03.13
Eatery: Sonny’s on the corner of Middle and Exchange, in the back of Post Office Park
Web: Sonny's Restaurant & Bar
Pricing Category: Moderately Priced Fare
Guest Critic: We are pleased to introduce Serious Black…the new semi-permanent fourth member of The Breakfast Club
 

Overall Grade: A-

The Lowdown:


- The restaurant is in the old historic Portland Savings Bank building, so the d├ęcor is beautiful and unique…complete with huge windows overlooking the park, marble mosaic floors, and the original bank vaults.


- Sonny’s has a Latin American influence, so be prepared for muchos frijoles on el menu. Also, Sonny’s definitely puts the “unch” in “brunch” and you’ll find far more savory than sweet here.


- Ladies: Be warned…the mirror-mounted soap dispenser may shoot short women in the eye.


- There were a couple of service issues to make note of. First, the food took about 45 minutes to arrive, and the restaurant was fairly full, but not busy enough to have a wait list. Making up for this, our server was apologetic, checked in with us more than once, and offered us a free round of “adult beverages” to fill the void. HUGE bonus points there. Second, throughout the almost two hours we were there, they were incredibly inattentive when it came to coffee refills. In fact, each refill that was given had to be requested.

The Food:


The Benny Girl
-Ojos Grandes (baked eggs, potatoes, black beans, manchego, and salsa verde with corn tortilla chips), and a Classic Bloody (well, two of them…but one was free)
-Grade: A

While Sonny’s menu is a little more “lunchy” than I would normally prefer; as a fan of beans and salsa, I was definitely excited to give it a shot. Latin American fare isn’t known for being heavy on the gluten (!!!), so fortunately there were few modifications that needed to be made. I didn’t even need to nix the manchego, since sheep’s cheese is on the “a-okay” list for me. I had them substitute the cornbread for corn tortilla chips and assure me there’d be no butter anywhere, and we were good to go! The meal was really good, piping hot (the whole thing is baked in the oven), and had a pretty perfect ratio of components. The potatoes could’ve been cooked a little more (maybe a tad of crispiness?) and the eggs a little less, but all-in-all, this meal was delicious. I especially appreciated the garnish of lightly-pickled purple cabbage on top. A lovely pop of color, and tasty to boot. I would definitely order it again.

I had mixed feelings about the bloody, however. On one hand, the presence of vodka was above average (always a plus!), but it could have used a little more spiciness and flavor. It tasted a little too much like eating straight tomatoes. And while I was excited about the pepperoncini in there, I’d have been more excited if all my garnishes were on a spear. I’m not a huge fan of digging through ice for the coveted olive. But the second bloody was much better…because nothing tastes more delicious than free booze! (But in all seriousness, huge props to Sonny’s and our server for offering us a free round of drinks for the long wait…that was handled incredibly well.)

The Usual

-Farmer’s Egg (eggs over rice & beans, side of cornbread), Coffee, Bloody Mary
-Grade: A

Ahh yes, our triumphant return to review-hood....Turns out, Sonny’s was a great place to ease back into the action. Yes, we certainly eased into it as we leisurely slurped bloody marys and wondered where our food was. But really, never mind that, they had me at “we’re so sorry it’s taking so long, can we get you a round of drinks for your trouble?” Alcohol PLUS more alcohol PLUS delicious food makes for a happy review from me. I had initially ordered the special of the day, a scramble with pork belly, mushrooms and gouda, but they had already run out, so I changed course and ordered what amounts to “The Usual” in Sonny terms, no homefries or toast, rice & beans and cornbread instead. I may have traded up, because my meal was absolutely delicious. The eggs: seasoned and cooked to perfection, lounging atop tasty beans and slightly gummy (yet delicious) rice. The cornbread: heavy on cornmeal (rather than flour) and light on sweetness-- that block of goodness was heavenly. We did agree that bloody garnishes benefit from a toothpick spear or some other lasso-ing technique as we steadfastly  fished around the ice for our olives. Housemade hot sauces topped off a lovely meal spent listening to Wild Toast slur stories and slurp tequila as the rest of us downed our spicy vodka bevies. Stellar service (minus infrequent coffee refills) and tastytown food, well done Mr Sonny. Well done.
 

Wild Toast
-Huevos Rancheros, Coffee, Bloody Maria
-Grade: A-

I don’t know where the name Sonny’s comes from, but I like it. It says “come on in, make yourself at home, and by all means stay a while”. We did just that. Sundays are for chilaxin, long country drives, and of course brunch with friends! Well, relax and kick back we did. I pulled out my “wild card” and ordered up a Bloody Maria. (made with Tequila!) Our waitress was attentive, and friendly, apologetic when necessary, and overall quite the pro. As you’ve read, we had a bit of a wait for our meals, however, we were graciously offered a complimentary 2nd round of Bloody’s. (at this point I was only ⅔ through with my first Tequila blasted beverage. Had I not been doped up on my current imbibery I probably would have asked for the standard Bloody for round 2..... but, one need not bed with bitter bees, nor coddle a cast-aside caltrop, so Maria was made mine once again and the wait became much more bearable, and fuzzy...) Upon arrival of our meals a chorus of cheers went ‘round. A nice array of house-made hot sauces were delivered upon request (quite delicious and spicy) which all complimented my meal quite nicely. My eggs were over-easy and went down easy-peasy. The tortillas bedded down nicely with my beans, and all sat atop a nice rice mattress. The other note I would make was the lovely house-made salsa that topped this plate of tasty. Quite delicious! Overall, I would say Sonny’s was a plus and I’m glad I got a nice post-brunch walk in to burn off all of those Bloody Maria’s!
 

Serious Black
- Biscuits and Gravy, 2 eggs over-easy, Coffee, Complimentary Cucumber Bloody Mary
- Grade: B+

 
I'm not overly fond of rice and I know that there are a few billion people that would disagree with me but I really don't want it to be the first thing in my stomach. There's a lot of rice on the breakfast side of the menu, so that left me with the biscuits and gravy, something I love but tend to avoid in a non-southern restaurant. The temptation to get "creative" and ruin what should be a simple and pure dish is one that often proves to be too much for many chefs, and I don't want a chef cooking my biscuits and gravy, I want a guy named Bubba. Or Skeeter. Thankfully Sonny's did not take the bait and served up a thoroughly acceptable plate of b's and g. Although the chorizo was a little heavy on the cumin for my taste and the gravy a little on the thick side, the homemade biscuit was actually quite good, everything a biscuit should be. The eggs were closer to medium but the major offense was in the placement, sandwiched between the top of the biscuit and the gravy laden under-biscuit. Top and bottom both with gravy and the eggs off to the side is the preferred presentation if you ask the Bubbas of the world.

03 March 2013

WE’RE BAAAAACCCCKKKK!!!


Yes, you read that correctly: The Portland Breakfast Club is officially back in action! The Usual and Wild Toast have recently moved back to Maine from the State-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named, to find The Benny Girl anxiously awaiting their return with fork and tea infuser in hand. We live about 40 minutes apart now; so while we won’t be reviewing weekly, we can definitely guarantee you won’t have to wait another three years to hear from us again.

A lot can happen in three years (cough, cough, Porthole, rats), so there are some changes we’d like to let you know about…

First, Benny Girl has found herself a Benny Boy, and he is now a semi-permanent member of our most exclusive club. Please help us in welcoming Mr. Serious Black, the surliest of the bunch.

Second, speaking of Benny Girl…she can no longer eat benedicts and is having a bit of an identity crisis. A little over a year ago, Benny found out she can not eat gluten or dairy. Now, she’s one of “those people.” Good news? All of you who are in the same boat now have a guinea pig to test out which places are dietary-restriction-friendly. Even better news? We guarantee her dietary needs will create endless fodder for entertaining reviews for you to read. We'll let her explain herself and how she plans to keep on churning out balls-to-the-walls reviews: 
I should probably take a minute to explain how this will all work for me now. First, I can’t eat benedicts anymore (sniffle). And second, I basically have no choices when it comes to what I get to eat. When dining out, I start by scanning the whole menu and choosing the one or two options that sound the easiest to modify…and then I launch into my list of questions for the server. Just when you thought The Benny Girl was as high-maintenance as possible, she went and got herself two VERY limiting dietary restrictions…especially at breakfast. This should be fun.
Whew, obviously this will make things a bit...interesting around here. 

Last, and perhaps the most shocking, The Usual now eats meat…a lot. And sometimes will take her eggs less than over-hard. In other words, she doesn’t mind the occasional egg splooge these days.

And oh yeah…The Usual and Wild Toast are getting married this summer.
It’s good to be back…