Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Restaurant Review – Banners Restaurant – Conway, NH

Background – We spent the day before riding the Cog Railway and stayed in North Conway for the night.  In the morning we looked for a good place for breakfast, and a very good place we found.

Arrival – We arrived at about 9:30 on a Sunday morning and they were busy.  We had about a ten-minute wait before being seated.

Pre-ordering – The server arrived quickly with cups and a pot of coffee right away. We sais yes to the coffee and ordered "waters with lemon," and a Mimosa. The arrived quickly--about the time we were ready to order.   

Ordering – There were so many luscious sounding items available.  My wife struggled between the traditional Eggs Benedict and Florentine and Irish versions. I wrestled with several omelets and "biscuits and gravy."  I ordered the Biscuits and Gravy and my wife chose the traditional Eggs Benedict.

Traditional Eggs Benedict at Banners
 Food – The food arrived quickly and without incident and was amazing. My eggs were perfect with no crackle around the edges, the home-made gravy was among the best I’ve ever had. The home fries were cooked thoroughly and very tasty. My wife’s eggs were perfect. Gordon Ramsey would have said they had the perfect ooze when cut into. The Hollandaise sauce was smooth and tasty. The perfect complement to the eggs.

The check arrived with perfect timing. All-in-all it was one of the best breakfast experiences ever and certainly the best in several months.

Ratings: 4.8

Ambiance: 4 (Clean and open, not so noisy, even when busy, and we were able to have conversations.)
Food: 5 (Every item was cooked perfectly.) 
Service: 5 (Server was friendly and attentive.)
Price: 5 (Our breakfasts were under $10.50 each, not including drinks, and had plenty of food.)
Value: 5 (A 5-Star breakfast for a one-$ price.)

Conclusion: We really liked Banners and will return anytime we are in the Conway, North Conway area.


Banners Restaurant 621 White Mountain HwyConway, NH 03818


Monday, March 11, 2019

More isn’t necessarily better.

Restaurant Review: Nonesuch River Brewing

Don Taylor

It is rare that I think more of something isn’t better, but that was the case at lunch at Nonesuch River Brewing.

Thin Onion Rings at Nonesuch River Brewing
My wife and I arrived at an off time, about 3 PM, and were two of about eight customers in the restaurant. To get things started, we ordered drinks and an appetizer of thin onion rings. The onion rings came with a chipotle aioli drizzled on the top along with fresh slivered scallions.  I liked the scallions; they were flavorful. The chipotle aioli was tasty. I wish it had come on the side rather than on the onion rings because the aioli did an excellent job of off-setting the greasy onion rings – and they were greasy. It was one of the few times that we didn’t eat the entire order of onion rings.

Backyard Farms Tomatos BLT
at Nonesuch River Brewing
Before we finished our appetizer, our sandwiches arrived. My wife got the Backyard Farms Tomato BLT with a mixed green salad; I ordered the Beer Battered Haddock Sandwich with garlic fries.

Both sandwiches came on delicious ciabatta bread, toasted nicely. It is March, and although Backyard Farms Tomatoes promotes that their produce is good year-round, the tomatoes on her sandwich weren’t quite ripe. Also, there were two strips of thick cut bacon.  The bacon was thick and tough to bite through. We would have preferred thinner bacon, but more of it.  Likewise, my Haddock Sandwich came with a huge thick chunk of fish.  A thinner, but broader, piece that would have fit the bread, and my mouth, would have been much better. The coleslaw was okay, but there was too much tartar sauce for the sandwich. They should have served the tartar on the side.  The garlic fries were plain fries where someone apparently squeezed some minced garlic out of a jar and then mixed the fries slightly. They still had several clumps of garlic stuck together and weren't mixed throughout the serving. They weren’t worth the upcharge.

Beer Battered Haddock Sandwich
at Nonesuch River Brewing
The seating was hard wooden benches along one wall with hard chairs across from them.  Shortly after we sat down one of the wait people started moving the tables and chairs on that wall into a configuration they wanted them in.  Ten minutes later, a different staff person moved the table and chairs back to where they had been. I found the constant moving of tables and chairs around us interruptive and unnecessary.

I found the food pretentious in a beer pub environment. The price was also high for pub food. An $18 haddock sandwich and a $15 BLT should be amazing; they were not. I doubt we’ll be back.

Rating – 3.4

Ambiance: 4 (Clean and open, probably very noisy when they are busy.)
Food: 3 (Bacon was too thick, fish thicker than it should be and had too much tartar sauce.)
Service: 4 (Server was friendly.)
Price: 3 (Lunch was about $17 each, not including drinks)
Value: 3 (I thought the food wasn’t up to the amount charged.)

Final Comment. 

Nonesuch River Brewing has a mug club and brews eight different beers from an IPA to a Stout. I did not sample the different beers and did not have an opinion about NRB's various beers.


201 Gorham Road
Scarborough, ME 04074

Monday, November 12, 2018

G's Cafe, Anoka - Restaurant Review

While I was in Minnesota, one of my good friends suggested G’s Café in Anoka for breakfast. It was a bit of a drive (about 10 miles) from Ham Lake to Anoka, but the food and service were well worth the trip.


We arrived a bit later than the typical breakfast time and the Café only had a couple other patrons so seating was easy. We ordered coffee and began reviewing the menu.  

G's Cafe - Interior
G’s has an Irish theme to the restaurant. Because of that, I decided to try the “Irish Skillet” – Fried corned beef with hash browns, onions, green peppers, and tomato. Topped with two eggs and Hollandaise. It was served with toast, but I opted for the English muffin. My companion settled on 2 eggs over easy with bacon and a pancake.


My skillet was one of the better skillets I’ve ever had. Clearly, the hash browns were started, then the corned beef was added. Then the onions and peppers, finally the tomato was added to warm them but not make them soggy and overcooked. The tomato added a brightness to an otherwise rich dish. The eggs were as expected, but the Hollandaise sauce was amazing. Very flavorful, rich but light, smooth and creamy. There was enough corned beef to taste it but not so much as to overpower the rest of the ingredients.  

My companion’s bacon was beautiful – crispy and long, exactly the way he likes it. The eggs were a perfect over easy and his pancake was good.

Service was excellent. Our server anticipated our needs for more coffee and condiments.


Ambiance: 4 (Clean and open, good for conversations.)
Food: 5 (Every item was cooked perfectly.) 
Service: 5 (Server was friendly and attentive.)
Price: 5 (Breakfasts average under $10, not including drinks)
Value: 5 (I really felt it was great food at a reasonable price with excellent service.)


The only detraction is that parking can be difficult in downtown Anoka. There is on-street parking along Maine Street and there is a small lot with space for about a dozen vehicles next door. As a last resort, there is a municipal lot about a block and a half away that offers free parking for three hours.


I liked it. I will definitely return anytime I’m in Anoka. Hopefully, next time I’ll be there for lunch and can try their Reuben, it looks yummy.

G’s Café222 E Main St Ste 101
Anoka, MN 55303

Friday, October 26, 2018

Ole Piper Inn - Blaine, Minnesota

During my recent visit to Minnesota, I was able to try the breakfast at the Ole Piper Inn in Blaine.

We arrived at the end of the breakfast rush and before the lunch service began (about 10:30). We were seated quickly and were able to order coffee right away.  I was surprised to see that a spoon was not included in our silverware set, which consisted of a knife, fork, and a smallish paper napkin. After the coffee was brought, I used my knife to stir my cream into the coffee. The waitress didn’t ask me if I wanted a spoon for my coffee, finally, when she refilled the cups asked for one.

I was hungry and ordered the Chicken Fried Steak with eggs, I added the cheese and onions to my hash browns and substituted “biscuits and gravy” for the 3 pancakes. My friend ordered a sausage omelet (actually, it was a “Ham and Cheese” omelet with sausage substituted). As a side, he too opted for the “biscuits and gravy.”

Food arrived in a reasonable time for breakfast.


My Chicken Fried Steak was greasy on the bottom and the coating was quite doughy. It was also one of the smallest chicken fried steak portions I've ever had. The gravy pretty good, not as spicy as I’d like, but okay.  The single biscuit in the “biscuits and gravy” was horrible. It is the kind of biscuit that gives southerners the notion that Yankees can’t do biscuits. It is rare that I don’t eat my entire meal, but even I couldn’t eat this biscuit, so I left most of the biscuit on my plate and used some of the gravy to spice up my potatoes. The tiny sprinkling of cheese and a splat of onions on top was what the $1.25 upcharge provided. No onions in the hash browns, just a splat on top. Also, the hash browns were only barely browned on the top only.

My companion was happy with his sausage omelet. He said the sausage was spicy and tasty.  Too bad the same sausage isn’t used in the sausage gravy. He, too, found the biscuit very doughy and not very good.


Ambiance: 4 (Clean and open -- booth seats were comfortable.)
Food: 2 (horrid biscuits and greasy chicken fried steak.)
Service: 3 (Server should notice that when a person orders coffee and cream that the customer will want a spoon to stir it.)
Price: 3 (Breakfast and coffee ran $34.00 plus tip. lots of upcharges that weren't worth the amount.)
Value: 3 

With so many places north of the Cities serving breakfast, I can not imagine ever returning to the Old Piper Inn for breakfast.


Ole Piper Inn
1416 93rd Lane NE
Blaine, MN 55449

Monday, October 22, 2018

Keys Café & Bakery

Restaurant Review

When I lived in Minnesota, I probably drove past Keys Café & Bakery every week and I never stopped there for a meal.  There are nine Keys Café restaurants in Minnesota/Wisconsin area and although I had heard of them before, I had never eaten at one. Was that ever a mistake – I wish I had eaten there many times before. My friend, Doug, said Keys was very good, so we went to the Spring Lake Park location for breakfast one morning while I was visiting Minnesota recently.

We arrived at the peak of the breakfast rush, about 10 am on a Sunday morning. The place was packed and had a waiting list. We were told it would be about a 10 to 15-minute wait. I was pleased when we were seated in about 10 minutes. The person apologized for seating us in a smaller two-person table and assured that we were okay with the smaller size. We were.

Service at Keys was top notch. After being seated, our waitress, Lauren G., asked what we would like to drink and given menus to review. The manager (or owner?) arrived very quickly with our coffees and waters. Shortly after we lowered our menus Lauren returned to take our orders.

I decided upon a Greek Omelet, three eggs with gyro meat, onions, tomato, black olives, and feta, served with tzatziki sauce and hash browns. Doug decided on the “Loon Omelet,” three eggs with Minnesota wild rice, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, provolone, and a mushroom cream sauce. It sounded very exotic in a Minnesota way.  

"Loon Omelet"
The food arrived quickly, even in the ultra-busy time, and was amazing. The omelets were made very thin, the way they should be made, with lots of filling added and rolled nicely. The tzatziki sauce was on the side as was the “Keys Jam” – a homemade jelly much like a cranberry applesauce. Very tasty. I had the “Cranberry Wild Rice” toast for $1.00 more.  It was good, but lacked any of the texture I was hoping for from the wild rice or the taste I expected from cranberries. The Keys Jam helped save the toast, which I wouldn't pay extra for again.

Doug thought his “Loon Omelet” was excellent, lots of filling and a great mushroom cream sauce that covered the omelet.

The hash browns were uninspired and a bit underdone for my taste as was Doug’s English Muffin.

Lauren came by about a minute after we received our food to assure that we had everything we wanted and or needed and to freshen our coffee.  I could not have asked for better service; her service was a pleasure.

Checkout was at the register by the entrance. It was a little hectic with people checking out and people crowded, waiting for seats. But again, the manager was double checked that everything was good with our meal.  


Ambiance: 4 (Clean and open, good for conversations.)
Food: 4 (The omelets were excellent; the sides were mostly fine.
Service: 5 (Server was friendly and attentive.)
Price: 4 (Breakfast omelets were $12 (+$1 for special toast) and $12.50, a bit high for breakfast.
Value: 4 

The Keys Café philosophy is simple, “Memorable service and absolutely the best food… breakfasts…. Created from scratch recipes ‘you grew up with.’” Their service was memorable in a good way and their food was delicious with just a touch of the exotic. I’ll certainly include Keys Café in my breakfast places whenever I am in Minnesota.


Keys Café & Bakery - SPRING LAKE PARK
8299 University Avenue NE
Spring Lake Park, MN 55432