What do you do when you can’t choose between three great St. Croix Valley brunch destinations? You go eat at all of them, of course! Here are some culinary snap-shots of what’s available when breakfast and lunch meet for a mid-morning feast you’ll remember. This trio of local faves attest to the quality and variety of food served in our little nook of the world.
This iconic coffee shop is located in Bayport, Minn. Literally not just a café, this venue serves as a community gathering point, as well as a destination for visitors. Heck, the place smells great before you even go inside!
Although quips and quotes of humor and wisdom are mounted everywhere, the “attitude” this place claims to have is made mellow by antiquarian logos and a fun (even daring) menu. Note that “NJ” (as locals call it) has a relatively small seating capacity, so it’s wise to arrive early or late.
Start with a cup of Joe that’s a dark and authoritative slap on the back that gets things rolling. Then dig into the Monster Mess. This wonderful menu choice (there are also other “messes” to consider) brings together a complete hot breakfast into a single pile of savory ingredients including hash brown, eggs, sausage, bacon, onions, green pepper and tomatoes all generously combined. A side of toast or an English muffin are nice but not necessary to complete this morning feed.
For the more traditional appetite, try the homemade corned beef hash. This mega-sized serving included two eggs and is paired with mellow hash-browns and toast.
Not Justa Cafe is located at 193 3rd St. North in Bayport, and is open from 7 a.m.–2 p.m. every day. Note that if you’d like to follow up your meal with a mid-morning Bloody Mary, you merely have to step over to the adjacent Notjustabar, which is open Monday – Thursday, 10:30 a.m. – 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 a.m., and Sunday from 8:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Gorman’s is a classic small-town gem of an eatery in Lake Elmo, Minn. Historic photos line the walls, and an addition to the building’s quaintly renovated 1909 coal shed sets the scene for this local landmark’s plain good food.
The Big Country Breakfast features traditional ingredients brought to perfection: toast (sourdough for us), fried potatoes, three eggs, and your choice of ham, bacon or sausage complete this classic plate. Come hungry because two large, fluffy pancakes come on the side for a sweet finish to your meal.
Or try the Tex Mex, an irresistible, not-too-spicy blend of fried potatoes, Italian sausage, veggies, pepper jack cheese, salsa and sour cream, all topped with two eggs and served with toast. The all-day selections go on and on. From omelets to biscuits and gravy, if you can’t find tasty, you’re just not ready for brunch.
Gorman’s is located at 11011 Stillwater Blvd., and brunch favorites are available anytime: Monday – Saturday from 6:00 a.m. – 8 p.m., and Sunday from 7:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Try the more formal but not less fun Sunday-only brunch in the historic George Washington room of the Lowell Inn, a landmark of the old-downtown scene in Stillwater, Minn. The elaborate full buffet of rotating items, quietly offered in silver chafing dishes at this elegant venue, inspired us to take a mature view of brunch: we ate everything.
Cheese blintzes prepared with a raspberry reduction manage to pack savory and sweet together in a tender, two-bite pastry. Creamy and just a little chewy.
Mini-vegetarian egg bakes are also a big-taste classic. Cupcake-sized, they’re just a bit crisped on the outside and tender on the inside. Fresh green pepper and tomato add a bright note to this festive creation.
Small fillets of tilapia, lightly seasoned and broiled to perfection are an unexpected surf treat which ushers in the obligatory turf cut of New York strip from the carving station. Tender, flavorful and a little pink in the middle, all as is should be. A mushroom demi or a dollop of horseradish yield interesting variations of flavor to this carnivorous treat.
The choices go on and on. I paired some French toast with a serving of scrambled eggs cooked with cream cheese. Round out things with bacon, sausage or kielbasa. Mac and cheese is a kids’ favorite. Salads and fresh fruit are offered. And don’t forget to try the signature Lowell Inn red cabbage: a trademark side that’s for years helped define this restaurant as a destination for good food.
The Lowell Inn is located at 102 2nd St. N., Stillwater. The brunch buffet is served Sunday only from 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. and features many rotational items. Call in advance if curious what will be on the menu before you go. Note that full beverage service during the event means your favorite cocktail is available to complement your meal.