Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Very Odd Biscuit At Mrs. J's Restaurant

For the last four months, I have found myself in need of a good meal while in downtown Orrville, Ohio. While I have already written about Jerry's and Ming Hing, I never seemed to be in town at the right time for another local restaurant, Mrs. J's. Apparently Mrs. J's is only open for breakfast and lunch and as I am normally in Orrville in the evenings, I have never had the opportunity to dine there until today. Since there was a sizable gap between when our musical group warmed up and when we were to play, I decided to head on over and check them out.

Located at 114 North Main Street, Orrville, OH 44667, they can also be reached at 330-683-0666. There was currently no website at the time of this writing. Parking was a breeze as Orrville was kind of a sleepy little town and even during the Sunday breakfast rush, there was plenty of streetside parking available.

Here was a shot of the exterior of the restaurant:


Once inside, I was greeted with a long and narrow dining room. To the left was the grill area and a counter area with barstools. To the right was a long line of booths running from the front to the back of the space. It was fairly full at 9:15 AM, but there was a booth open towards the back. There was no sign telling you to wait for a server or seat yourself, so I sort of lingered at the front of the door for a minute or so and when no one made an obvious attempt to walk towards me, I just decided it must be self-seating.

Fortunately, at every table were a number of menus already waiting, so while I waited for my server to come over, I started perusing the menu. Here were some shots of the menu:





I noted how the food listed on the menu matched the feel of the restaurant, both were basic and simple. Not knowing if I could even get a sandwich at 9:15 AM, I decided to stick with the breakfast foods category. My server finally returned with my glass of water and a fresh cup of black coffee:


I will say this about Mrs. J's coffee, it's fresh and not bitter at all. And I was never in want of a refill as all of the servers walked around offering to top off your glass.

For my breakfast I decided to go with something I haven't had in a while, biscuits and sausage gravy. The menu proudly advertised that it was homemade. Sadly I should've realized that the "homemade" adjective only applied to the sausage gravy and not the biscuits. After a few minutes, my breakfast arrived at my table:


As you can see from the photo above, the halved biscuits were pretty much smothered in the sausage gravy. Of course, the first thing I did was to taste the gravy. I could immediately tell that this was freshly made as the milk flavor sang through the sauce. The sausage was also nicely spiced as well. Sadly, that's where the love stops for this plate of food. I was a bit shocked that when I ate my first spoonful of gravy that is was barely lukewarm. The biscuits I expected to be room temperature, not the gravy. The gravy also had a strange sweetness to it that didn't play all that well with the spice from the sausage.

And in what turned out to be the strangest flavor in all of this were the biscuits. After managing to dig out a biscuit from the onslaught of gravy, I tried a bit by itself and I could swear it tasted like vanilla. The biscuit wasn't sweet, per se, but the scent of vanilla kept hitting my palate with every bite. Even when I paired it with the more strongly seasoned sausage gravy, I could still tell it was there. Texturally, the biscuit also fell short; it was more cake than flake. When I asked my server about the biscuits, she confessed that while the gravy was made every day in-house, the biscuits were outsourced from someplace else.

With my biscuits and gravy, I also decided to get a side of the freshly cut homefries. Here was what I received with my breakfast:


While these were cooked all of the way through, these were grossly underseasoned and in need of some additional contact time with the flat-top grill. I guess what I was missing was their sense of character. I don't normally put ketchup on hash browns/homefries, but in this case, I did and it helped out somewhat.

The bill, clocking in at a very reasonable $7.39, was paid at the front of the restaurant at the cashier's register. I have to give a marginal pass to Mrs. J's Restaurant. While the atmosphere felt very down home in an everybody - knows - your - name kind of way and the price of my meal was decent, the food was only so-so. Hopefully they'll rethink the whole making the biscuits from scratch instead of using someone else's, because that really was the weakest part of my meal today. The homefries could easily be fixed by adding seasoning and cooking them a little bit longer on the grill.

While I certainly wouldn't recommend you driving any further than ten minutes to get to Mrs. J's, if you happen to be in Orrville and in need of breakfast or lunch, definitely give them some thought. While you might not be blown away by the flavors, you'll definitely leave with a full stomach and a not-so-empty wallet.

Mrs J's on Urbanspoon

5 comments:

Janice said...

I think your words are kind. Good sausage gravy and biscuits are impossible to find. Sadly, my experience at Mrs. J's was no exception. Gross would be my word of choice. You took a nice approach by mentioning the atmosphere of the restaurant and to me that shows a professional opinion. In my feeble layman terms all I can come up with is gross. Thanks for your perfectly chosen words.

Tino said...

@Janice: Thanks for the comment. Sometimes it's as much about what you don't say directly than what you do. Clearly you got my message.

Red Rider Sports Blog (Tim Snyder) said...

thanks for all the recent writing on Orrville. Mrs J's is the local "greasy spoon," nothing too amazing, but a good place to fill up in the morning and catch up on the talk of the town.

Only two other places in town do breakfast (Dravenstotts and The Mill, which is inside Buehler's market)...both on West High St.

I think the restaurants in Orrville are very much like the town....meat and potatoes, nothing flashy.

Tino said...

@Red Rider: I thought about leaving your comment alone, but I think you raise an important point and I want to make sure I am very clear about my intent here on Exploring Food My Way.

When I eat at a restaurant, especially a little mom and pop place like Mrs. J's, I am not judging it against a fancier and more expensive version of the same thing in, say, downtown Cleveland. However, once I finish the meal and start reflecting on my experience, you begin to realize that you can't eat the same kind of food at multiple establishments without starting to compare experiences.

To be sure, I love a good greasy spoon. See my reviews on The Big Egg, Wally Waffle, The Enchanted Cafe, The Golden Goose, and my upcoming review of Twig's Diner in Barberton if you want just several examples. However, just because the food isn't fancy, doesn't mean I can let the details slide. If I didn't hold every food experience up to the same level, that of being well seasoned and properly prepared food, then the words you read here on my blog would be worthless.

I love the fact that the residents of Orrville have a local place like Mrs. J's to catch up with each other. I'd love it even more if they also had a place that put as much effort as they can into making the food everything it could be.

Red Rider Sports Blog (Tim Snyder) said...

No arguement from me. From what I read, you're just as comfortable in a mom & pop place as anywhere else. To you it's about the food. I get that.

In a way, I was lamenting the lack of "good eats" in Orrville and the need for some more places. The mexican place on Main St. does a mint on the weekend because it's unique, not because it has the best food around. We're desperate for something unique (and good) that others in the surrounding area may consider a drive to Orrville.

Head south of town (almost to Rt. 30) and try a place called Bishops...great, great onion rings.

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