Saturday, February 16, 2013

Em's Kitchen

Driving down Hawthorne Avenue, you'll see a small blue  sign for Em's Kitchen on the side of road. Sharing a building with Hawthorne Drugs, you may have written it off as one of those frozen burger type of soda fountains that pharmacies often have on their premises for their hungry customers.  Yet you won't find a counter of greasy burgers at Em's Kitchen.  Instead you'll find made-from-scratch pimento cheese sandwiches, pound cake like your grandma used to make, and, starting a few weeks ago, one of the most best brunches in Athens.  

When my daughter was a baby, Hawthorne Drugs was the only pharmacy in town that could make her compound medicine.  During one monthly drug pick-up, my husband noticed Em's Kitchen on the other side of the store, and decided to give it a try.  I received a very excited text message that day from him, proclaiming that he just found the best pimento cheese he's ever had.  Since then, he's sampled their many offerings (Cuban, Egg Salad, Fruit & Nut Chicken Salad, homemade Brunswick stew, etc.), and has loved them all.  Unfortunately for me, Em's Kitchen's hours have always catered to the business crowd: they were only open for breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday.  Since I'm a stay-at-home mom living on the other side of town, I've never had the chance to eat there. 

Last week, a friend of mine told me some exciting news: Em's Kitchen had started serving brunch on Saturdays and it was delicious.  Brunch just happens to be my favorite meal (breakfast and lunch combined, what's not to love?!), and a brunch offered on a Saturday is as rare in Athens as a Florida Gator fan.  So the very next Saturday, my family headed over to Em's Kitchen bright and early to try out the brunch ourselves. 

Em's Kitchen has a bright and cheerful atmosphere, which to me is an important aspect of any restaurant that serves food in the mornings.  Well, that and coffee, which they do serve, and Jittery Joes at that.  

Their brunch menu has something for everyone: waffles, eggs, grits, quiche, pancakes, even a breakfast pizza.  Our table settled on Eggs Benedict, pimento cheese grits & biscuits, waffles, and pancakes.

The woman at our neighboring table had ordered the breakfast pizza, and it smelled and looked so good, I almost grabbed it from her and absconded with it.  So while none of us ordered it personally, I can say that I witnessed it from afar, and it looked amazing.

Since this was only the second brunch ever served at Em's Kitchen, they were still working out some kinks. The chef forgot that the grits were supposed to be served on top of biscuits, and an ordered water was never delivered.  Yet all of these things are expected in the beginning of a new service, so we weren't bothered.  What was important to us was the taste, and Em's Kitchen knocked it out of the park. 

The eggs in the Eggs Benedict were perfectly poached, something that most breakfast and brunch restaurants rarely manage to do.  The Hollandaise sauce was phenomenal, with just the right amount of it on top of the eggs, and ham was cooked slightly crispy. It was served on wheat English muffins, which I appreciated from a healthy standpoint.

The waffles were cooked perfectly; they were crispy on the outside and chewy and soft on the inside. It was topped with delicious fruit, whipped butter, and was served with a great tasting maple syrup on the side.  

Even though it wasn't on the menu, we ordered one plain pancake for our toddler, and while it didn't have any special embellishments (because we ordered it that way), it was a one delicious pancake.  My toddler enjoyed it immensely  and I appreciated that they were able to go off-menu and be accommodated.

The final dish was suppose to be two open-faced biscuits topped with pimento cheese grits, but as I mentioned earlier, there was a hiccup with the order.  Instead we got a bowl of the grits, and later two biscuits on the side.  However, it didn't put a damper on the dish or our appetites.  The pimento cheese grits were out-of-this world good, and the biscuits were fantastic.  

The only thing better than the food at Em's Kitchen are the prices.  The most expensive item on the entire menu is $5.09, with most dishes being $4.99.  You get plenty of food and flavor for under five dollars; a great deal that is hard to find nowadays.  

The combination of cheery decor, great prices, delicious food, and accommodating service means that I finally found my new Athens Brunch Spot.  Maybe I'll see you there!

Em's Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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