Classless Chaps

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In college, breakfast eaten out is the domain of Parents’ Weekend and hungover Sundays when you cannot withstand the dining hall’s babbling masses. In college, breakfast out comprises white tablecloths, delicately poached eggs drizzled over with hollandaise sauce — or else sausage and bacon and eggs and extra-large pancakes doused in maple syrup that make an iffy stomach feel yummmmm. Chaps, the new breakfast joint on Chapel St, accomplishes neither goal.

To be fair, this food reviewer had consumed an exceptional Gheav #10 the night before (bagel, lox, cream cheese, tomato; hold the onion). If this were a review of that sandwich, it would be 500 words of “oh my goooooddddddddd” interspersed with “I’m gonna be so fat in the morning but I don’t even caaaaare”. But, alas, it is not.

So considering how good my 2 a.m. meal was the night before, Chaps had a lot to live up to. Morning-after food should be almost as good as night-of food, but Chaps was nothing special. In fact, it made for a rather confusing dining experience.

Walking in the door, you think to yourself, “Yeah, this could be my brunch place.” The décor is low-key and comfortably distasteful. The blackboard drawings lining the walls are baffling — one advertises a French toast special that doesn’t actually exist, while another features a drawing of an Egyptian monarch. The caption reads simply, “Cleopatra.” Many of the menu items have kitschy names like, “The Freshman” or “The Professor.” Plus, it’s cheap. You never see $5 on a menu in this town.

Let’s start with the coffee. Coffee: a staple of any Sunday morning, right? It was cold. Self-serve and cold. Strangely, when the staff was alerted and the coffee machine plugged in, the flavor, which was originally kind of hazelnutty and okay, deteriorated to “if nuclear fallout were put in a styrofoam cup.”

The table service was similarly uncomfortable. When I asked if it would be possible have an order of pancakes, half cheesecake-flavored, half banana, it required a full minute and a half to explain and re-explain my request. Our waiter returned a few minutes later to tell me that I’d “gotten him in trouble” for the complicated order. I started apologizing and offering to go tell the chef to not yell at the waiter, and he was like, “No, it’s fine, I just thought you should know you got me in trouble.” And I was like, “….” The whole thing was really weird. It also took forever to get the check, which may have been payback.

The food was better than the coffee, though a little tainted by the stressful ordering experience. In a nod to healthy eating, my companions and I split a fruit bowl. To Chaps’ credit, the cantaloupe was great, full of flavor and not at all crunchy. Ditto the strawberries. Without any sarcasm, whoever is on fruit-selection duty is doing a bang-up job.

Chaps’ Western omelet left something to be desired, though, choked up in an excess of grease. And it wasn’t fatty in a good, “our diet starts tomorrow” way; it was more of a “why are my eggs crispy yet soaked?” deal. The mushrooms were good, so 2/2 on the produce.

Chaps does hit the right note with their pancakes and French toast. So the “banana pancakes” were regular pancakes topped with sliced banana. Okay. They were nice and fluffy, great for plain pancakes. The cheesecake pancakes, a cross between a Danish and a pancake, get points for inventiveness, although the cheese portion was a little dry. We accept it, move on.

The cream cheese and fruit-stuffed French toast is where it’s at. Decadent yet not sickeningly sweet, this is the one to order. Plus: your plate comes decorated with little whipped cream peaks topped with strawberries. Let’s say it together: yummm.

While not the worst breakfast I’ve ever had (I may go back for the pancakes), Chaps certainly hasn’t managed to fill the void left by Copper Kitchen’s closure last year. Next weekend, I’ll probably just brave the dining hall.

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