Friday, May 06, 2011

Rox Star

As a frail grey-haired gentleman slowly eases his way out of the booth, the waitress rushing past with a pot of coffee gently lays her hand on his shoulder, “Don’t hurry, dear,” she says. “Take all the time you need.” A toddler fusses at another table, and she offer the parents a bag of oyster crackers to keep him distracted. She fills a half-empty mug and delivers a hot plate of eggs and toast. Another morning at the Rox.

Located on a stretch of Centre Street in West Roxbury, where insurance agents and nail salons give way to bookstores, bakeries, and funky thrift shops, Rox Diner (formerly Auntie B’s) represents a curious blend of 1950s small-town and 2011 hipster locavorism. The waitresses, wearing t-shirts that read “I Was Born a Scrambling Man” or “Bread Zeppelin,” serve a clientele of families grabbing breakfast after Mass at Holy Name, aging bachelors socializing at the counter, and middle-aged ladies from the neighborhood fortifying themselves with gossip and a side of eggs Benedict. The regulars may not be aware that those eggs come from free-range hens in New Hampshire, that the beef is hormone-free and certified humane, that the bread is made at the esteemed Fornax Bakery. But the food tastes great, and so they return often.

All the morning standards are here, cooked with care: over-easies appropriately runny, bacon nicely crisped, orange juice freshly squeezed. More extravagant offerings include thick brioche French toast oozing with bananas and melted Nutella ($9.95) , blackberry, pecan and mascarpone pancakes ($9.95), and omelet with pear, goat cheese and avocado ($9.95).

The pancakes are especially well-executed, with the lightly crisped exterior that marks an exceptional flapjack. Specialty versions come with real maple syrup, but you have to request the good stuff with a basic stack ($4.95, plus a surcharge of $1.50 for the syrup). Unfortunately, Belgian waffles ($4.95) are not up to the same standard, too soft and floppy to merit the indulgence. Stuffed French toasts (stuffed $9.95, plain $7.50) are gloriously decadent, but the plain thick-cut brioche toast could stand a longer soak in the egg mixture. The center remains bready, rather than custard-like.

There are good options for the health-conscious, including the Juliana (named for a waitress’ daughter), a generous bowl of rich plain yogurt topped with ripe fresh fruit, granola, and a drizzle of honey, served with two eggs and toasted peasant bread ($9.95), and the health-nut French toast, made with multigrain bread nearly invisible under a deluge of pecans, blueberries, and bananas ($9.95).

Although the restaurant offers lunch, breakfast is draw here. On Thursdays it reopens for burger night, a favorite event with kids. The ground beef is certified humane and hormone-free, a full-flavored patty to be topped with standard options or some unusual ones, like smoked paprika mayo (basic burger, $6.25). Almost-too-thick-for-a-straw milkshakes and crisp onions rings can’t be beat.

The next time you’re in the mood for an all-American plate of eggs and bacon or a burger with the works, skip the chrome and neon flash of the mall diner chains and experience the real McCoy. Your maiden visit won’t be your last - and don’t be surprised if the waitresses say hello when you return. They’re like that.

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