AM26: Iron Horse Tavern (SMF)

5AM / 10/06/2022

Thursday morning I was off and up out. I thought it would be a nice opportunity to finally visit a restaurant in Terminal A at SMF. Almost six years ago I checked out Cafeteria 15L in terminal B. Today I visited Iron Horse Tavern, which is sort of the main dining option in this original terminal. There are a couple other eateries here including Freshii and Squeeze Inn, but this early in the morning the tavern and Peet’s Coffee is pretty much your selection. Peet’s always seems to have an enormous line so it was kind of nice to just stroll on in to this place and seat myself. There is a little island of a bar directly out front of the main dining area. A worker was just getting started prepping it for the day when I was heading out to my gate.

I arrived at the airport right about at 5AM, breezed through security like a leaf on the wind (watch as I soar), and headed straight from security into the food court, which is just past the checkpoint. Despite checking the hours ahead of time, I was a little worried as I approached because it looked like they might have been closed, however once I got closer I spotted people inside.

Taking my seat, with a nice view of the tarmac, I was greeted right away by the single server working at the time. As I looked at the menu QR code on the table and started to reach for my phone she brought a physical menu and took my drink order, a cup of coffee ($3.74). I looked at the breakfast section, which consisted of 4 items:

  • Breakfast Burrito (scrambled eggs, bacon, potatoes, cheese, salsa, guacamole)[$16.68]
  • Breakfast Plate (scrambled eggs, your choice of bacon or sausage, red peppers, onions, served with breakfast potatoes)[$17.79]
  • Egg & Cheese Bagel Sandwich [$16.68]
  • Bacon, Egg & Cheese Bagel Sandwich [$16.68]

The menu felt FAR more interesting when I had looked at it online. The website doesn’t actually acknowledge the airport location now that I look back at it again. Just the Sacramento and Folsom locations. I don’t really blame it.

While they will customize your order a bit, the limitations are fast and firm. As I overheard the table near me attempt to order a breakfast item with a dairy-free request, the server basically explained that pretty much everything is pre-prepared. That customer ended up leaving empty handed. I ended up ordering the burrito as-is. As only assembly was required I expected this to arrive very quickly. It ended up taking about 8 minutes, a little longer than I would have thought necessary.

I was delighted by the unexpected tater tots that accompanied it. They were golden crispy but I think even these are made in a large batch and staged in a buffet type heat tray until needed. This assumption was based on the temperature, which was somewhere between warm and hot, and how some of them were a bit mangled by whatever serving utensil was used to scoop them up. They were a decent little crunchy side to have, although they weren’t terribly notable otherwise.

The burrito was fairly small, smaller than any other burrito at this price point for sure, but also smaller than most burritos in general I would say. It’s perhaps a little bit more substantial than a beefy 5-layer burrito at Taco Bell. The good: it was constructed extremely well. Every bite had a little bit of everything, the tortilla was soft yet held together well all the way to the end without getting gummy. The OK: The eggs really dominated the flavor followed by tiny amounts of bacon, which added small bursts of saltiness, which the burrito otherwise lacked. The bad: This thing was pretty bland and totally uniform in texture. I would not go so far to describe this meal as enjoyable.

My server was very busy the entire time, yet stopped by frequently enough and refilled my coffee when it was about half empty. As bare-bones as the service is here, it was good. Overall though this place was extremely disappointing, especially when compared to my Terminal B experience. It’s really just an incredibly basic cafeteria masquerading as a full service restaurant. Perhaps the lunch/dinner experience is more worthwhile.

Side note: this post was made completely on the road with an iPad, and I hated every minute of it. Serves me right for trying to travel light. Put MacOS on the iPad already, Apple!


AM25: Window Box Cafe

9AM -7/30/2022

This morning I woke up unusually early for a Saturday and scrapped plans to do a post about ice cream spots (probably next week now) and instead headed down to Window Box Cafe after the gym for breakfast. This cute little cafe is located on Five Star Blvd, not too far from Costco. Although the open sign facing the street was on, when I pulled into the very empty parking lot I wondered if they really were open or not (looking at their posted hours now I see they run from 7:30a-2p every day). The doors were unlocked and I stepped into a quiet lobby, where I could see part of the dining room, empty, just beyond. Within 10 seconds a woman came around the corner, greeted me and grabbed a menu as she told me to pick any table. She would end up being not only my server and cashier but also the only worker I saw during my visit.

She offered coffee to get me started as I settled into my seat near the open patio entrance, which let in a nice cool breeze now and then. The menu is a pretty general breakfast menu, nothing too fancy aside from a handful of crepes and eggs Benedicts. The lunch side is equally standard with burgers, sandwiches and salads. I sipped my coffee while my eyes ping ponged around the menu trying to find the right item. With a packet of sugar and a little French vanilla creamer it was totally fine. I think It came hot but cooled off rapidly in it’s mug, likely due to my proximity to the open door.

I ended up deciding on the Corned Beef Hash & Eggs (2 eggs any style served over house made seasoned corned beef with country potatoes, bell peppers & onions)[$15]. Most of the items in this section of the menu come with a choice of hash browns, country potatoes or fruit. This dish effectively makes that choice for you, but you also get another selection of either toast or mini pancakes. That was an easy decision since I had considered ordering a short stack anyway.

My order took just about 10 minutes. By this time about a half dozen parties had arrived and the quiet atmosphere was replaced with the bustling kitchen and conversation that echoed around the room easily. The kitchen appeared to have a long window with some light folding shutters to block it off, but it let most of the noise through. I think it would get very noisy here when they are packed.

I had ordered my eggs over medium, which is always hit and miss nearly everywhere, and I think they did a great job on them which lifted my expectations a bit as I started buttering up my pancakes. The breeze made me work quickly through everything so I could enjoy it while it was hot. The pancakes were nice and fluffy. The maple syrup didn’t seem to be “the good stuff” but it was heated up which sort of made up for that a bit.

As for the main dish, I found myself pretty disappointed with it. While the potatoes, peppers, onions and eggs were all perfectly good, the main attraction of this dish really fell short. It was supremely dry, stringy and chewy. Nothing like that almost melt-in-your-mouth ultra tender corned beef, edges crisped up a bit on the griddle, most places serve up. The flavor was ok, just difficult to enjoy through the unpleasant texture.

Portion-wise this was just right, even with the mini pancakes. I ate every last bite and left satisfied without feeling like I needed a nap. The service was fast, efficient and polite. Ultimately though, I would rather brave the crowds at Four Sisters just a few blocks away, even if they might be slightly pricier. Which is a shame because I had heard good feedback about Window Box.


#274: Rose Café & Bagel

9:20AM 4/9/2022

This morning I headed out to far West Roseville to check out this little bagel spot for breakfast. Rose Café & Bagel is tucked just into the edge of the suburban sprawl on Baseline right in-between Junction and Fiddyment. It’s not easy to miss. The several buildings in this little complex are all painted bright barn-red and across the street is a tall radio tower. According to one of the employees both the large daycare center and the Cafe have the same owner. Perhaps they own all three buildings, given their shared aesthetic.

They make all their bagels in house each day and have a variety to choose from. In addition to your typical bagels with spreads they also have breakfast bagel sandwiches and hot or cold bagel sandwiches for lunch. They also have a full menu of coffee drinks.

Now I’m a bit out of my element here. About the only time I ever eat bagels is when they are brought to work or the couple times I visited NYC. Adding to that I’m not much of a coffee drinker beyond my morning cup of basic drip coffee I make at home in the morning. I decided to grab a Mocha and one of the breakfast sandwiches.

The cafe has a nice bright interior with a medium-sized dining area. They have a nice patio that I would have used if it weren’t so gusty out. My attention was immediately drawn to the ceiling, which was laced with loads of tiny string lights. It must look very cool in the winter when less light is blasting in through the windows in the morning. Behind the counter were about 4-6 people and I was greeted as soon as I had stepped inside. I took a minute to go over the sandwiches and picked out the Southwest (Egg, Ham, Havarti Cheese, Tomato, Spinach, Avocado)[$8.95]. “Sandwiches come with a sourdough based plain bagel”. I went with the large for my Mocha [$5.50].

Just before I had left the counter a barista started working on my mocha and asked if I wanted it “kinda sweet” or “sweet”. I thought for a second and the few white mochas I’ve had from La Bou and Starbucks and how I think they are way too sweet but usually forget since I get them so infrequently and went with kinda sweet. It ended up being a pretty good choice, and I was glad he asked.

Within about five minutes he brought my drink out and the sandwich was delivered a minute or so later. I was mildly disappointed in the to-go presentation of the mocha, not very photo friendly, but oh well. Taking the lid off revealed the optional whipped cream and a drizzle of chocolate. The drink was hot, but not too hot to enjoy right away. It was very chocolatey and fairly sweet without being too sweet. Not too shabby, though I have little to compare it with.

My sandwich was neatly prepared and wrapped. I think they forgot the avocado, despite the obvious avocado-like green stain in the cross-section of the bagel where it was sliced. I assume that must have come from the spinach, because I remember no avocados. The sandwich was very light and simple. There was not a huge amount of any particular ingredient, so the bagel itself dominated the flavor overall. It was a good bagel though, toasted just right and soft within. I did hope for a more substantial sandwich, but having a relatively light breakfast ended up being good and gave me just the right amount of energy to go tackle all the weekend chores before noon.

Like I said, I’m not much of a bagel/coffee guy, so it’s hard for me to get super excited for this place. The staff was incredibly friendly and efficient and I liked the general feel for the place. I think a 3.5/5 is a reasonably fair score here. One of their lunch sandos could be something to bring me back some day. Carnitas and Caprese options both caught my eye…