Friday, January 17, 2003
Rise n' Shine: breakfast places near Carlisle
Nutritionists tell us to eat a hearty breakfast because it will provide energy all morning, and you'll have the rest of the day to burn it off. Sounds good, but where do you go if you live in Carlisle and are not inclined to whip up a feast for yourself? There are, in fact, a number of worthwhile places within 20-25 minutes of the town center. For the past month, I've been eating more omelettes, French toast and home fries than I care to admit as I put together this list of the area's best breakfast options. May it guide you the next time you're looking to fill up on these cold winter mornings.
As close as it gets - within 10 minutes
11 Central Square, Chelmsford Center
When you see Jack's you won't be surprised to hear that it has been in the center of Chelmsford since 1924. The décor is a bit tired, but somehow that only contributes to the comfortable, unpretentious feeling of this family-run diner. The location is as nearby as it gets, the food is good cheesy omelettes, fluffy pancakes, tasty home fries and the prices are reasonable. Keep to the simple dishes (save the Eggs Benedict for the Four Seasons) and you will be pleased. Service is fast and attentive. Families with young children will appreciate the large booths and good supply of highchairs. Solo diners will be comfortable at the counter if they can find a seat among the regulars.
116 Chelmsford St. (Rt. 110), Chelmsford
Just up the road from Jack's Diner, on Rt. 110, you come to Skip's Family Restaurant where you can get breakfast all day, every day. Skip's is a large place that has the feel of an IHOP, right down to the thermal pot of coffee on each table. Yet the food is more like what you'd find at a diner. The omelettes, pancakes and home fries are all very good. The orange juice is freshly squeezed and the Belgian waffle is crisp and served with a generous amount of freshly whipped cream. Don't leave without visiting the pastry counter near the entrance.
263 Nashua Road, Billerica
The best thing about the Riverview Restaurant is its location along the Concord River. Some Carlisle residents have been known to canoe up the Concord River to the restaurant from Bedford to Billerica. By canoe, it's about 30 minutes and is a healthy way to work up an appetite for a guilt-free breakfast. By car, it is only five minutes from Carlisle center. The menu is reasonably priced and the food will satisfy most hunger pangs.
48 Monument Sq., Concord Center
No history buff or out-of-town visitor should miss breakfast at this beautiful, historic inn. It is a bit more upscale than your average diner or café, which makes it a nice option for business meetings, Sunday brunch or a quiet morning sans children. The food is nothing extraordinary, but then you don't go to the Colonial Inn for the food, you go for the atmosphere.
A short drive — about 20-25 minutes
Rt. 111, Acton
Alexander's is a pizza joint from lunchtime on, but from 7-11 a.m. it serves a surprisingly good breakfast. The omelettes and French toast are some of the best in the area. Remember, this is primarily a pizza place, and not a good choice for days when you want to be pampered. Overall service can be a bit spotty, but don't worry, the staff won't mind if you go behind the counter and refill your own mug. Located close to the Nashoba Valley Olympia skating rink in Boxborough, you can burn off those pancakes with an hour or so on the ice.
Minute Man Air Field, Stow
Nancy McPherson, chef and owner of Nancy's Airfield Café, does her part in supporting local farmers. Her carefully prepared breakfasts are made with the freshest ingredients from local farms and suppliers. The maple syrup on her pancakes is from South Face Farm, in Ashfield; the apple cider is from Carlson's Orchard, in Harvard. Nancy's food would pass any test with "flying" colors you can taste the freshness in every bite. The café overlooks the airfield where small planes come and go, which is bound to entertain aviation enthusiasts of all ages. The planes, along with lively Irish jigs on the stereo and the stained-glass window art, all contribute to the quaint atmosphere. Open 9-3 during the week, 7-3 on weekends. Closed Tuesday.
145 Dutton St., Lowell
Just up the street from the American Textile museum and the Tsongas Arena, this authentic diner is a great place to fill up before spending a morning exploring Lowell. You can get breakfast all day and around the clock on weekends at the family owned and operated Club Diner, located in the heart of Lowell. The inexpensive menu is short and to the point with all the breakfast foods you'd want. We ordered a ham & cheese omelette, home fries, French toast, pancakes and an egg sandwich. All were very good, but I would have liked more cinnamon on the French toast. Service is fast and the diner is clean and cozy (if not a bit cramped).
Four Sisters Owl Diner
244 Appleton St., Lowell
The Four Sisters Owl Diner, serving breakfast daily until 2 p.m., is high on the list of many breakfast goers. An original Worcester lunch car, complete with soon-to-be fixed juke boxes in every booth, the Owl Diner has a lot of character. The crowd is colorful and the music is loud. The breakfast menu has everything you'd desire including 25 or more omelettes named after the streets of Lowell. If you're searching for the real thing, this is it! The food may not warrant rave reviews, but it is plentiful and the bottom linecheap.
208 Main St. #A (Rt., 27), Acton
Blink twice and you will miss Julie's Place, a small café tucked in the far corner of the Acton shopping complex on Route 27. A comfortable and lively place, Julie's is ideal for breakfast. You can sit at one of the wooden tables near the wall or at the horseshoe-shaped counter facing the grill where you can watch your pancakes being flipped as you sip a bottomless cup of coffee. Go with a big appetite and you will be satisfied with the large portions of delicious food, or choose from the lighter options of fruit, cereal and muffins. Service is friendly and efficient, but you need to go early (she opens at 5 a.m.) on the weekends if you don't want to wait for a table. Julie's is a great place to go before tackling the Acton Discovery Museum, just up the road. Closed Mondays.
Are we there yet?310 Commonwealth Road (Rt. 30), Wayland
Mel's Commonwealth Café
It takes about 35 minutes to get to Mel's, but you'll be glad you made the trip. In 1998, The Phantom Gourmet gave Mel's Café the "Hidden Jewel" award. I can see why. Family-owned and operated since 1956, this restaurant is a real crowd-pleaser. The food is excellent and the atmosphere is pleasant, homey and clean. On the menu you'll find all the usual suspects, some healthy options, including lite French Toast, lite Eggs Benedict and yogurt pancakes, and some innovative items, too. I enjoyed scrambled eggs, bacon and cheese wrapped in a tomato tortilla, topped with Hollandaise sauce. Breakfast is served every day until 2 p.m. Go before 9 a.m. on the weekends to avoid a wait.
© 2003 The Carlisle Mosquito