Most longtime Tucsonans could tell you the Crying Onion Café located on Fort Lowell Road was quite the spot (especially when it came to nursing a hangover). It occupied a refurbished house and served up amazing omelets, homemade breads and plenty of good, strong coffee.
The original Onion shut down years ago (even the building is gone), but in 2001, two enterprising souls opened another Crying Onion Café, on the northwest side. And while breakfast still seems to be the draw, this Crying Onion is the kind of place folks head to after church for no-frills homestyle food. Of course, all the desserts are made from scratch, so it's a step above anything I might make at home.
We arrived one early Saturday morning, and there were plenty of tables. The staff was busy bringing great-smelling food to the other patrons.
Shades of blue and green are found throughout the restaurant. Pretty hand-stitched quilts hang on the walls along with lots of kitchen kitsch. Silk plants are scattered here and there. A nifty touch is the mismatched coffee mugs, just like I have in my cupboard. It's all very homey and cozy.
We opted out of the house specialties called scramblers. They looked like scrambled eggs with an assortment of additions. The massive options sounded interesting, but were way too much food for the moment. John did order eggs, scrambled. They came with toast (whole wheat) and home fries, and as an extra, he ordered bacon ($4.95). He also ordered an orange juice ($1.95) and coffee ($1.50). I ordered the homemade cinnamon roll french toast ($5.25) and a cup of joe. I was going to order the biscuits and gravy with a couple of eggs, but I was still recovering from a heavy dinner.
The breakfast crowd began arriving with plenty of regulars, if the servers' behavior is any indication. People even had regular tables. We beat the rush, though, because our food was in front of us in no time.
John's plate was piled high with a mound of scrambled eggs, four slices of bacon and plenty of hand-cut home fries. The eggs were done just right, maintaining a fluff without being too soft. The well-cooked bacon was thick-cut and delicious. The home fries also were crispy and cooked through.
My cinnamon roll was a good hand-span wide, cut in half and sprinkled liberally with powdered sugar. That probably would've been sufficient, but I smeared on a dose of spread and some syrup, and dug in. The roll itself was an eggy bread, swirled rich with lots of cinnamon. Once the topping melted, it reached a whole new level of a gooey, melty treat!
Service was on the spot. Our server made us feel right at home, and I doubt our coffee mugs were ever more than half-empty before she filled them up.
Our lunch visit provided a slightly different experience. It's not that the food was bad, just unremarkable. John ordered the Christy's TBA--sliced smoked turkey, guacamole, bacon, tomatoes and lettuce served on a fresh roll ($6.95). I ordered Dan's ugly steak sandwich ($7.95), a piece of sirloin topped with Swiss cheese, grilled onions and mayo. It was supposed to be served on one of the fresh rolls, but our server asked what kind of bread I wanted, and I went with sourdough. John ordered the potato salad as his side. I, for some reason, was not given a choice. He also ordered lemonade ($1.25).
It was difficult to hear what our server was saying, and the little things--like not asking about my side, yet asking about my bread--indicated the person was probably brand-new on the job. No big deal, really.
John's sandwich was OK. My steak sandwich was topped with plenty of melted Swiss cheese and lots of grilled, chopped onions, but it was still pretty bland. A shake or two of some kind of seasoning would have made it better. The sourdough bread was great, but had I been paying attention, I would've ordered it on the roll. It definitely would've improved the whole thing.
The potato salad was certainly fresh and very creamy. But John was a bit disappointed with the lemonade--there wasn't enough pucker.
I had to have the home-baked cherry cobbler ($3.50). I decided not to have vanilla ice cream on top, though. I got the last piece in the house, which attests to its popularity. The filling was dark and more like pie filling. The topping consisted of a sweet, light, cinnamon-dusted biscuit. The filling was a tad to sweet for my tastes, but I really liked the topping. If I had ordered it with the ice cream, the sweetness might have been toned down a bit--my fault.
In all, I'd say breakfast earned an "A," with lunch bordering on a "C." Since breakfast is served all the time, I'd stick with that. And as a side note, the Crying Onion only accepts cash or checks; no credit or debit cards.