[UPDATE: Brandywine has closed and is now Matchbox Diner & Drinks.]
1345 Lake Dr. SE (map it!)
Grand Rapids, MI 49506
Open Mon-Sat, 7a-8p; Sun, 8a-8p
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Visited: Friday, March 28, 2014 at 9:00 a.m.
In my hometown of Grand Rapids, the general rule is that whenever possible, you go to breakfast. Business meeting, catching up with friends, class discussion? Go to breakfast. In most cities you find breakfast and brunch joints busiest on the weekends, but in GR they’re busy every morning. So when we wanted to meet up with some good friends, we naturally went to breakfast, and we picked a spot we haven’t visited for years. Brandywine is a long-established restaurant in GR’s Eastown district, home to a string of old bookstores, gift shops, coffee shops, pubs, classic eateries like Yesterdog or newer additions like Terra GR (formerly Trillium Haven). I’m not sure when Brandywine opened, but I always remember it being there, and it being a favorite of many friends. The last time I visited, however, was back in college.
Brandywine’s exterior is easily identifiable by the bright orange and purple coloring. Parking can be a challenge if you don’t know right where to look. There’s a little on-street parking nearby and a few small lots next to the building, but you have to watch the signs to make sure you’re not parking in another business’ spots.
The interior is a long, carpeted room with a low ceiling and walls filled with photos and paintings. Both sides are lined with booths, a row of four-tops cuts through the center, and there’s even a small counter with stools and the cashier in the back corner. In many ways, Brandywine is set up like a diner, complete with the sassy servers who consistently top off your coffee; but in other ways it’s very un-diner-ish, like the general color palette or the carpet. Even the name implies something a little fancier.
Brandywine also steps up their game with an expansive and often creative breakfast menu. It ranges from benedicts to pancakes (including sweet potato pancakes) to French toast to sandwiches to scrambles to omelets. Our group eyed the specialties, like the country benedict with buttermilk biscuits, sausage patties, poached eggs, and sausage gravy. Served with a slab – that’s the only way I can describe it – of browned potatoes. It’s the best of both worlds: biscuits & gravy + eggs benedict.
I quickly spied out the Eggs Timothy, a benedict adaptation with two over easy eggs on corned beef hash, hollandaise, toast, and potatoes. Almost all of it lined up the way I’d like: the eggs, a pretty lemony hollandaise, crispy hash browns. The one downside was the canned corned beef hash. I’m not a fan of it; it’s ground too thin and tastes too much of the can. Even if a restaurant doesn’t want to go so far as brining their own beef, they could still get it from any deli and chop it themselves.
The real winner of our breakfast was the Smoked Chicken and Black Bean Hash. Seriously, I need to eat more breakfasts like this. The base has was made from black beans, potatoes, sweet potatoes, roasted red peppers, and diced chunks of a (sightly dry) smoked chicken. It was topped with two poached eggs and served with a side of rye toast and fruit. The hash was generously seasoned – lots of cumin – and blended together nicely.
Brandywine is a funny hybrid, like a colorful, creative, carpeted diner. Our server was very fun and friendly, the food several notches above diner standards (aside from the canned corned beef hash), and the overall atmosphere cozy enough to explain why the place is packed with regulars on a weekday.