&grain seems like a very unconventional name to call a restaurant.
If I didn’t do research about the best brunch restaurants to go to in North Jersey [more brunch spots, click me!], I wouldn’t exactly have known what it was. But from those context clues I learned in second grade, from first guess, the word “grain” leads me to bread. Bread to bakery. Bakery to breakfast food. Breakfast food that can be brunch, where people lazily trod in for a nice latte and an egg sandwich.
I like that image…because that’s easily me. And that’s also Mark too. Right Mark?
&grain is located in Garwood near the main street, across from the Shoprite. When you first come in through the front, there’s an artisanal feeling, very industrial and warehouse-like, with high ceilings. To your right you will see the baking room contained within glass walls, with machines inside to use to make the bread, roll the bread, and bake the bread. As we came in around 12 PM, the room was empty but, I imagine early on in the morning, this room is full of action. To the left and also towards the back is where you’ll find a more homey feeling. Thick wooden tables, white chairs and the sun filtering into the back room.
&grain is self-serve, where you walk up to the counter and order what your heart desires. They bring it to you later, including any drinks ordered. If you’re on the go, you can wait around the cashier counter where there’s a little stand at the end of the counter just like at Starbucks where they can pass you the food.
Menu items are written on the board and separated into breakfast items, sandwiches, sides, coffee & gourmet drinks such as lattes, cappuccinos. The menu seemed limited but also numerous at the same time as Mark and I had trouble deciding what we had wanted for a few minutes. We finally settled on the ABLT and the Baked French Toast. The ABLT is the avocado, bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich which comes with a small mixed field greens salad ($7.50). The Baked French Toast was three slices of thick French toast ($6.95). &grain has Stumptown coffee which is a plus, as it’s one of the best coffees to drink in Mark’s opinion. I am not the coffee aficionado, but it kept me wired until I got back home, so yes it’s a good coffee then. I ordered the iced latte with skim ($4.50), where Mark ordered a hot coffee ($2.75). Bold, strong, and smooth.
One drawback is that soup is not always available. Either call ahead if you’re really into soup that day and can’t imagine the day without it or ask at the counter if they have soup that day and what the selections are.
We were presented with a card with a number on it so that a waiter could find us and told to sit where we’d like. Our drinks arrived within five minutes of us sitting down, food followed after another ten minutes. Our plates looked aesthetically pleasing and appetizing, hence we dug in. The ABLT laid in between two lightly toasted pieces of thick bread which were saturated in butter. Every time I picked up the sandwich it oozed deliciously of butter but wasn’t so good for my hands and mouth as I had to wipe them each time. The insides of the sandwich were stacked on top of each other with a healthy dose of chipotle dressing. The bacon was the perfect amount of crispy even when it was touching the avocado and tomato. It wasn’t soggy which a lot of restaurants don’t know how to perfect. First bite was intense and the sandwich was gone in a few minutes. There’s not much to say of the side salad…it was just a side salad. However, the meal satisfied me and I was full.
The French toast is another story to contrast with the hearty and salty. If you’re someone who loves sweets and carbs, but don’t like feeling overly stuffed, then pick the French toast. The syrup was just the right amount of sweetness and it was not too thick like some other syrups can be. The bread was perfectly fluffy, and the cinnamon was sprinkled meticulously.
The prices are reasonable, the total bill came out to be $23.22 with tax for two people. As mentioned above, we came around 12 PM, afterwards, we noticed there was a flood of people queued up around the cashier counter. Different groups of people ate at &grain, including families, couples, groups of friends. Individual people came in to buy coffee or people who just wanted loaves of bread for their meals later on in the day. The noise level was quiet at first but then reached a medium noise level as more people started to arrive and their voices bounce off the airy space.
Overall, based on our experience with food, ambiance, and service, we rate &grain as Good.
Fun Fact #1: There’s rose soap in the bathroom. Second place I’ve went to for this blog with Rose Soap. My hands smelled great after eating a messy sandwich.
Fun Fact #2: There’s a parking lot in the back so you don’t need to struggle to find parking for 10 minutes.
Fun Fact #3: Ask about their specials. Based on their Facebook page, they had a Buffalo Chicken Bowl for the Superbowl weekend with russet potato hash, Vidalia onions, Applewood smoked bacon mixed with buffalo chicken and blue cheese, and two sunny side up eggs.