Country Cottage Café

It was the beginning of a hot summer day in Jacksonville — the sort you know is going to turn into a sweltering sauna around 11 a.m. But at 9 a.m. this Sunday morning the air was still slightly cool and a breeze kept things moving.

We decided while walking to stop for breakfast at a little café surrounded by a white picket fence and snuggled into the trees on East C Street. We'd walked past the Country Cottage Café several times but had never gone in for more than a scrumptious brown sugar shortbread square (75 cents); golden brown, dense and melt-in-your-mouth, these little treats are made pretty with a leaf stamp atop each. They sit inside a glass case just across from the front door, alongside several other tempting goodies like lemon-raspberry cheesecake bars with walnut streusel topping ($2.50 each).

This day we chose one of the four outdoor tables, each tucked against the café's front under a vine-covered overhang. There are tables inside the tiny eatery, but it seems a little crowded for a leisurely repast. Our server was kind, knowledgeable and efficient, filling our water glasses immediately and starting a fresh pot of decaf. We browsed the breakfast choices. Crepes with Berries, Mascarpone Cheese and Whipped Cream ($8.95) certainly sounded seductive, but seemed a little sweet this time of day. I chose the Spinach and Three Cheese Quiche ($9.95).

The quiche arrived piping hot and was so cheesy it was practically like a pizza baked in a pastry crust — and what's not to like about that? Each bite contained rich, creamy eggs, sautéed fresh spinach, and enough cheese to make me start calculating how many calories would be left in my day's allotment.

My fiancé opted for the Bacon and Cheddar Scramble ($9.95). Also generously portioned, the scramble was obviously hot off the griddle. Although it more closely resembled an omelet than a traditional scramble (the bacon and cheese were neatly folded up inside a blanket of scrambled eggs), it delivered the same melty goodness as the quiche.

We both tucked into the accompanying home fries with the fervor commonly associated with humans facing a plate full of fried potato products. Freshly turned out, each small cube was hot and tender inside and just crispy enough on the outside. The only thing they needed was a sprinkling of salt.

A wooden skewer threaded with melon chunks and strawberries was an attractive and fresh juxtaposition to all the caloric indulgence. And it certainly would have served as dessert had each plate not also featured a luscious-looking muffin. Standard-sized and obviously homemade, these blackberry muffins are crowned with crumbly, buttery topping and a pool of seedless blackberry jam.

Susanne Glass does the café's baking at night, when she's not teaching school or helping customers at a retail shop down the road. Glass has been at Country Cottage more than three years and stayed on when the café was purchased by Chris Georgiou a year ago.

Georgiou, who has been in the food service business for over two decades, most recently as the front floor manager of Lark's in Ashland, was looking for his own place when he happened upon the café for sale.

"I never wanted to be a line cook, but that's what I'm doing here," he says with a good-natured shrug. "It's nice to live nearby, walk to work and have my own café."

Georgiou kept the same menu the café has used for years, other than some changes to the catering section. Lunch offerings include classic sandwiches like Reubens, French dips and an Italian hoagie. All priced at $10.95, they include soup, green salad or potato salad and a fruit skewer. Chili and soup ($5.95 each) and creative turkey and chicken salads ($9.95) come with a corn muffin or artisan bread and a fruit skewer.

High tea is served on weekdays at 1:30 p.m., with a 24-hour reservation required. Sparkling water, soup, tea, finger sandwiches and sweets and pastries are served for $20 per person.

At the end of our breakfast, we both moaned with contentment at the sheer indulgence of it all. We made a promise to return, vowing to get the split plate — you split a breakfast entrée and each plate still gets the home fries, muffin and fruit ($3.50 extra). That should only take two days of puritanical eating to work off. — Jennifer Strange

Share This Story