Restaurant: Mary’s Cafe
Location: Flagstaff, AZ, (roadside)
Day & time visited: Saturday Morning, 9am
Reservations: No such thing!
We were heading up to Lee’s Ferry for a weekend filled with Rainbow Trout and Cooking with Caveman when we reached the halfway point and decided to stop for breakfast. Now, anyone that knows anything about my caveman knows that if a breakfast place does not serve chicken fried steak….well, we have no business stopping in!
So using our smart phone devices (yeah…I know what you’re thinking, but it is 2012 and we have good jobs that provide this wonderful technology) we quickly looked up breakfast places in Flagstaff. We got hits like Denny’s, Cracker Barrel, and McDonalds… Really?
So, we started reading the reviews of “local joints” when we saw the words “hole in the wall.” We tend to like those words, because we – like most people – know that those places sometimes have the best food. And boy – were we right!
We took the gamble with local hole in the wall, Mary’s Café and lucky for us – it was right off the side of the road that we were traveling on! And side of the road it was! The curbside appearance was less than flattering and words that come to my head are “old, deserted…empty.” However, when we went inside, it was quite the opposite.
Bustling with bikers, locals and the smell of coffee, Caveman and I quickly found a booth in the front of the restaurant. There were only about 10 tables or so in the front area, but the restaurant had an “L” shape and around that corner, there seemed to be many more people. The inside was decorated in a western style with spurs on the wood walls and old pictures with lots of timeworn décor.
And then we saw our waitress. Unfortunately, she was EVERY table’s waitress and she was working her butt off! She greeted us with a friendly tone, and told us to have a seat, as she wiped sweat off her head and hurried to get steaming hot food to all her tables. There’s always the one table in the restaurant filled with difficult people who keep asking for crazy requests and force the waitress to go back and forth, and back and forth, to the kitchen. Which happened to delay our service even longer. We probably waited a good ten minutes before we were even asked if we’d like coffee or water. But it wasn’t like she was just standing around, she was busy as heck people!!!
This “waiting period” gave us plenty of time to look at the menu. It took Caveman exactly 1.2 seconds to know what he wanted: The chicken fried steak & eggs. As for me, I was not sure. I went back and forth with “do I try to be healthy or do I just eat?” A normal internal conflict for this cavewoman…. When I saw a popular menu item named the “country ben,” which read as layers of several different breakfast items like biscuits, gravy, and sausage, so I went for it. I mean, why argue with a local favorite?? “just eat!” my internal self was saying…so I didn’t argue!
Our waitress came back by and at this time, we went ahead and ordered our drinks and food at the same time. Caveman got iced tea and the chicken fried steak & eggs. Almost immediately – our waitress looked him square in the eye and said this is going to take a little while to cook which would probably delay our meals. Caveman asked “does that mean it’s homemade???” She simply smiled and said “yes.”
****I have to note how refreshing and exciting it is that this chicken fried steak is made from scratch. We go to breakfast quite frequently and more often than not – they take a frozen patty and throw it in a fryer, and here’s a newsflash- we can tell!!!! It reflects in the taste. So being told we have to wait for the real thing…makes us pumped!! We cannot wait for the chicken fried steak to come to the table. Make us wait forever – it will be worth it.
As for me – I ordered the coffee, the Country Ben, and water. She told me “good choice” when I ordered the ben and then threw me off completely when she asked if I wanted my water wet. She did something to me that does not happen very often; she made me speechless for half a minute! After a full 30 seconds, and seeing her sly smile…I realized she was kidding and had made a joke. So I replied that the water better be wet water or else we have problems. It was then that we settled into Mary’s café and started to feel like locals.
Our waitress brought out the iced tea and coffee and conveniently forgot my water!??? You believe that??? Kind of funny since we had a joke about it earlier…but clearly – our server had every table in the restaurant and probably a slew of other things to remember. I was content with my coffee, and caveman’s iced tea when I needed it. The coffee was nothing special, but it was hot and early, and worked for me after having driven 2 hours from Phoenix.
We did wait a while for our food – but I’ll tell you now – it was WORTH THE WAIT!!!
Our food was finally delivered and the portions were very generous!!! Caveman’s chicken fried steak covered the entire plate, leaving him wide-eyed like a little kid in a candy store. It also came served with fried eggs and country potatoes, all covered in white sausage gravy. The chicken fried steak was shallow fried, meaning they put a little oil in a skillet and cooked one side thoroughly, before flipping it over and cooking the other side; as opposed to deep fried, when you just drop the steak in a fryer.
It had a good exterior crust and the steak was perfectly seasoned. The flavor of the chicken fried steak was really good!!! As for the sausage gravy – it had the right consistency. It consumed the right amount of sausage and it was seasoned flawlessly leaving the taste on point! It was the best chicken fried steak we’ve ordered in a restaurant in years. And the portion was right up a caveman’s alley! ** meaning VERY LARGE!!!!
The potatoes in the dish were not frozen, but instead freshly sliced into cubes and cooked country style, packing a great flavor. ***Finding non frozen breakfast potatoes are also a rarity these days, so thank you Mary’s Café.
As for the Country Ben (my meal) – it was delicious! A layer of homemade biscuits, open-faced and topped with a sausage patty. Top that with a layer of scrambled eggs, and top it all with homemade white sausage gravy – and you have The Country Ben. The biscuits were tasty and super fluffy while the sausage gravy was absolutely superb. The meat and eggs in between were purely compliment this layer of breakfast innovation! I would say I stopped eating once I got full but given the great taste and local flair of the Country Ben; it made it hard to stop!!!
We filled our bellies and our meals were delicious. We were so impressed by Mary’s Café, we just had to write about it.
We hope that anybody that’s in Flagstaff who enjoys a scrumptious breakfast, that really likes chicken fried steak or a local layering dish – this is your SPOT!!!!! You must visit Mary’s Café and sink right into a piece of lip-smacking history.
On a scale of 1-10, 1 being poor, 5 being mediocre, and 10 being the best experience I can describe, here is how I rate the following for Mary’s Cafe:
Atmosphere – 5 Service -4 Appetizers- n/a Food-7 Drinks -5