No eggspectations

I have nothing against Eggspectations. But if I were forced to find immediate fault with it, I’d point to the silliness of its name, the bleakness of its surroundings, and its hard-as-rock chairs that resemble booths made to look like park benches. Is there anything I truly like about Eggspectations? Not really. The truth is I should never have gone.

MainToday.com
December 14, 2004

No Eggspectations
John Golden

I have nothing against Eggspectations. But if I were forced to find immediate fault with it, I’d point to the silliness of its name, the bleakness of its surroundings, and its hard-as-rock chairs that resemble booths made to look like park benches.

Is there anything I truly like about Eggspectations? Not really. The truth is I should never have gone. I have a built-in prejudice against places like these. I find them neither here nor there — something for everyone and nothing really good for anyone. What the social observer might deem "mediocre."

There are plenty of chain restaurants I do like. Anytime someone asks me to go to Bugaboo Creek, I go and manage to enjoy everything I eat. I may feel like hell afterwards, fat as a moose and woebegone for a while. But devouring the Bunyan Onion or Whitewater Shrimp and platter-size steaks is darn good eating.

To be fair, I’ve only been to Eggspectations once. I probably will never go again unless someone convinces me that I was hasty to pass judgment so quickly. I think my experience was that I picked the wrong dish, and perhaps other choices would have fared better.

My first glimpse of the spiral- bound menu did not bode well for what was to come. Spiral bound? And so thick too. That only meant one thing. This was a menu requiring a lifetime of studying because of so many choices.

You can go to a restaurant for the first time and decide right away if it’s good or not by ordering something typical of its cuisine. For example, if you’re in an Italian restaurant, order the lasagna. If it’s good, chances are everything else will be too.

At a classic French restaurant, order something simple like roast chicken or Dover sole, just as you might order a hamburger or tuna salad sandwich at a diner. If they’re prepared well, it figures that the rest of the menu will follow suit.

The obvious choice here would have been eggs. But I don’t eat eggs very often since I watch my cholesterol. As I said, I shouldn’t have been eating here at all. Yet I’ve been curious about the place for some time. After all, it stands tall like a sentry over the Maine Mall, with such regal comportment amidst one of the widest intersections in the state. I just had to see for myself what it was all about.

Eggspectations hails from Montreal, a great restaurant city, and has crossed our border to establish a growing chain of restaurants along the east coast. My impression was that it was some sort of French-inspired rotisserie or bistro. Egg dishes are its handle, and from there, I thought, we are transported down an international fairway of interesting food choices.

I went there a few Sundays ago for brunch. There was a 30-minute wait, which we decided not to endure. But the place had buzz — good vibes, if you will — and the aromas coming out of the kitchen seemed promising.

I returned last week for lunch, arriving at about 2 pm. The room was still fairly busy, and everyone looked attractive. There was a table of 10 middle-aged women, in suburban finery, looking as though they were having a good time. Other tables had young mothers and children. And there were a few pairs of blue-suited businessmen scattered about.

I was tended to immediately by a very pleasant and able waiter. He asked what I wanted and I confessed that I had no idea. I said the menu was so large, with so many selections, that I couldn’t make up my mind.

I put the issue in his lap. What were his recommendations for a first-timer? He mentioned the eggs, to which I said no. He shook his head over the hamburgers only because he doesn’t eat hamburgers. He pointed out a few salads; one in particular was called the Tropical Salad that he thought was very good and very popular. I read the description: spinach, mango, papaya and grapefruit, tossed with orange honey mustard grilled chicken. The final coup de gras: roasted sunflower seeds.

For a brief moment I considered it, but it sounded so sickly sweet — and the grapefruit was really off-putting — I turned it down flat. I went straight to the sandwich selections to look for the simplest offering possible, thinking I want to get this done.

The least offensive seemed like the Croque-Madame or Monsieur, on a baguette. The, Madame, which I chose, was grilled chicken, tomatoes and Swiss cheese.

I believe the classic croquet-Monsieur (or Madame — oh it’s all too confusing) is traditionally ham and Swiss put between two slices of bread, coated in a batter and sautéed in butter, something like French toast.

In a matter of moments it arrived, as though it had sped through a radar range. Spread across a foot-long baguette were strips of chicken, sun-starved tomato slices, and slabs of barely melted Swiss cheese. With it came a pile of fries.

Mr. or Mrs., this was no croque. It was like a ham and cheese sandwich with a chicken substitute. Enormous, too. I picked at the chicken, which was pretty tasty, twirled the cheese around my fork and poked at a few of the fries, feeling fatter and fatter by the moment.

What more can I say? I have no more expectations.

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