Just north of the hamlet of Jennerstown, Pennsylvania lies Green Gables Restaurant and the Mountain Playhouse. The restaurant has been on the site since 1927 and was started as a sandwich shop by a local farmer, James Black Stoughton, who decided he had had enough of milking cows. The restaurant grew section by section over the years in a rustic, eccentric style that is a testament to Mr. Stoughton’s vision. The year 1939 saw the opening of the Mountain Playhouse, a summer stock theater, which is housed in a reconstructed log grist mill moved to the site from Roxbury, PA. Most of my previous experiences with the restaurant have been of the banquet variety, the quality of which had never impressed me enough to prompt a return trip for an á la cartemeal. Regular readers will recall my attachment to the classic brunch, and hearing that Green Gables offered the same, I decided on a recent Sunday to give them another go. My son Miles and I arrived about 11:30 AM and found ourselves the first arrivals of the morning.
We were seated at a nice window table appointed with fresh flowers and were presented the brunch menu along with a separate drink menu featuring “summer cocktails”. No wine list was offered which surprised me, as the restaurant is listed as a Wine Spectator award winner. I inquired whether a Mimosa was available, as I did not see it on the drink menu. The server replied in the affirmative and informed me that I had been given the wrong drink menu. The drink soon arrived, and even at the rather steep price of $12, it proved to be the high point of the meal. The juice was clearly fresh squeezed and exhibited a slightly reddish tint making me think perhaps a few blood oranges had been used in the juice. If not blood oranges, I detected no other flavors that would account for the color, but possibly it was nothing more than a splash of grenadine. Opening the menu, I found to my disappointment, that the restaurant’s idea of “brunch” was to simply add two egg dishes to a sandwich menu, one of which was really just breakfast. The sole brunch choice offered was a Greek Omelet ($10) which I ordered, having no other options. In addition, in spite of the chilly morning, I ordered a cold Port Pear Soup($4). I’m not really sure why a cold soup was offered on a cold morning, but there were no other starters offered other than a few salads which appeared to be a bit more substantial than I was up for. As spinach in an omelet did not appeal to Miles, he settled for a sandwich, ordering what was billed as a Lamb Gyro ($9). The soup soon arrived and I was a bit surprised to see no garnish of any kind. Frankly, the color of the soup wasn’t striking enough to stand on it’s own. I could live with the lack of presentation if the soup had exhibited a solid flavor, but sadly that was not the case. I found the soup oddly flat, a fact that had me puzzled until I found a piece of incompletely pureed pear in the bottom of the cup. The fact that this piece was crunchy made clear the flatness of the soup was due to under ripe fruit. The rest of the meal took a bit longer to arrive than I would have expected given that we were the first order of the day.
When finally presented, I was shocked by the appearance of both the omelet and the gyro. I’m not even sure how to describe the incongruity of sitting at a table with a white tablecloth, drinking a $12 Mimosa and seeing a sandwich being served wrapped in a piece of aluminum foil as if it had been purchased from a low class food truck. The omelet served was so brown, I immediately knew I was not going to be enjoying this meal. I probably should have just refused both dishes on sight and just walked away, but that would make for a pretty short review. With trepidation, I took my first bite, and I can say without equivocation that this was the sorriest excuse for an omelet I have ever eaten in my life. I’ve had better omelets prepared on an open flattop in greasy spoon diners than what was served here. An enormous amount of liquid (milk?) had been added to the eggs, and the mixture had been cooked without any movement of the pan leading to a product more like custard than an omelet. The overcooking of the exterior left a dry skin which could be peeled from the omelet in sheets. The spinach was watery and even the sharpness of the feta could not mask the lack of seasoning in the filling. The skillet potatoes exhibited a pervasive scorched flavor which made them inedible and the toast was served dry with no butter being presented or offered.
The food truck pedigree of the sandwich was confirmed when the so called “lamb” turned out to be nothing more than commercial gyro meat, a “mystery meat” product which generally is prepared with about 15% actual lamb. However, the restaurant’s heating of this “lamb” was so inept that even the food truck vendor would be embarrassed to serve it. I honestly was puzzled over how the kitchen could have some pieces of this “meat” completely fried to a crisp (as if it was bacon) and other pieces barely warm but with crisp edges. I can only surmise that they took a block of this pre-sliced product from the freezer and threw it in a deep fryer, hence the two outside pieces being totally overcooked and the inside pieces having only crisp edges. Regardless, it was awful. In addition, the yogurt-mint sauce was grainy and lacking in flavor. I will say the lettuce, cucumbers and onions in the sandwich were fresh, but that single positive note could not redeem the disaster that was the rest of the sandwich. Miles ordered herbal tea with his meal, and like the toast situation, no sweeteners of any kind were served with the tea nor were they offered. Neither of us bothered to finish our meals, and not one employee bothered to inquire if we had enjoyed it. I’m almost glad there was no inquiry as I was upset enough that I probably would have made a scene that I would have later regretted. The total tab for this fiasco was $51, not a paltry sum for two people. Excepting the Mimosa’s, I would not be willing to pay $5.10 for this garbage in the future.