When Meadow Muffins closed last fall after three decades, it was almost a community service that Hatch Cover owners Rob and Susan Hirt quickly stepped in to preserve the space. Susan promised that their business would "completely respect the history of the building and what Meadow Muffins meant to a lot of westsiders."
Mother Muff's — a tributary title that's at least more sophisticated than the old "Party down at the Muff" ads — was born, and as with the Mining Exchange before it, beautiful turn-of-the-20th-century bones revealed themselves once modern impediments disappeared. De-cluttered, the space looks great: bright and clean with sweeping sight lines, plus fine woodwork and stained glass made more prominent.
With that warm atmosphere comes the comfort-food embrace of a mostly breakfast-item, 90-percent house-made menu that's served in full until 1 a.m. It's balanced by just enough sports bar fare (yes, TVs distract the eye everywhere) to make the place feel like a watering hole before a restaurant, and a fun-spirited, fairly priced drink list supports just drinking here.
In fact, I'll likely return for the booze before a bite, as that sticks as the more memorable element despite well-intended creative effort to rearrange classic breakfast fare into something unique. Like a granola bar, Muff's effectively fills you up, but you won't remember it for long.
I mean, yeah, there are bacon bowls, like the Bumpkin ($9.49) with a couple eggs and gravy over big potato cubes, sausage and cheddar that had already burst through our mold-formed swine saucer upon arrival. But it's time for us to stop reverently saying "bacon" as if whispering God's true name, and rewarding all appearances as zany brilliance, from beer to lip balm.
Yes, everyone loves bacon (save vegans and moral abstainers), but Muff's funny form doesn't elevate a middling country gravy — also found on a half order of dry-ish biscuits and gravy ($4) — and generic diner ingredients you've had thousands of times before.
Partly, this is why so few places make breakfast truly worth going out for (Over Easy's pancake-flight antics aside). But consumers have proven throughout time that they just want someone else to fry their eggs for them, never mind the ease and affordability of executing the majority of breakfast favorites at home.
Again, I'm not averse to the playfulness of a Southwest breakfast pizza ($8.50), with mild green chile joining the sausage, cheddar, tomatoes and egg. But a thinner crust may be needed, as ours remained overly doughy in the middle — which made for an awkward textural combination with the scrambled eggs — and flavors just weren't bright.
Ditto on our Frammiche ($6.50) of scrambled egg and bacon with a Swiss cheese cap between two thick buttermilk Belgian waffles. All fine enough, but on the dry side and in need of a messy maple drizzle, so long as we're being irreverent and clearly not health-food focused. Points for good grated hash browns, though ($1.50 extra), and always excellent Barista Espresso coffee.
One espresso shot adds deep coffee notes to the "Curfew Extender" section's Spank Your Bottom ($6). It joins Kahlua, Guinness and a syrupy pour of Leopold Bros. blackberry liqueur with surprising balance. We also enjoyed one of 14 amusing Champagne-based "bubble juices," the Fancy Pants No. 5, with vodka adding heat and Chambord and pineapple juice some zingy raspberry backbone.
A Bloody Mary list wins, too, with spirit substitutions like tequila in the Bloody Madre, and additions like beef broth in the Horny Mary (each $5.50), plus a customize-your-own option with choices (25 cents each) like Sriracha or a splash of porter. Beer also joins the quality house Mary mix in the refreshing Mamalada ($4.50), with pickle juice and an Old Bay rim. Another delight, although on the sappy, cloying side, is the Don Julio blanco Mother-in-law-garita ($8.50) with Cointreau, lime, simple syrup, a sugar rim (I'd go half-salt) and chunks of orange marmalade shooting up your straw from the depths.
At dinner, a half order of thick-skinned wings ($6) bests most bars' with a firm interior and good flavor despite "hot" not really being so. A sliced prime rib Philly ($10.99) holds its own with awesome, giant-cut sweet potato "fries," but the Jiffy ($9.99) returns to the shocky/schlocky with peanut butter dominating over Swiss, bacon and burger. Free samples of a sopapilla-esque, corn-flake-battered, fried ice cream covered in cinnamon and honey bests a big, dry cinnamon roll ($5).
We leave content enough, and I decidedly appreciate Mother Muff's overall more than Meadow Muffins. The Hirts have shown that even if you can't blow away a basic breakfast, you can improve upon a legacy spot. Hooch always helps.