Date of Visit: June 29, 2007, 6:30 a.m.
IMPRESSIONS: Bob Evans restaurants seem to be a staple around the American Midwest; I feel like I’ve seen those familiar, red barn structures everywhere. And indeed, I can locate at least three around Columbus, two within two miles of each other. (Look at the location finder on their website: the farthest west BE goes is Kansas, the farthest east is New York, the southern-most is Florida.) So I approached this particular Bob Evans almost suspiciously, because it seems some people choose Bob Evans, just because it’s a Bob Evans. They’re almost landmarks like Cracker Barrels. Out-of-towners might frequently ask, “Where’s the nearest Bob Evans?” That being said, these restaurants must be a mark of familiarity and consistency.
ATMOSPHERE: I visited this Bob Evans with a men’s group from church. We’ve met for breakfast at 6:30 a.m. nearly every Friday morning for two years. We’ve been getting tired with our usual place, and ventured to Bob Evans as a change of pace. I appreciated the cozy, warm atmosphere – not too bright while you’re starting your day. Lots of dark wood accents. Booths and tables available. Small gift shop by the check-out counter. The place opened at 6, and was relatively empty, so the eight of us were seated quickly all together. I enjoyed the large, wooden seats. Everything seems to be planned to make you feel as COZY as possible. That’s the best way to describe this particular Bob Evans.
FOOD: Homecooked, I’d have to say! Again, this is the theme here. The coffee was quite good: not too strong, not too bitter. I liked that they brought out milk for the coffee, and had a wide selection of sweeteners available. I ordered the Homestead Breakfast, which includes two eggs, bacon, home fries, two biscuits, and gravy. Filling, to say the least. Decent-sized portions, meaning that it was a big breakfast (it carried me through the whole day – wasn’t hungry again until dinner), but it wasn’t some absurdly huge portion. Eggs and bacon were done well. I usually prefer hash browns over home fries (which are not fries at all: they’re chunked potatoes!), but the home fries were lightly spiced and in small chunks. The biscuits and gravy were a real selling point. Soft, warm biscuits, with gravy that was thick but not greasy.
SERVICE: Very friendly and very fast, although I think some of the quick service resulted from the harried approach servers take with large groups. Our servers were very nice, and we thanked them appropriately for their attention, but they seemed always worried that they might forget something, or that we might demand something faster. I’m sure they have customers like that from time to time, but no worries with us! We’re a group of easy-going guys.
OVERALL: I can see why Bob Evans restaurants are an old stand-by. It’s consistently a cozy, relaxed atmosphere with above-average food. Nothing fancy on the menu, just your regular breakfast items like eggs, pancakes, coffee, omelets. Probably about as exotic as they get are the breakfast burritos (which I make a point never to order, having had the best-of-the-best at Northstar Cafe in Columbus). But all the food is well-cooked, hot, and gets to the table quickly. While I won’t especially seek out a Bob Evans in the future, I now know that there’s a reason why people gravitate towards them. And the food – the whole restaurant, even – has a genuine, home-cooked sense, and not a corporate copy of the atmosphere.
On a special note: I can’t remember the last time I went to a Bob Evans restaurant. Probably not since college. It’s nice to return to this restaurant, just a week after Bob Evans himself died. For the Columbus Dispatch on him, see here.