[UPDATE: LJ’s has closed.]
Date of Visit: Saturday, March 21, 2009 at 10:45 a.m.
IMPRESSIONS: The arts company of which I am a co-founder, Wild Goose Creative, went on our annual retreat to Hocking Hills in southwest Ohio in late March. We use the weekend as a time to get out of town, relax, and do some focused planning for the coming year. My job, of course, was to pick a place for breakfast on Saturday. About three years ago my wife and I breakfasted at Julie’s Cafe in downtown Logan, an easy-to-pass joint that featured some of the best French toast we’ve tried. As the company returned for another retreat, it was up to us to find breakfast one of the mornings, and we landed on the new LJ’s Coffee Shop & Restaurant east of downtown Logan.
ATMOSPHERE: The restaurant is a little hard to find. It’s in the side of a warehouse that also contains a convenience store, a Fedex store, and an eBay selling store. The building is set far back from the road, and because LJ’s is on the side of it, you really have to look for the signs. Once you find it, however, you’ll find that the building is nice and new, and very welcoming. Inside is a cozy restaurant with a low ceilings, brick walls, accented by wood and sheet metal. Up front is the “coffee shop” area, with pastries in a cooler and rows of Torani syrups to greet you.
FOOD: LJ’s offers the standard breakfast spread, but they specialize in combo meals that are infinitely customizable. There are so many variations; here just a few examples of how your breakfast can be personalized:
1. Eggs: how would like them cooked?
2. Potatoes: fries or hash browns?
3. Meat: would you like bacon, ham, sausage (and links or patties)?
4. Bread: biscuits, muffins, toast (in white, wheat, rye or sourdough)?
5. Carbs: pancakes, corncakes, or French toast?
And LJ’s always gives you the option of ordering 1-3 eggs and 1-3 slices of pancakes.
I chose the Have It All Breakfast (pictured below), which is pancakes, corncakes, mush, or French toast with meat, or with meat and eggs.
Overall, the breakfast was just fine. Nothing mind-blowing, but no major complaints. The eggs were just right, the bacon was crispy (some of the others in our group felt it had a funny taste, but I didn’t notice anything). The hash browns were good, the biscuit a little dry but not bad. All of our food came out a little cold – I suspect it was because of the size of our group. Some of our food may have sat around until everything could be delivered at once.
I had never tried corncakes before, so this was a Breakfast w/Nick first. They’re basically a pancake made with corn meal, dense and mealy. It really soaked up the syrup. Note to self: you need to keep a corncake hydrated when eating it.
They also serve the Jelly Bean Special. We were told Jelly Bean is a nickname for the cook. This was basically a corned beef hash. Not too bad.
We tried a basket of friend pickles, too. Not a typical breakfast item, but how bad can they be? And all of the breakfast was so cheap! The Have It All Breakfast sets you back $4.99, or you can splurge on the Pancakes with Meat & Eggs for $5.79. If you can want to keep it simple, you can grab the Coffee & Toast, the Oatmeal, or the Grits for only $1.99.
SERVICE: The servers were the sassy middle-aged servers typical of diners across America. Sorry, is that a judgment call? I don’t mean it to sound derogatory, but there’s a definite character type in these breakfast joints. These are the ladies who call you “Hon,” are no-nonsense, and are very nice if you are, too. I like these servers, and that’s just who you’ll meet at LJ’s.
OVERALL: I’ve only begun to explore the breakfast offerings of southeastern Ohio, but if LJ’s is anything to go by, it’s headed in the right direction. We chatted with the manager briefly before we left, and he seemed very proud of the restaurant and their customers. He told me that “LJ” stands for Little John, the owner. So there’s a nice feel to this place. It’s a typical small-town diner, with some local flavor, close to downtown. It would make a great stop for starting a day of hiking in Hocking Hills.
The only catch, again, is the off-the-beaten-path location. Here are a couple signs, just for reference. It may be hard to find, but LJ’s is worth taking a look!