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Mesa Café and Grill

Imaginative choices, low prices
By BILL RODRIGUEZ  |  November 18, 2009

Usually there's something special about a neighborhood restaurant, which by definition is as much about community as about commerce. And the ones that are open just for breakfast and lunch are likely to be the most sincere, closer in look and feel to grandma's kitchen than to IHOP. The Mesa Cafe & Grill, in Cranston's Rolfe Square, is one of those places you could base a moving decision on. I'd like to live in the vicinity just so I could work my way through the menu.

Anybody looking over the chalkboard specials at the entrance as we did is bound to find something hard to pass up. The other day there were "Acapulco Bennies," poached eggs over spicy sausage under hollandaise sauce and salsa; also apple-cinnamon bread French toast, labeled "NEW" to intrigue regulars.

Inside, it's inviting, with art on the walls and potted plants here and there. There are counter stools for solitary customers and lots of booths and tables for two with comfortably padded seats. Three pages of the five-page menu are devoted to breakfast opportunities. While bacon and eggs and buttermilk pancakes are available, so too are more imaginative offerings, to my mind a hopeful indicator of good preparations. There are several breakfast sandwiches, including a breakfast BLT. Kids can get Mickey Mouse pancakes with cute little ears. As appealing as that specialty board French toast invention was, on the regular menu is banana bread French toast, a forehead-slapping-brilliant concept. You can pick from several variations on eggs Benedict, including "Soprano's Bennies," the defining ingredient of which appears to be butterflied Italian sausage. Their signature Mesa's Bennies has the poached eggs over corned beef hash, topped with the light salsa-like condiment pico de gallo.

Johnnie had the breakfast burrito ($6.25), a simple choice among more fascinating ones, but it ended up being very good. There could have been more refried beans mixed in with the rice for my taste, but there was plenty of scrambled egg in the flour tortilla. In addition to the pico de gallo that was on top, our waitress provided some of cook/proprietor Ismael Loeza's delicious green salsa. (He makes everything there, from the cinnamon buns to the potato chips, both of which we sampled and found yummy — the former not overly sweet and the latter minimally greasy, very thin, and sprinkled with seasoning salt.)

Fortunately, my choice also came with his wonderful home fries, quite flavorful and grilled very brown on one side. The special that had attracted me was the grilled pork chops and eggs ($8.50). There was only one chop, but it was thick and moist, kept from being dry by a light coating of flour. Good idea. If you want to amp up the protein alongside your eggs, you also have your choice of six-ounce ($8.95) or eight-ounce ($10.95) hand-cut sirloin steak.

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