Diner: How 'Bout Them Apples?

It's a family affair for breakfast and lunch on Elm Street

Jul 11, 2002 at 2:06 pm

Entering the Apple on Elm, Downtown, is like walking into a family dinner, only it's not your family and everyone seems to know everyone else ... except you. The servers know a surprising number of the customers on a first-name basis and treat them as old friends, despite a bustling crowd during the Wednesday lunch hour. My lunch companion and I sat in the center of the packed room, waiting to be initiated into this family.

And indeed we were. After being told the daily special, the "famous" meatloaf (served only on Wednesdays), we were unexpectedly entertained by other customers, especially the regulars who had a penchant for chatting with the servers. This is not to suggest, however, that newcomers weren't welcome. Most things in life, even the busy restaurant industry, just take time. Fortunately on a weekday afternoon, it only takes until dessert before you're shooting the breeze with your server, talking about her upcoming vacation plans and getting the inside scoop on the restaurant's history.

Open since December 2001, The Apple on Elm is a comfortable alternative to the kitchen table, serving breakfast and lunch and offering carryout orders by fax or phone. Run by the Borchers family, the Apple offers a variety of home-cooked food — the quintessential apple pie or a homemade cheesecake — that tastes just as good (if not better) than mom's.

You can start your day with made-to-order beignets (French donuts), but you have to come before 9:30 a.m. The usual breakfast spectrum exists with omelets ($3.95-$4.75), breakfast sandwiches ($2.95), and French toast and pancakes served with your choice of toppings and accessories ($3.25-$4.15). Breakfast is served weekdays between 7-11 a.m. and all day on Saturday.

The lunch menu can appease an appetite built on a hard morning's work. The menu offers a typical array of favorites, highlighted by the Apple Burger ($4.75) and the Apple Hot Dog ($3.25), one-third pound of beef served New York Style with mustard, relish, onion and sauerkraut.

I sampled the Hot Dog and the Apple Special Salad, a unique combination of romaine lettuce, feta cheese, mushrooms, sunflower seeds, raisins and pineapples. Both surprised me with pleasantly strong combinations of flavors.

The entrée selection has more options, from the Chicken Quesadilla ($6.95) to the Hawaiian Stir Fry ($6.95). Despite the sweltering heat, hungry customers were enjoying Apple's famous Texas-style Chili ($3.45) and the Apple House Soup ($3.45), a mixture of chicken and noodles in a tomato base. Vege-tarians will find a Veggie Burger ($4.95) and a Vegetable Quesadilla ($6.95), in addition to salads and fish.

The walls are mostly bare, save a painting of an apple by one of the Borchers. Perhaps this just proves that ambiance is more than bright colors and fancy lighting. Most regulars (and now newcomers like me) are content to enjoy the unique interpretation of home-cooked food and a room full of happy customers and servers. Despite mom's caveat, everyone seems to think it's OK to talk with your mouth full.

Go: 801 Elm St., Downtown

Call: 513-621-6512

Hours: Monday-Friday 7 a.m.-2 p.m. (breakfast until 11 a.m.); Saturday 7:30 a.m.-2 p.m. (breakfast all day)

Prices: Inexpensive

Payment: Accepts major credit cards

Red Meat Alternatives: Veggie Burger, Vegetable Quesadilla