On a recent road trip to the Kitchener-Waterloo region, we took in brunch at The Bauer Kitchen, one in the suite of restaurants owned by The Charcoal Group. We had a reservation for 11:00 am on the Sunday after the clocks changed back so we were expecting to be seated among a buzz of well rested fellow patrons. I am almost certain we were the first to arrive. First pour of the coffee would be the freshest, right?
The menu for brunch isn’t teeming with choices of the ‘breakfast’ variety. Something we knew before going since we had cased it out on-line. This is not the place to go if you are looking for the diner experience of 2 eggs over easy, 3 strips of bacon, hashbrowns, rye lightly toasted. It is catering to a finer plate presentation – eggs benedict, waffles, french toast, 2 different omelettes, steak and eggs. The lunch side of the menu is better represented with sandwiches, salads, appetizers and even what I would call light dinner fare.
The website says that “The Bauer Kitchen’s fair trade organic house coffee is a proprietary blend of three estate coffees from Nicaragua, Ethiopia and Sumatra”. Which I suppose that’s why it is $2.95. It was good, but not memorable. Though I am sure it was doing what it needed to be doing to get us primed for the day. (Perhaps I carry my loyalty to Bridgehead Coffeehouse, Ottawa too far.) Although it was Noon, ‘old time’, we all seemed to be dragging. Interestingly, if you are looking to bring their caffeine experience home, you can purchase their coffee (whole bean or ground) or get it next door at Vincenzo’s.
They say their bread is baked using local grains and no additives or dough enhancers. That sounds like a good thing. It is baked on-site in the Bauer Bakery and can be purchased for take-home as well.
Our first mistake was ordering the sticky bun ($1.95 each). Two to share among the 4 of us. Although, there wasn’t a whole lot of sharing. The mistake you ask? Well, let’s just say the thing is gigantic and there is a reason that this picture looks like it covers the whole plate. It’s because it does. It was a meal in and of itself. (Shouldn’t good wait staff stop you from making bad decisions like that?) The fresh tender sweet bread was covered in much cinnamon, butter and sugar. (Not a nut or raisin to be found.) It was pretty yummy but I still continue the search for the ‘best’ sticky bun in the world.
I decided to go for the Smoked Salmon Benedict on a fresh biscuit with hollandaise, poached eggs, homefries and fresh fruit for $13.95. I try to pick salmon whenever I can. What a great idea to match it with the bennys. It really was lovely but I wished I had been more hungry than I was. Darn that sticky bun.
The teenager went off brunch and headed for lunch tastes, starting with the Romaine Salad with garlic anchovy dressing, Heidelberg double-smoked bacon, olive oil croutons and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese for $7.45. He absolutely LOVED it. It had that big garlic flavour he was looking for. He commented on the great bacon (quantity and taste) and the big splash of cheese shavings.
He then moved on to the Bauer Butcher Burger with Heidelburg double-smoked bacon, mustard scallion mayonnaise, aged cheddar and grilled onion on a multi-grain bun. It came with a handsome serving of sweet potato fries. All for $13.95. His eyes were bigger than his stomach and he admitted defeat early and opted for a doggie bag. He says he quite enjoyed the burger and the fries were done to perfection. (I can agree. To the fries.)
The mister and our guest had Eggs Benedict on a fresh biscuit with peameal bacon, arugula, poached eggs, hollandaise, homefries and fresh fruit for $11.95. Our guest moaned a lot through her meal. When it came time to clear the plates, hers had a look of ‘licked clean’. The sticky bun mister gave his meal a valiant try!
The Bauer Kitchen opened in December 2009. They describe themselves as “an energetic up-market ‘bistro’ set in a SoHo inspired, restored felt factory”. Who can argue with that description! (SoHo, a neighbourhood in Manhattan is 8 hours and 800 kms away. Wow! The power of inspiration.) The interior is impressive with its high ceilings, high wall shelves, cement floors, table dividers of industrial steel and reclaimed wood. The restaurant space is massive so getting a cozy feeling is tricky. This was my second time here and I still haven’t felt it. It actually reminds me a bit of Milestones Grill + Bar, though it is hard to beat the Bauer Factory history seeping through.
Executive Chef, Michael Hodgson is a hometown boy and I often read about the healthy competitiveness and camaraderie among the chefs in the region that I can’t help but think keeps them all sharp at their game.
I usually do not to pay much attention to restaurant prices, at least not in a picky way. I tend to think if you had a really outstanding experience, a percentage point or two doesn’t really factor into your make or break decision. But I did feel the prices at TBK are a bit on the high side compared to other places of this calibre.
I do prefer chef-owned restaurants versus those run from ‘head office’, but I can happily say that our overall experience was positive and I do want to come back again. There is so much to the place, I think it will take a few tries to soak it all in. Perhaps on a future visit we will be out on their large outdoor patio. Here is hoping that the place is having a solid following as it approaches its first anniversary.
Whether I like it or not, Waterloo appears to be growing up.
Open seven days a week.
Weekday Lunch: 11 am – 4 pm
Dinner: Mon & Tues: 4 pm – 11 pm
Dinner: Wed & Thurs: 4 pm – midnight
Dinner: Fri: 4 pm – 1 am
Dinner: Sat: 2 pm – 1 am
Diner: Sun: 2 pm – 11 pm
Weekend Brunch: 9 am – 2 pm