“House-made” nearly is passé in today’s restaurant biz, especially at the diner level. That is why we were surprised at a revelation made by Adam Mayerson on a recent visit to Sugar n’ Spice. The Mayerson Group, you’ll recall, is new owner of Sugar n’ Spice, now a handful of months into operating the iconic breakfast and lunch spot on Reading Road a bit south of Norwood lateral.
Mayerson said he wanted people to know some of the items the kitchen makes from scratch, the old-fashioned way. He mentioned doing the Group’s due diligence work before buying the diner; and seeing a big pot on the burner: “I asked what was in the pot, and I was told it was the syrup used on pancakes. I never knew they made their own pancake (and waffle) syrup,” he said, adding that he had eaten often at Sugar n’ Spice from the days when he was a small boy, and never realized.
“Our pancakes are wispy thin and famous, and the house-made syrup just adds to the quality of it,” he said. In the same breath, he mentioned that quality of what is served and how the orders are served is at the heart of what makes Sugar n’ Spice the special place it has been for decades. “We’re not trying to make changes (in any of that). The focus is more on quality of execution—ensuring that the people who have been eating here for years and years and everybody new, coming in for the first time, they’re all getting quality food—the recipes are done the same each time,” Mayerson stated. In other words, consistent quality for diners-out.
Christopher “CT” Todd, GM and operating partner at Sugar n’ Spice added: “We roast our own turkey and (prepare) our corned beef. The corned beef is braised in-house—slow and low—which is a good way to do it. We’re very watchful of it; of the temp,” he said, because how the meat is cooked makes a difference in tenderness and taste. Also, he mentioned French fries as another example of in-house prep. The fries are hand-cut from whole potatoes and deep-fried at your order. I’ll wager most diners shake their fries from a bag they take from the freezer.
The point is that when you order any number of items from the menu, the house-made touch likely contributes to your enjoyment. While there, I sampled the corned beef hash, for instance, a deliciously different “breakfast” treat. The corned beef, braised in-house, is mixed with potatoes and onions, served with eggs and crisp-toasted English muffins. Todd asked for an opinion from me, and my take was a ten on the deca-meter scale—hearty, tasty, full of breakfast flavors. Bet you’ll feel as I did.
We talked Rueben and Ole Henny sandwiches, both meat and cheese combos that easily may be adjusted to accommodate kosher style Jewish diners-out. The sandwich pictured is a Rueben without the Swiss cheese, and with or without cheese, it is one of the most popular lunch orders at the diner, Todd confided.
Mayerson said that good data have emerged from new-owner upgrades in ordering and processing technology. One data point is that 85 percent of patrons at Sugar n’ Spice order breakfast items, even during traditional lunch hours (the diner is open 7 am to 3 pm daily). In fact, omelets and the breakfast special with two eggs, pancakes and a meat choice on the same plate lead the hit parade.
Among omelets, the Popeye is a winner, along with build-your-own omelets. The Popeye is eponymous because of the spinach, which shares the fold with mozzarella cheese—fluffy, fork tender, tasty and large. Who doesn’t love a good omelet?!
For kosher style diners, there are several omelet choices beyond the Popeye, including the garden and Greek versions, along with numerous variations on the make-your-own theme.
As announced recently, Sugar n’ Spice soon will open a second location. The teaser is that it will be downtown, it will have the same menu, and you can look for it to open in March of 2020.
For now, see you at the original Sugar n’ Spice on Reading Road!
Sugar n’Spice Diner
4381 Reading Road
Cincinnati, OH 45229