As St. Patrick’s Day draws near, consider a traditional Irish breakfast in addition to the Guinness and corned beef and cabbage.
At Mad Hatter Cafe in Weymouth, the traditional Irish breakfast ($9) consists of Irish bacon, sausage, two eggs served any style, black and white puddings, grilled tomato, beans, and choice of soda bread or toast.
Chef and owner Dermot Doran has brought the tradition from his native Castledermot, County Kildare, in Ireland.
He was working as a bartender in Dublin 20 years ago when he had “a mad notion” to move to the States. Doran decided if he didn’t like this side of the pond, he’d simply move back, but he’s here to stay. He opened the cafe last fall.
There’s a lot of dry, bland soda bread out there, but Doran’s is deliciously moist and slightly grainy. The bacon and sausage were good, and the grilled tomato was a fresh complement to the rich components of the plate. I wasn’t so fond of the beans in a tomato sauce, which tasted strongly like ketchup.
Black pudding, a blood sausage usually made with oats or barley, was a little sweet and smoky. Its cousin, white pudding, doesn’t include blood, and its taste was milder and smoother. To complete the experience, wash down the whole lot with a small pot of Barry’s Irish breakfast tea ($2).
If you’re on the go, you can get the breakfast compacted into a sandwich as the Irish roll ($6).
Most of the menu items are not Irish but traditional diner offerings, and there are a couple of novelties. Ever wanted pizza for breakfast? Mad Hatter’s breakfast pizza ($10) has no sauce or mozzarella, but the crust is topped with scrambled eggs, jack cheddar, Irish sausage, tomato, ham, and bacon.
There’s a vegetarian alternative ($9), with scrambled eggs, tomato, peppers, onions, mushrooms, and cheese — but my guests were all about the meat.
The pizza would take a little while to make, our waiter informed us. While it was in the oven, Doran visited tables with a tin of Irish candy. “Something to nibble on while you wait for your pizza,” he said.
The first time I tried the pizza, the flavors fell a bit flat, and I wanted something to perk up all the meat and eggs. I was alone in that assessment, since the other two members of my party were nuts about the pizza.
On a subsequent visit, I was nuts about the pizza. There was a lot more tomato, which brightened up the flavors. The crust was crisper. And as one friend pointed out, the eggs were very fluffy. This time, approval was unanimous.
Also inventive was the crunchy French toast ($7), a twist on the classic, coated in corn flakes and dusted with powdered sugar. The cereal adds texture and just a bit of crunch.
The Reuben sandwich ($8) on the lunch menu comes with cole slaw or home fries. The creaminess of the Russian dressing and the pickly, tangy sauerkraut were delectable foils for the corned beef on rye.
However, my friend insisted his homemade corned beef hash ($9) — with two eggs any style and toast — was dry. I disagreed, but I found it softer than usual and homogenous in texture.
The young diners in our group chose the chocolate-chip pancakes ($5 on kids’ menu, $7 for adults) and eggs Benedict ($8). My friends’ 8-year-old son happily polished off the pancakes with a side of bacon. Their daughter, 10, vigorously approved of the Benedict; given the choice of Irish bacon or Canadian, she chose Canadian.
If it’s still corned beef and cabbage you crave, Mad Hatter will be serving it next Sunday, St. Patrick’s Day ($10). Doran said his preparation is a little different from the norm because he mashes the cabbage and turnips.
The corned beef will also appear on the new dinner menu. Dinner hours debut this week, on Thursdays and Fridays from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. The entrees will include lasagna, shepherd’s pie, beef stew, a corned beef dinner, and a ham dinner.
Small groups are best for the Mad Hatter Cafe, which seats 18 and four more at the bar. On a recent Sunday, our party of six waited for two tables to clear and be pushed together; the wait staff was apologetic and accommodating.
The dining area is casual, yet bright and comfortable. Service is attentive and coffee gets refilled often.
Doran said he chose to open the cafe in Weymouth, on Route 18 near its intersection with Route 53, because there was no other venue in town with an Irish breakfast.
Some of his recipes were passed down by his mother, and he learned other dishes along the way, adding his own spin.
“I’ve always had a dream of opening a breakfast place,” Doran said. “And five months ago, I did.”
Shirley Goh can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her blog at whataboutsecondbreakfast.blogspot.com.