They have been advertising an all-you-can-eat brunch on Sundays for only $14.95 per person. Since I love brunch and I love buffets, this sounded right up my alley. Instead of parking on Haddon Avenue, I parked in the back and walked up to the back entrance. A covered porch sits outside the back which provides ample outdoor dining in good weather. I would have requested a seat on the porch but it appeared to be occupied by a party group.
Outdoor dining on a beautiful day.
Whether you enter from the back or front, in order to get to the hostess stand, you have to walk down a narrow hall that also occupies the buffet line. Once you reach the dining room, the ceilings are high and the space is open and generous. The walls are adorned with murals and a mock restaurant front with a real awning. The whole resaurant has a shabby-chic appearance. I really felt like I was in a cafe in Paris or New Orleans.
The counter is lined with teapots and two-tiered servers laden with pastries. How cool is that?
I was quickly seated and handed a menu. The Painted Cottage only serves breakfast and lunch and the regular menu is available on Sundays in addition to the all-you-can-eat brunch buffet. The menu is extensive and the prices are very reasonable offering items like Home-made Biscuits and Gravy ($7.95), Eggs Benedict ($7.85), and Old Thyme Chicken Salad Sandwich ($7.45). However, I had already decided that the buffet was for me.
A cafe inside a cafe!
The wait staff is dressed in casual khakis and white shirts. My waiter (I want to say Chris but I can’t remember for sure) sauntered over to the table to see if I wanted coffee and was ready to order. I did and ordered the buffet. Although friendly, he never asked if it was my first time or offered any explanation as to how the buffet worked.
How shabby-chic is this?
I strolled over to the buffet station and quickly figured out where it started. I was first greeted by a really cool, shabby-chic tea cart piled high with an eclectic selection of mis-matched china plates. I grabbed a pretty piece of Noritake and moved on down the line. The buffet features eggs benedict, cottage potatoes, pancakes, bacon, sausage, biscuits, and sausage gravy. I was looking forward to the biscuits and gravy and was taken back, at first, by the yellow-ish tint and creamy texture of the sausage gravy. I decided to try it anyway.
Prime Rib, Eggs, or Waffles
A cook stands behind the line and performs several tasks: Carve a piece of prime rib, make scrambled eggs or omelets, or make you a belgium waffle. He gave me a nice slab of prime rib and even offered to saute it for a minute if it was too rare for me. I chuckled. (There is no such thing as too rare.) He quickly scrambled me some eggs and I returned to my seat.
Everything on the plate was fantastic. The Prime Rib was cooked perfectly and not overly fatty. My eggs were scrambled just right without being runny or overcooked. But the best thing was the Biscuits and Gravy. I’m used to the white, chunky gravy that most restaurants down South sell. This gravy was silky smooth with a slight buttery taste that transformed this traditional mainstream Southern dish from everyday to gourmet. Yum.
Bisquits and sausage gravy to die for.
As I finished my plate, I noticed two woman who had been seated near me as they chatted to each other. One of them gestured to a server and I heard her complain that no one had offered them a menu yet. Now these gals were seated when I came in and I had been seated, gotten a plate of food, and eaten the plate and no one had been to their table during that whole time. A small pow-wow ensued in the corner with several servers as they decided who was supposed to take care of the table. A server went to the table, apologized, and took their order. To the restaurant’s credit, two huge salads were delivered to the table less than five minutes after they placed their order. They seemed pleased.
Here's to the ladies who lunch...
In addition to the two ladies lunching, the restaurant was full with seniors dressed for church, young couples in jeans and flip flops, gay couples, and khaki clad yuppy families. I loved the mix of patrons as well as the casual atmosphere of this place. It is set up to give you the feeling of a leisurely breakfast or lunch dining experience and it works. The wait staff carries this “air” of casual dining with them and move at two speeds: Saunter and Mosey. Now don’t get me wrong. They are casually attentive and never appear to be disinterested or intentionally slow.
Pretty in Pink
I returned again to the buffet line to check out the other side which included mashed potatoes, a hot vegetable, a pasta salad, fruit, yogurt, granola, bagels, and pastries. I picked up a totally cool Eames era (1950’s/60’s) pink plate and made my selections. See how pretty the food looks on the pink plate. (I am so gay but plating does make a difference, even at a buffet.)
The waiter returned after I had finished to see if I needed anything else. I said no and he dropped of the check with no explanation. I had to stop him to find out if I paid him or at the hostess stand. In addition, he never cleared away my old plate when I finished with it, which is a big pet peeve of mine at buffets. The hostess, after passing my table several times, finally decided to clear it away for me.
Overall, I have to give The Painted Cottage Cafe a high rating for a wonderful atmosphere and excellent food, far above what one would normally expect from a buffet. As far as the ala carte meals are concerned, the ones I saw delivered to the tables around me looked awesome and whetted my desire to return and sample some of them. So, if you want shabby-chic cafe experience with an eclectic menu of tasty food, The Painted Cottage Cafe is the place to go, just plan to take your time.
The Painted Cottage Cafe is located at 712 Haddon Avenue in Collingswood. They are open 7 days a week, 7 am - 4 pm. Visit them at http://www.paintedcottage.biz/ or call them at 856-854-8060.