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Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Burgers-n-Beer acts as perfect breakfast replacement spot

This column appeared in the Nov. 4 edition of The News-Herald. 

This is my one-sentence summary of the World Series:

We waited all year for this?

Now, on to more important things. Like Sunday breakfast.

At last, the jury is in.

From now on, Sunday breakfast will be at Burgers-n-Beer in Downtown Willoughby.

After the recent closing of Helen’s Sunrise Cafe across from the YMCA, where my brother and I — occasionally joined by other loved ones — enjoyed Sunday breakfast for some 10 years, we drifted from place to place, hither and yon, looking for a new venue that would be well-located, reasonably priced, pleasing in gastronomical offerings and hospitable in atmosphere.

I will not mention some of the spots we tried out simply because they did not come up to our expectations, and I would not want to besmirch their reputations. As far as I know, they may be reputable places. But they were not for us. They just were not what we sought in the way of Sunday sustenance.

Now, if you really enjoy burnt toast or “over easy” eggs cooked to within an inch of their very lives, I might whisper their names to you — in strictest confidence, of course. Otherwise, let me say that it took but a few moments after our first visitation to Doug’s place to cement the relationship and conclude that our search had ended.

The owner of Burgers-n-Beer is a nice fellow by the name of Doug Ciancibello, who is pleasant in nature and who sometimes employs a colorful vocabulary while playing golf if things aren’t going well.

At a Leadership Lake County golf outing a couple years ago held at the erstwhile Madison Country Club, I happened to be playing in a foursome behind Doug and his group.

As we neared the 18th green, which had been designated the “long putt” hole, there was a signpost on the green bearing Doug’s name. It was 30 feet from the hole, and if it “stood up,” as they say, he would have captured the prize for longest putt.

Our group came along and our ball was lying some 52 feet from the pin. Didn’t I casually roll the ball into the hole, pick up the marker, write my name below Doug’s, and go home with the prize!
(Kenny Gamiere and Gary Vaccariello can attest to this.)

I don’t know if Doug ever realized it was I who had lifted the prize from his clutches. And the prize was a beauty — a two-piece putter in a walnut carrying case that was very executive looking.

But I found a better home for it. I donated it to the Desert Fox golf challenge so my good friend, Tim Wright Sr., could award it as a prize at the outing held for 10 years in honor of his late son, Tim Jr.
But I digress.

Burgers-n-Beer doubled in size when Doug annexed the space next door once occupied by Julian’s Restaurant. (We used to go there pre-Helen’s on Sundays, so returning was something of a homecoming.)

We used to find a parking space on Erie Street and amuse ourselves reading the signs backward on the way to the restaurant. Thus Rebrab Pohs Nepo, and like that.

All this tomfoolery (an ages-old recording by Tommy Dorsey) would not amount to a hill of beans were the offerings at Doug’s not superior.

But (good news inserted here) they are! The eggs are cooked to our liking, the bacon, which we order extra crisp, is prepared to a fault, and the coffee is what one would expect in a fine establishment.

And I even enjoy the home fries — which I probably shouldn’t order, considering my self-imposed dietary restrictions. But I figure, what the heck, it’s only once a week.

We have spotted several familiar faces at B-n-B, so a lot of others who miss Helen’s seem to have settled in at the new venue without missing a beat.

One thing I tried on our first visit was to order both eggs and french toast. I will not do it again. I love them both, and can still, in my dreams, think back to my mother’s french toast, and her constant admonition, “Have one more slice, Jimmy.”

But at both places, at B-n-B and my mother’s table, it was way too much food. Especially figuring in the home fries at B-n-B.

Most of all, I am glad we have concluded our search. B-n-B is extra good and it is convenient — right across the street from the post office, where I can buy stamps on a Sunday with the swipe of a credit card.


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