Sunshine Cafe's 'Everything Omelet' is the way to start the dayDuluth cafe offers generous omelets
By Tom Wilkowske
Even though a recent heart attack means Ann Carlson needs to cut back on her egg consumption, she still finds room in her diet to have the Sunshine Café’s “Everything Omelet” once in awhile.
Well, half an omelet anyway. “I sometimes share it with a friend,” she said. “It’s a big one.”
The cafe on Grand Avenue has been a regular stop for Carlson nearly from the time the Boston-area native arrived in Duluth in 1962. It has had several owners and Carlson said the current ones, Steven and Young-a Clement, seem to do things just right.
I found Carlson waiting for me at one of about 15 bright yellow booths and tables that add a sunny quality to the decor. When we sat down, Carlson explained what she likes about the place. She appreciates the cleanliness (no grease odors, she pointed out), the home-style food and the atmosphere. “It’s a friendly place,” she said.
We decided to split one “Everything Omelet.” Carlson also mentioned that the Swedish pancakes are popular, so I ordered a plate of them. As we waited, Carlson told me that she and a group of friends have a Sunday after-church ritual of dining out together.
“We don’t go to the most expensive places,” she said. They frequent places such as the Park Place (the former Bridgeman’s in Lincoln Park), Barker’s Island Inn, the Upper Deck and The Shack. They make their choice by drawing the lucky restaurant’s name out of a hat.
When our food came out, Carlson sampled her half of the omelet. The verdict: as good as always.
A good breakfast cafe must have good coffee and the Sunshine's brew passed my three-part test with room to spare. A good, basic blend, it was fresh, smooth and fairly strong.
Many restaurants have an “Everything Omelet”; what “everything” means is in the eye of the beholder. The Sunshine's has diced onions, green peppers, mushrooms and ham along with American cheese. Less typical is the inclusion of hash browns inside the omelet itself, rather than being served on the side.
At about 2 1/2 inches in diameter and 8 inches long, the three-egg omelet was generously sized. I tore into my half with barely restrained gusto (9 a.m. is late for me to be eating breakfast) and found a hearty, comforting filling. It wasn’t as greasy as some omelets nor as salty — it was just salty enough. The egg wrapper itself was airy and light, but substantial enough to do its job of containing the filling.
The Swedish pancakes were thin crepes served unceremoniously, three to a plate, with butter and a small container of raspberry jam. They were slightly eggy and sweet, with mild sweet spice overtones.
ABOUT THE DISH, RESTAURANT
Young-a Clement, who co-owns the restaurant with her husband, Steven, wouldn’t give a lot of detail about the omelet recipe. “That’s kind of our secret,” she said. “We created the recipe.” She did say that Steven, who cooks for the place, spends quite a bit of time whipping the egg mixture before making the omelets one at a time.
Young-a Clement said the Swedish pancakes are one of the restaurant’s most popular items. It’s something they added only a few years ago, and the recipe came from a magazine whose name she can’t remember.
The Sunshine Cafe also is known for its fried fish, Clement said. She said her husband uses Alaskan walleye fillets and does the battering process himself before deep-frying them.
The Clements have owned the Sunshine Cafe for 18 years.
When you mosey on up to the cash register to pay your bill, bring your cash or local checks — the cafe doesn’t take credit or debit cards of any kind. And then check out the kids’ artwork on the walls, along with dozens of uplifting sayings, aphorisms and humorous phrases written on Post-It notes that Young-a Clement has collected over the years. “It’s things you know that you forget sometimes,” she said. “Some of it I have read in books, some of it other people bring in.”
This review was originally published March 24, 2005.
Reach Tom Wilkowske at firstname.lastname@example.org.