Filling and Fine

Three and a Half Brothers Café delivers on the promise of 'cooking like Dad used to'

At the top of the tall Three and a Half Brothers Café sign, it says: "Cookin' like Dad used to."

Yeah, that sounds about right. When I think of Dad's cookin', I think of hearty, workmanlike fare: You'll like it, and it'll fill you up, but it won't wow you—and that indeed describes Three and a Half Brothers' fare.

The restaurant opened early this summer in the old, oddly shaped Sanchez Burrito Company spot on First Avenue. Our Adam Borowitz reported the joint was serving up inexpensive yet massive breakfasts; seeing I am a fan of inexpensive yet massive breakfasts, I needed to check out Three and a Half Brothers.

Well, Adam was right about those breakfasts: They are massive—especially the Southern bell skillet ($6.99), which comes with two pieces of chicken-fried steak, two eggs, hash browns, biscuits and gravy. It's one of the "signature breakfasts," which join various omelets, breakfast burritos and the breakfast items you'd expect to find on the menu. Of course, I had to order the Southern bell skillet on our inaugural visit.

Garrett's less of a fan of breakfast than I am, so he perused the lunch/dinner menu, which includes all sorts of sandwiches, wraps, burgers and Nathan's hot dogs. He picked the kraut dog ($3.99)—and a cinnamon roll ($2.99). OK, I had a role in the cinnamon-roll decision, too; we saw them in a display case on the way in, and they looked too good to pass up.

The roll was delivered first, and it was lovely. It included a nice but not overwhelming amount of cinnamon in addition to some raisins and the sweet-and-sticky glaze. Yum.

Then came my breakfast and Garrett's hot dog. The juicy kraut dog was covered in plenty of sauerkraut, and Garrett enjoyed it, although he was disappointed in the fact that only yellow "American" mustard was available; he prefers deli or Dijon mustard with his hot dogs. As his side—all burgers, sandwiches and hot dogs come with a choice of cottage cheese, cole slaw, french fries or potato salad—Garrett picked the potato salad, which was OK, if a bit overwhelmed by onions.

Speaking of overwhelmed: If you don't like gravy on everything, then I don't recommend the Southern bell skillet, or I suggest that you ask the server to segregate the gravy. The white pepper gravy was smothered over the entire plate; only a couple of corners of chicken-fried steak were visible in a sea of white. Eating my meal became a game, of sorts: I'd stick in my fork and knife, make a swirl and a cut, and see what I came up with. Thankfully, everything was quite tasty. The chicken fried steak was especially good—even as leftovers. After splitting that cinnamon roll, there was no way I could eat it all.

We returned a few nights later for dinner—in fact, we were there on only the third day that Three and a Half Brothers was offering dinner service. The folks at the restaurant were touting their expansion into dinner hours during our breakfast visit, so we decided to check it out, especially since the menu was not changing or expanding, beyond a four-piece fried-chicken special ($9.99).

The managers at Three and a Half Brothers seem to be in a period of expansion. Beyond adding dinner hours, they're now doing karaoke nights on the as-yet largely unused covered patio, and they seem open to expanding the menu if there's a demand.

Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, we had the restaurant to ourselves for our Wednesday-evening dinner.

The dining room has a dozen or so tables and a nautical theme, of sorts: One wall includes a mural of the "S.S. Minow," and one of the god-awful Gilligan's Island movies was playing on the TV during our breakfast visit. Also, for some reason, there are seashells sitting on the window sills.

During our dinner visit, Gilligan, the Skipper and co. had been vanquished in favor of a local newscast; the server brought us the remote control and said we could change the channel if we wanted, since we had the place to ourselves. We kept the news on, and decided what to order: the pork chops and three eggs for me ($6; breakfast for dinner rocks!), and the bacon cheeseburger with fries ($5.99) for Garrett.

The food arrived fairly quickly, and with a smile. Both dishes were adequate, but unexciting. Garrett's burger tasted OK, but it was cooked medium-well to well—he was not asked how he wanted it prepared—and it was a bit dry. My breakfast was a bit better; the eggs came over-easy, as I requested, and the small pork chop was enjoyable, although I could have done without the breading.

All in all, I rather enjoyed my visits to Three and a Half Brothers. (Their names, in case you care, are Simon, Dale, Tim and Don; so says that tall sign out front. Three of them are brothers, and one is a brother-in-law; so says one of the friendly servers.) The food there is not great, but it's enjoyable, filling, inexpensive—just like Dad used to make.

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