June 6, 2019

The Breakfast Connoisseur: Spoiled by Choice in Downtown Salem

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by Laura Owens

Is breakfast your favorite meal of the day? Do you live around the Salem area? If yes, you should consider breakfasting in downtown Salem. All of these morning haunts have their own signature dishes and unique breakfast combinations. These four local spots have their own unique charm and their own spin on classic American breakfast food. I make no claims about which is the best or the worst, I’ll only lay out the opinions of a self-titled “Breakfast Connoisseur.”

All four of these places are in downtown Salem, well within walking distance of everything of note. The Red Line Café and Gulu Gulu Café are on Essex Street, a pedestrian walking street with everything from gift shops and museums to spooky Salem stores and restaurants of all kinds. The Ugly Mug Diner is on Washington Street, the bread and butter of the Salem downtown area. Red’s Sandwich Shop is a bit out of the way on Central Street, but delicious nonetheless.

Red Line Café – Tasty and Quick

The Red Line Café is a cute counter-service spot with an array of breakfast sandwiches and pastries, all made fresh daily. It’s a homey spot with options. Freshly baked pastries are always delicious, nothing and no one could persuade me otherwise, and the selection of at least ten different options for breakfast sandwiches is also a nice added touch. The paninis are like little omelets smashed between two pieces of ciabatta and then grilled, which makes my mouth water. They have a lot of coffee flavors and different types of tea, which come in large cups and help fuel my love of Earl Grey tea. If you need to use the restroom, there is a code for it, and if I could remember it, I’d tell you.

Gulu Gulu Café – Trendy and Delicious

Gulu Gulu Café is a trendy breakfast place with classic breakfast items and a long list of savory and sweet crepes. This sit-down restaurant is charming and comfy, with a large portion of the space being a bar, where specialty beers are served.

Though I didn’t try the many crepes, I was a bit intimidated, the breakfast sandwich on a croissant was amazing, and reminded me of the ones my mom would make for me when I was younger. The parfait, which is layered fruit-yogurt-granola deliciousness, was the perfect pairing to a greasy, buttery breakfast sandwich. The wait staff was super nice, the food was pretty quick, and though the tea was bitter, there was a lot of it.

Ugly Mug – Classic with Quirks

The Ugly Mug Diner is a classic diner with classic American breakfast food with some Ugly Mug specials mixed in. There are unlimited omelet creations, and their mix of regular and sweet potato home fries are to-die-for. As the name suggests, the diner has a huge selection of ugly mugs, of which I had a Christmas one and a Hershey Park one, both of which I thought were adorable (the tea inside of them was delicious, BTWs).

All of their pancakes, waffles, and French toast come with extras; I highly recommend the plain French toast with candied pecans, it comes with a cinnamon sugar butter thingy. Their specialties, like the breakfast poutine, are more brunch-oriented, but still look amazing and I would go back just to try them. All in all, the wait staff were extremely nice, the food came out quickly and was exactly what I wanted, and who could go wrong with free hot water refills for tea? That’s right, no one.

Red’s Sandwich Shop – Inexpensive, Simple, and Delicious

Red’s Sandwich Shop is an inexpensive spot for simple American breakfast dishes. It reminded me of a ship for some reason, with all the wood tables and chairs, and the wood walls. The bar area opens to the kitchen grills, where you can see all the sausages and mountains of cooking home fries. It was busy when I went, but I was seated immediately at the counter. I, of course, had to get a sandwich, breakfast themed, and taste the reason behind the name. The sandwich was good, really good, and on a toasted English muffin, nothing could be better. They do have specials and I saw fancy French toast flavors and some seafood inspired breakfast dishes, which are intriguing and worth the try. The wait staff was extremely nice, and they all seemed to have fun, the food was quick and delicious, and, yet again, there was free hot water for my tea. I like free hot water for my tea.

Salem has marvelous breakfast places, for one. I like tea and lots of it. Breakfast sandwiches are classic, and you can’t go wrong with one, but maybe try some of the more specialty items and be blown away with the awesomeness of them. All of these places had amazing breakfast food for under $30, and sometimes under $15, so good food cheap.

The next time you venture into downtown Salem, try one of these four breakfast places, grab a cup of coffee or tea, which is infinitely superior to coffee, a huge plate of breakfast, and just enjoy.

Laura Owens is a senior at Endicott College studying English Language and Literature. She is a self-taught baker and loves to read, with a collection of over 740 books!