Bub’s Café breaks from tradition

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By: Bennett Fuson <bfuson@hilite.org>

I suppose it could be said that Bub’s Burgers and Ice Cream (affectionately known as Bub’s) helped rebuild downtown Carmel. Bub’s, which was opened in 2003 by Matt Frey, revolutionized the laid back local restaurants of Carmel, mixing high quality food with a central location downtown and local workforce, which in turn began the development of the new downtown. Since 2003, Bub’s has become an integral part of Carmel life.

Piggybacking on the success of his first restaurant, Frey opened Bub’s Café in the spring. This new restaurant, about a five minute walk from the original restaurant, focuses on the early half of the day, specifically breakfast. The short distance, though, is almost ironic, considering that the restaurants are polar opposites of each other.

Before I dig into its faults, let’s review the positive aspects of the restaurant. Bub’s Café does not taint the good name of its predecessor. While the burgers that made Bub’s famous are noticeably absent, the food offered (and there is a lot of it) makes up for the loss. Breakfast is the focal point of the restaurant, so the only thing I’m going to mention about lunch is that it’s a lot healthier than Bub’s, but it is pricier (plan to shell out $6.50 at the least).

I digress. On the subject of breakfast, Bub’s Café shows off pancakes like the original Bub’s shows off burgers, and with good reason. Not since the close of Hambones Café on Meridian have I seen such huge pancakes. As a food connoisseur of sorts, I can easily say they might be some of the best pancakes I’ve ever had, and at a reasonable, if not great, price. (For the amount of food given, $5.75 is a steal). The only problem with the pancakes is the Big Stack, the brother of the Big Ugly and a monster of a dish (12 pancakes) that costs either $24 or $33. Only a lunatic would pay $33 for pancakes; then again, only a lunatic would actually eat 12 pancakes in one sitting. However, for those of the non-pancake nature, Bub’s Café offers the rest of the traditional breakfast menu items, including omelettes, biscuits and gravy, French toast, etc.

The omelet in particular was very good, which is a high compliment, considering I will not eat eggs here or there, I will not eat eggs anywhere.

Okay, now for the constructive criticism. Bub’s Café has not figured out quite what it wants to be yet. The restaurant’s web site boasts that it tries to cater to a “more ‘grown-up’ taste” by offering more health-conscious food, yet it serves Bub Holes, which are mutant donut holes covered in chocolate or glaze, an item that would not be out of place at the State Fair.

Bub’s Café also lacks the down-home atmosphere of the original Bub’s. The restaurant, with approximately 10 tables, seemed stuffy and cramped, a setting that no amount of bright paint and cute signs can fix. The location is also not ideal. I think Frey sacrificed ambiance for convenience when he picked the location for Bub’s Café. Unlike the predecessor, Bub’s Café, instead of looking out to trees and quaint houses, looks out to an industrious warehouse and a water tower. How picturesque.

Despite its faults, Bub’s Café shines above other breakfast restaurants. Once it establishes an identity for itself, it might become, like its predecessor, a staple of Carmel society.

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