Bob Wilhelmy writes the Dining Out column for The American Israelite.

“People come here looking for the omelets and the pancakes — our signature items,” says GM Beau Spicer, who heads up the operation at the OTR location of Sugar n’ Spice on Sycamore Street downtown. Even while the emphasis emphatically leans toward breakfast choices by patrons, the classic diner “feel” is the essence of the eatery, Spicer believes. “It’s a unique space here — the atmosphere — and people enjoy the nostalgia of this place.”

Exterior signage at Sugar n’ Spice diner on Sycamore

That said, there is more to the story than a classic, though modified, diner shape, the throw-back counter stools, the booths, the kitschy chairs, and tables and all the rest. There is a rich, long history of satisfied patrons who love the place for what it offers — delicious food. And the food they love most are the breakfast options. Owner Adam Mayerson tracks sales of his diner locations and said this: “At the Reading Road location (presently closed for restoration and expansion) and the downtown location, 92 percent of what we sell is breakfast; nobody orders lunch—nobody.” Well, okay, 92 percent is not 100 percent, but point taken.

Spicer at OTR sees the value of having the anchor location: “We do have a ton of regulars, and that’s the benefit of having the flagship location (on Reading Road, where Mort Keller founded Sugar n’ Spice in 1941). We have people who come in and order the same thing, time after time. The kitchen (here) is very consistent in keeping everything we make the same every time,” he said, adding that the recipes and the methods of preparation are the same as the originals dating back to the Keller days.

“A lot of people from our Reading (Road) location have been finding their way down the hill and coming here to OTR while the other location is being renovated.” Why the loyalty and the extra effort it takes to travel downtown? Spicer thinks it’s the small details in food preparation that Sugar n’ Spice adheres to, thus making every dish better, while the dining-out world writ large has cavalierly latched onto easier, faster, cheaper ways of delivering food to a patron’s table, thus sacrificing quality or that certain something that makes a dish special. He singled out omelets and scrambled eggs as an example of the extra effort and better results his kitchen produces.

Sugar n’ Spice’s wispy-thin pancakes

“There are very few places (very likely none, in fact) that do the eggs the way we do it. We whip them to order. We put them in a machine that looks like a milk shake machine, essentially whipping them, which gives you light and fluffy eggs,” he said. That’s what other places don’t do, he stated. The added step, perhaps a minute or more of kitchen time, is a difference-maker in the finished quality of an omelet or a scramble of eggs. Whipping adds air to the eggs, making them fluffy. Perhaps it’s natural to think that adding air to the eggs is somehow more beneficial to the restaurant’s bottom line than to the patron’s tastebuds, giving a diner less egg and more air for the buck. But remember, a Sugar n’ Spice omelet is a 5-egg omelet. That’s a lot of eggs, Bunky!

“We’re definitely nailing the environment of the diner here. For me personally, I can speak to what brought me to the Company — it’s the very throw-back kind of diner feel. I love it! I’ve been a patron of the Reading Road location for many years,” Spicer said, adding that the food is special, and one can see how much the patrons enjoy their dining experience.

In doing the interview for this article, Dining Out was there at about 2 pm (closing time is 2:30 pm), and the diner was a bit under half full of patrons. In an informal walking-around survey of tables where food had been served, Adam Mayerson’s statistical data was reinforced. Counting some 26 plates of food served, there was one lunchtime sandwich item to be found, a burger, while all the rest were breakfast items. The survey list included omelets, eggs sunny side up, waffles, pancakes, French toast, and the like.

A plate of eggs done sunny side up

And the mood, the ambiance of the place? Lots of chatter, lots of smiles and lots of casual attire. Just folks enjoying a good breakfast meal well after the noon hour and loving the place and the experience. To me, that’s what dining out is all about.

See you at the Sugar n’ Spice on Sycamore in OTR!