Why do people line up to get into Chez Cora for Sunday Brunch? While I'm waiting to find out, retired high school principle and franchisee James Kohles, doles out samples of the days smoothie to keep appetites at bay. He is busier and happier than ever since he bought into the Chez Cora chain that began in Quebec in 1987. Too bad however, about the end of those two-month, school days summer holidays.
The turnover of tables is speedy and in a short time, we're inside and seated in a booth. Th
e minute we open the menu we see the appeal of the place: Six pages of dishes with fun and funky names like Buckwheat Blessing, Banana Blast, Maple Crespelles. I'm about to order a dish called Peggy's Poached, which is a poached egg, cottage cheese and fresh fruit when I have a change of heart.
"You didn't come here to just order eggs, did you?" asks our smiling waitress, pointing out the Quebecois cretons, pork pate, baked beans, and crepes filled with pure maple butter. Of course she's right, but the colorful cartoonish menu has overwhelmed us with so many choices. Every item says, pick me, pick me. We look to see what they're eating around us. Mountains of fruit, crepes that hang over the edges of large plates, eggs, waffles, toasts and sauces in delectable abundance. A person could breakfast and lunch here from 6:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. every day of the month and not order the same dish twice.
The décor is a hoot. Chickens perch on straw in crates hung high on the walls; smiley sunshine faces are everywhere, and the staff is cheery and friendly. It's contagious. Even on this rainy Sunday morning, no one is in a gloomy mood.
Why does this orange juice taste so brilliantly of orange? Jim explains that fresh Valencia oranges are squeezed under 80 lbs of pressure so the intense flavor of the oil of orange rind is retained in the juice. Can I ever enjoy OJ from the carton again?
Eggs. How do I love thee, let me count the ways. Eye appeal matches taste in an omelet with Swiss cheese and mushrooms, rolled in a buckwheat crepe, cut in half, blanketed in rich, lemony hollandaise and served with fresh fruit. Eggs Benedictine served poached on a split English muffin with Brie cheese, mushrooms and hollandaise. I love them all.
And how about this "go- ahead-and-eat-it-all-I-dare-you" called 10 on 10 that gives you eggs in a skillet with potatoes and sausage, bacon, ham, bologna, smoked salmon, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, green peppers, spinach and cheddar, and comes au gratin (capped by baked cheese sauce) along with fresh fruit and toast.
Jim strolls through the room with a pot of fresh coffee, refilling cups, being vigilant about service, and just making sure everyone's breakfast fantasy is fulfilled. And it is.
The simple pleasures and simple breakfast foods are served with generosity and lots of friendly style. On the way out we pick up a sample of maple fudge from the cash desk and pop it into our mouth. Jim bookends our coming and going with a luscious little gift.
Is it crowded? Of course.