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Sun Rise Café
*** 1/2
Out of a possible five
$

Breakfast spot excels after sunset

The name sure isn’t helping things.

After years spent gaining a solid following for his quaint little breakfast-and-lunch-only place in a strip mall just north of Dupont Road on Coldwater Road, owner Mehrdad Dehmiri expanded his space, his kitchen and his hours to the evening with a move south into the former Fish of Stroh spot in Pine Valley Shopping Center.

But the Sun Rise Café sign doesn’t tell passers-by that dinner is now an option, so Dehmiri just hopes the word of his loyal regulars will do the trick.

“I thought about maybe changing it to Sun Rise Diner, but decided that wouldn’t change much,” he said.

What hasn’t changed much about Sun Rise is what made it a winner in the morning – made-from-scratch breakfast staples and great service.

The new location is attractive, with a kind of modern European décor featuring an earth-tone paint scheme, stone tile flooring, bright-colored prints adorning the walls, and new booths, tables and chairs.

The old menu is still intact, with 13 added dinner selections. The dinners are simple comfort food to match the simple comfort breakfasts Dehmiri has served for years. He wasn’t about to try to get too fancy.

“When you go to a Mexican restaurant, you get Mexican food; you don’t get mac and cheese or something like that,” Dehmiri said.

I started with the weekend special prime rib. This fatty cut of beef was slow-cooked and then finished on the flat top and served in a pool of au jus. The flavor was good, and the flat top didn’t cause it to be overcooked. The only minor fault was that it could have been a bit hotter.

It was flanked by a baked potato that I had no problems with, and the house salad was nothing fancy – as per the plan – but still enjoyable with fresh iceberg, shredded cheese, white onion rings and diced tomatoes. I also ate every drop of the cup of chicken vegetable and rice soup, which was perfectly seasoned and full of pulled chicken meat, carrot, celery and al dente rice.

The pan-fried cod was also enjoyable. The two decent-sized breaded fillets had a nice crust on them, and that crust gave it a somewhat buttery flavor. The fish was mild, flaky and moist, and the homemade coleslaw, which was creamy and almost too sweet, and bright yellow potato salad I chose as sides were fantastic.

Chicken and noodles and beef and noodles are available for lunch or dinner. The chicken and noodles were ladled over smooth, velvety mashed potatoes with just a few lumps here and there. The noodles were thick and doughy, sort of like dumplings, and the chicken meat was tender and stringy. It was quite filling.

I couldn’t help myself when it came to the last meal I sampled. I couldn’t stay away from the breakfast offerings no matter how hard I tried. So, when I saw a Black Diamond steak on the dinner specials board, I immediately asked whether I could sub it for the rib-eye on Sun Rise Café’s steak and eggs from the “featured breakfasts” section of the menu.

The steak was interesting, blackened and seasoned with a sort of sweet spice blend that produces a flavor similar to some bourbon steaks I have had. It was also tender and moist.

But what made it sublime was the addition of easily the best sauce nature can provide – runny yolks from my three perfectly over-easy eggs. The hash browns were also spot-on – crispy on top, but soft and tender like a good baked potato underneath.

The highlights of my return to breakfast were the biscuits. I do not know that I have had better biscuits than the ones served at Sun Rise Café. They are dense but still soft like little pillows, and they have a sort of doughy, melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness about them.

So going back to breakfast was the wisest choice. And looking around at the other evening diners, I saw a lot of skillets and pancakes dotting the tables.

So what you get at the new Sun Rise Café is everything the old place offered with just more options in case you just want meat and potatoes instead of eggs and biscuits.

And there is one more new thing at this new place – actually a new person. Millie Hood, once owner of Millie’s Café in New Haven and most recently of The Savory Dish, is handling the desserts.

Her pies are brilliant, with the cream ones being my favorites – try the Butterfinger with layers of chocolate and peanut butter cream topped with whipped cream. Her Frisbee-sized cookies are worth picking up at the counter to take home as you pay your bill.

And if you want in on a little dessert secret, ask for the off-the-menu Mehrdad’s L.A. Special. It is made with the cinnamon-marbled L.A. bread, which is crisped up with margarine on the griddle then topped with a sugary-sweet glaze and served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Dessert is always a good thing, even after breakfast.

Restaurant: Sun Rise Café

Address: 10230 Coldwater Road

Phone: 416-0400

Hours: 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday

Cuisine: American

Handicapped accessible: Yes

Alcohol: None

Credit cards: Yes

Kid-friendly: Yes

Menu: Pan-fried cod ($10.99), prime rib ($12.95), steak and eggs ($8.99), chicken and noodles ($6.99), pie ($2.75), L.A. special dessert ($2.99), cookies ($1.25)

Rating breakdown: Food: * 1/2 (3-star maximum); atmosphere: * (1 maximum), service: * (1 maximum)

Note: Restaurants are categorized by price range: $ (less than $20 for three-course meal), $$ ($20-$29); $$$ ($30-$39), $$$$ ($40-$49), $$$$$ ($50 and up).

Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. E-mail him at rduvall@jg.net, call at 461-8130. DuVall’s past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette.net, and hear Ryan from 3 to 4 p.m. every Thursday on 92.3 FM, The Fort.

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