Mimi’s

I like breakfast. A LOT. I like breakfast for dinner most of all. Eating breakfast for dinner is sneaky…you feel like you’re getting away with something you shouldn’t. Eating an omelet at night and all…

I’ve tried a lot of different breakfast and brunch places around town. One that kept flying under my radar was Mimi’s Café, located on…you guessed it…The Med, at 2625 Medical Center Pkwy, Murfreesboro, TN in The Avenue.

Mimi’s is a Franco-American cuisine spot, that’s a fairly large chain restaurant with locations from California to Colorado to Maryland to Florida. The style and set up is kind of like an Olive Garden or Carraba’s, only for French-ish fare. One of their sayings is “Designed to be a classic”. For my money, “classic” is a title you earn and its bestowed on you by adoring fans. You don’t hardwire “classic” into your idiom. If you do, you’re faking it. Is this the case with Mimi’s Café in The Avenue? Let’s say “Bon Apetite” and dig into today’s article to find out.

First Impression:

Location, location, location. Mimi’s did well when they scouted this one out. Near one of the main entrances to the area’s premiere shopping experience, Mimi’s Café is easily spotted from the road, looking like a cottage nestled in the Alps right here in the muggy southern winter. Easy to spot, easy to get into, and plenty of parking. Upon walking up to the building, signs of age crease the façade. Bits of mold or something drip down from one of the signs in stark contrast to the cream colored wall. The red awning was dirty. The outside just looked worn and weathered, like an old boot left out in the rain. When we went to go inside, the glass on the door was badly streaked with something. An attempt to clean it maybe with a greasy towel? None of this is damning, and a ton of people I am sure walk right past these flaws without even noticing. This is why you guys are paying me the big bucks however, to pan the river for the gold in the dirt.

Atmosphere:

It’s like a ski lodge and an Applebee’s had a kid, with a dash of my grandmother’s living room thrown in. I know that sounds bad, but its not that bad. It’s quaint and cozy just inside the door. And the feel of the antiques speaks to the historian in me. Still, it feels…manufactured. Like they were “designing a classic”. The layout was well done. The waiting area blended with the bar area, with each still maintaining their own identity. The bar even has a little “hobbit-sized” end, similar to The Green Dragon Pub and Brewery. 

We were sat in the dining room to the right, and one of the things I hate most happened…We were sat right next to the kitchen door so that I could hear the clatter of dishes, the voices of staff, and my field of vision was directly into the server alley.

For whatever reason, we were seated in an enormous booth that far exceeded our needs when smaller tables in more desirable locations were right next to us. I’ve read articles about restaurants seating less than skinny people or odd looking guests in the more undesirable areas of establishments. The Missus and I ARE on the plus side of our dippie hippie love and I often look like a tie-dye yeti, but I think I am going to start keeping up with how many times this happens to us cause it happens a lot. Hashtag investigative reporting…

Service:

Pleasant. That’s the defining characteristic of this experience. Pleasant. Our interactions with our server were genuine and friendly, but lacked any enthusiasm. We asked several questions about the menu and all answers were prompt and informative, but we had the feeling later it had been a long morning for our server. There was really only one transgression that I will have to touch on in the food section. Speaking of which…

Food:

On this visit, The Missus and I ordered an appetizer. Something we do infrequently, but felt was in the cards today. There was a guac and chips app, and my wife loves avocado. I eat it often too, for its diabetic benefits. Unlike the avocado/guac experiences we had with some other places of late, this was plated with a vibrant, very green guacamole. It tasted fresh, looked fresh, and by golly it was fresh. A good start. The chips were light and crisp as well. Double whammy!

Breakfast isn’t breakfast without eggs for me. I am an omelet lover, and the high fiber from the avocado mixed with the veggies in my dishes and the proteins suggested a victorious blood sugar reading later. (and it was) I chose something a little spicy…The Santa Fe Omelet. 590 calories was right in my zone too. For a side, I got the potatoes and added sautéed veggies to them for that perfect carb/fiber/protein mix I like to get. The only problem? This brings us full circle to that little issue I mentioned above. It took a bit longer for us to get our food than I felt it should have. After 37 years of this work, I have a pretty good grasp on how long it takes to cook eggs even on a busy day. When the food came out, it was barely warm. All of it. The chipotle sauce had begun to dry on top and the tortilla strips were crunchy. All the signs of food that sat waiting to be carried out for too long under a heat lamp. My experience is heat lamps don’t really keep food that hot, they just keep it from cooling down as quick if that makes sense. The shelf life for eggs or potatoes after you cook them is only a few minutes at best. I do not feel at all like our food was brought out promptly. Particularly if the “buddy” system is not in place and servers are responsible for running their own food, having to do ‘running side work” like rolling silverware or filling ice bins can distract from more important tasks. Regardless of my speculations on the cause, cold food that had sat in the window was brought to me and The Missus. 

It wouldn’t be a French breakfast without quiche. Mimi’s offers a choice of two classics: Quiche Lorraine (traditional ham and swiss) or Quiche Florentine (traditional spinach and swiss). Channeling her veggie muse, The Missus chose the Florentine. Her experience was much like mine. The top of the quiche was dry, and her potatoes cold. The internal temperature of the quiche was just warm. It wasn’t terrible she said, but our overall experience would have been much more positive with fresher entrees.

Cleanliness:

I’ve already remarked on the outside. The inside? I didn’t walk the dining room but I did keep an eye on my area…the area right next to the kitchen and server alley. There was a mat leading into the kitchen, but fully laid out in the dining room that was filthy.

The bar by the waiting area was completely empty, but was littered with Styrofoam cups, wrappers, and bottle caps. Again, the whole place felt kind of worn and threadbare.

Mimi’s is at least 10 years old, one of the first establishments built in The Avenue. Once a restaurant hits the 10-15 year mark, they show their age. They take a beating. If the owners are invested in maintaining the health of a place in their trust, then they can look great for a long time after. If not, then the enfeeblement of the location becomes very apparent. Managers and staff can’t see the forest for the trees, and walking right past a filthy mat in your dining room or bottle caps on an empty bar becomes a habit.

Final Thoughts:

At one point, this was probably one of the better experiences in town. Time and the complacency that comes with chain ownership have taken their toll, and the little things that spell doom in the current HIGH competition environment along The Med are chum in the water for the sharks infesting the waters of local dining.. Maybe Mimi’s will read this and up their game. That’s the ideal scenario. If not, there is the example of Peter D’s and McAlister’s to observe.

2 out of 5 peace signs! Dig it!

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Make lunch, not war!