Published July 03. 2014 4:00AM
There's a sign outside Mia's Prime Time Cafe in Pawcatuck these days that reads "Same as it never was." And the description is apt. Formerly Prime Time Cafe, Mia's opened up under new ownership in April with a new menu and a lot to offer.
Patrons who adored the atmosphere of the old Prime Time Cafe won't see much of a change. There's obviously still the lovely view of the Pawcatuck River (the location is just before the bridge heading into Westerly), and the decor is still an eclectic mix of unpretentious paintings and prints and fresh picked flowers at each table.
There's a relaxed feel to Mia's. On the first trip, one can see him or herself making this a regular breakfast spot or the usual place to stop in before or after a trip to the Rhode Island beaches. I should know; I've been there quite a few times now.
Mia's offers breakfast, lunch and dinner, but I'm particularly partial to the breakfast. The prices are more than reasonable considering the hefty portions you get and the top-notch ingredients. The homefries are hearty and flavorful, and the omelets and specialty scrambles are inventive and stick-to-the-ribs good.
A must try is the soho omelet, an ode to New York's SoHo and a savory mix of goat cheese, sun-dried tomato, basil and scallions ($8). Often I read a description of an omelet that sounds good, only to find that the place gives you just a sprinkling of ingredients. The meat and veggies look almost like confetti in there. At Mia's they serve their omelets in the flipped-over half-moon style, bursting with generous amounts of filling.
Mia's gives you the option of trying a specialty breakfast item in omelet, scramble or wrap form, and it's worth mixing it up from time to time for variety's sake. The country option, for instance, goes splendidly as a scramble ($7). It's ham, onion, pepper and your choice of cheese (I went with Swiss). It's exciting and slightly intimidating to look down at a heaping mound of scrambled huevos, ham chunks, chopped up peppers and oozing cheese.
For the health or figure conscious, there's also the mixed vegetable and tofu available with or without egg or egg white ($7). It's made with firm tofu and whatever veggies are on hand; I had squash, peppers, carrots and broccoli. It's a simple yet flavorful mix of vegetables cooked to the right consistency - not too firm, yet not too limp - and a good change of pace for someone accustomed to the more indulgent end of the breakfast spectrum.
The buttermilk pancakes are light and fluffy, not too sweet but by no means bland. We went with the kids stack for my son on one occasion, which was generously priced at $4 ($5 for a short stack, $6 for a full stack). You have the option of getting pure maple syrup with any griddle meal for an extra $2.50.
The lunch and dinner menu isn't too expansive, but the options are wide-ranging and original. There's everything from a tasty and crunchy hazelnut chicken in bourbon cream sauce ($15) to cioppino fish stew in a tomato herb broth ($25).
I personally am partial to the sandwiches and burger options here. Again there's a good mix of items, from the carnivore-enticing Westerly sandwich with Italian cured meats, ham and provolone ($11) to the vegetarian-friendly Mystic ($9) with grilled portobello, spinach, tomato and melted Swiss.
I recommend the wicked grilled cheese ($11) for anyone looking for a rich and satisfying sandwich. It comes with melted brie, gouda, cheddar, bacon, spinach and sundried tomato. The depth and range of flavor and texture is unmatched.
With each sandwich you have the option of house made bread, Kaiser roll, wrap or pretzel roll. In keeping with this autonomous spirit, there's also a great build your own burger option ($10 for an angus beef patty, $12 for the house made chicken burger, $14 for a crab cake, $9 for a grilled portobello). The toppings come for an additional 75 cents each or $1.25 for specialty items like apple wood smoked bacon, avocado and Gorgonzola cheese.
I was particularly proud of the portobello burger I created on one visit, which I've cleverly named "The Alex." I chose avocado and Gorgonzola on pretzel bread in addition to the complimentary sliced tomato and lettuce. The sharp taste of the Gorgonzola paired nicely with the smoothness of the avocado slices and meatiness of the grilled portobello to create a burger combination that will surely spring forth imitators for years to come.
Sandwiches and burgers come with shoestring fries or sweet potato fries for an additional $2. I have to say that I like the concept of the sweet potato fry more than the usual outcome; it's my culinary Platonic conception. The problem is they're often limp and mushy, or cut too thin and overly crispy, even burnt.
But the sweet potato fries at Mia's are probably the best I've tried. They're dipped in a nice batter that keeps them at an almost tempura-like texture on the outside while cooking the fries to a baked sweet potato consistency on the inside.
Mia's is also trying to differentiate itself with house made baked goods and desserts as well as gluten free pastas. I tried the Bomster scallops, artichoke hearts and sundried tomatoes over brown rice pasta ($17) and can say differentiation has been accomplished with this garlic-infused culinary troika.
Prior to taking over at Mia's Prime Time Cafe, Mia Byrnes - the Mia behind Mia's - was director of operations for the Michael Jordan restaurants at Mohegan Sun. I think it's safe to say MJ's loss is our gain, and this new version of Prime Time is, no doubt, a culinary slam-dunk (I couldn't resist).