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J’ville cafe gets morning makeover

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House-baked cinnamon rolls are served warm with cream cheese frosting at Sunny Side Up in Jacksonville. [Sarah Lemon/Mail Tribune]
House-made cranberry bread is a side dish choice with the spinach-mushroom scramble at Sunny Side Up in Jacksonville. [Sarah Lemon/Mail Tribune]
“John’s country scramble” combines eggs and potatoes at Sunny Side Up in Jacksonville. [Sarah Lemon/Mail Tribune]
House-made cranberry bread is a side dish choice with the spinach-mushroom scramble at Sunny Side Up in Jacksonville. [Sarah Lemon/Mail Tribune]
A complimentary sweet treat concludes a meal at Sunny Side Up in Jacksonville. [Sarah Lemon/Mail Tribune]

A beloved Jacksonville eatery may have closed then reopened for “rebranding,” but a familiar face is at the helm.

Jeannie Inman is the once-again owner of the cafe now known as Sunny Side Up. In its previous incarnation — Mustard Seed Cafe — Inman owned the business for about a decade before selling it, then buying it back, ensuring the tradition of food service since 1958 would continue at the corner of North Fifth Street and East C Street.

The restaurant enjoyed a loyal following before Inman’s first tenure under former owners Tammy and Dwayne Johnson. So changes came gradually to Mustard Seed. Now under a new persona, Inman has freer license to make things “maybe a little better,” as she’s told local news reporters.

Alcoholic beverages will constitute the biggest change, once Sunny Side Up gains state approval. Mimosas and bloody Marys make up the selection of beverages labeled as “coming soon” on the menu.

The rest of the menu is similarly concise with items characterized as “classics,” “specials” “the lighter side” and “the sweet stuff.” Ten omelet recipes are numerous enough to warrant their own menu section. There’s also a kids’ menu and soup of the day available as cups and bowls.

Apparently, customers — at least for now — no longer will find burgers and sandwiches that challenged Inman to prepare them in a cramped kitchen. It makes sense, however, that Inman would focus on breakfast in a town with more lunch options.

The clock showed 11:45, but I still had plenty of appetite for eggs. Ditto for my friend, who had eaten sparingly since starting her day. I did, however, take a pass on coffee — prepared either as a standard drip brew or French press — in favor of V8 juice. The server brought the unopened can with a glass of ice and fresh lemon wedge, per my request.

While I love eggs, hash browns are never high on my list. So I was delighted to see a scramble with two of my favorite ingredients — mushrooms and spinach — served only with a side of house-made bread, biscuit or English muffin for $9.

Most other items, from eggs any style with breakfast meat to omelets come with hash browns or country potatoes. Prices start at $13 for a three cheese omelet and top out at $18 for the “everything” and “kitchen sink” omelets or classic eggs, potatoes and toast with chicken fried steak.

Briefly tempted by the “kitchen sink” my friend requested “John’s country scramble” ($16) — potatoes scrambled with egg, veggies and a choice of ham, bacon or sausage. Asking for ham, she declined the side of country gravy that comes with the meal’s house-made biscuit.

I was intrigued by eggs and rice ($15), a dish I’ve never seen on a breakfast menu locally or likely anywhere else. Garlic-sesame-soy steamed rice is the base for two eggs any style finished with scallions and chile-garlic sauce. While rice is popular in Hawaii for breakfast, this version — lacking meat or gravy — sounded much lighter, although bacon can be added for $2.

Offered a choice of cranberry or tomato bread, I stuck with the scramble. But I couldn’t pass up one of Inman’s much-touted cinnamon rolls ($6), baked fresh daily and served with cream cheese frosting.

Other sweet items include buttermilk pancakes in a few configurations and french toast and Belgian waffles, either a la carte or as “combos” with eggs and meat, from $9 to $15. All of the above are served with real maple syrup, according to the menu.

Several other tables put in their orders ahead of ours while we hemmed and hawed, but food came out with surprising speed on non-ceramic tableware that — while lighter for servers and breakage-resistant — doesn’t retain heat as well as a stoneware.

Maria’s potatoes were nicely crisped, bound up with egg in a generous slab studded with ham, mushrooms, onions, spinach and bell peppers. I took a bite with ham and found it — as expected — to be savory and hearty. The flaky biscuit was a fine vehicle for butter and jam, although I secretly wished Maria had accepted the gravy for my sampling. Biscuits and gravy come as half or full orders, both with combo options.

My eggs were on the well-done side for my tastes, but the combination of mushroom and spinach was surprisingly flavorful. I appreciated the addition of fresh tomatoes almost as a garnish on top — rather than cooked inside — to highlight their sweetness and juiciness.

Lighter than the biscuit — and not too sweet — was the homemade cranberry bread. A welcome change of pace from pedestrian toast, the tomato bread also is on my list to try.

Maria and I took turns probing the cinnamon roll, dolloped rather than smothered with icing. I’m one of those insufferable diners who dives straight for the cinnamon roll’s tender heart and works my way outward to its crunchier layers. I would have enjoyed more ooey-gooey-ness from Inman’s roll. But I felt satisfied after three bites, boxing up the rest to take home to my partner.

In warmer weather, Sunny Side Up will be popular for outdoor dining on two patios, one fenced off from the street. Inside, the restaurant has about eight tables and counter seating. Hours are 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Call 541-690-0065 or see facebook.com/SunnySideJVille

Reach features editor Sarah Lemon at 541-776-4494 or slemon@rosebudmedia.com