There are neighborhood cafés, and then there are neighborhood classics. The kind of local favorites where the staff gets to know your name, and you theirs. Where even though lines snake out the door, every regular considers the place his own unique find. And where the food is both honest and memorable, worth going back to—and not just because it’s around the corner.
These institutions often take years to evolve. But Mike and Patty’s, opened eight months ago on a quiet corner in Boston’s Bay Village neighborhood, seems pretty close already. Its storefront may be tiny—an open kitchen behind the counter, one high table for a friendly six, and hardly enough room to turn around. What Mike and Patty’s lacks in size, however, it makes up for in quality, good cheer, and the remarkable creativity of its café menu.
Mike and Patty’s serves only breakfast and sandwiches, closing by 3pm each day; but a short stroll from downtown, it does a roaring weekday lunch trade. So many suits stop by for pressed Cubans, turkey Reubens, and Fried Green Tomato BLTs that, Mike concedes, their tiny shop gets a bit overwhelmed. But early on a Saturday morning, there was room to sit by the window, peruse the chalkboard menus, and watch the two title characters (and their assistant Heather) go to work.
Mike and Patty, the two namesake owners, both came from Formaggio Kitchen—a Cambridge market equally noted for its tremendous array of products and its superior prepared foods. So the quality of the dishes that emerge from the galley-sized kitchen shouldn’t have surprised me. Even the little things are done right: strong, locally-roasted brewed coffee; house-baked cookies; donuts from Cambridge favorite Verna’s Donut Shop.
Steaming-hot migas ($9) arrived within minutes: eggs scrambled with tostadas, poblano peppers, and salsa, along with guacamole, refried black beans and corn tortillas kept warm and moist in a little foil packet. The hard-scrambled eggs were not only tasty, but texturally appealing—the chips of tostada just softened, the sharp cheese melted all the way through. Salsa and guac were noticeably fresh; black bean refritos with a crumble of Cotija were creamy rather than heavy. And while even finding corn tortillas in Boston can be difficult, let alone finding good ones, these were tender, nicely limey, and not dry in the slightest.
The Bacon and Egg, Fancy ($7), a dressed-up breakfast sandwich, is something of an instant trademark—I saw at least six ordered in my hour at Mike and Patty’s. It’s easy to see why. This is a Californian’s idea of a perfect sandwich: eggs and thick-cut smoky bacon with creamy avocado, sharp cheddar, and red onion, all on a slightly sweet multi-grain bread with a spread of house mayo.
There are so many ways a well-intentioned breakfast sandwich can go wrong—improperly timed eggs, sloppy composition, unbalanced ratios—but the Fancy was nearly flawless. And that swipe of garlicy, barely spicy, bright orange mayo simply makes the sandwich. What’s in it? “Garlic, cumin, cayenne… and secrets.”
But the dish that I couldn’t get out of my head for days was the grilled banana sandwich ($6) on pain de mie. It’s smeared with cinnamon-honey butter—I don’t even want to know how much cinnamon-honey butter—and topped with caramelized grilled bananas. The butter creeps through both slices of bread, crust and all, dissolving it into a single griddled sugar-crusted creature, with sliced banana embedded inside.
This may dethrone Joanna Chang’s sticky buns as the stickiest, sweetest, most cinnamon-soaked treat in Boston. I’d never before eaten a sandwich that stuck to the plate. But now I think that every sandwich should.
Even as patrons start queuing and orders pile up, Mike, Patty, and Heather greet every customer squeezing through the door with a hello and a smile. The café’s tight quarters and occasional waits might, during peak hours, try some hungry diners’ patience. But the owners’ unwavering good humor does a lot to counter those minor annoyances. And though the plates are presented with a smile, it should be one of pride, not conciliation. The food speaks for itself.