My wife, Jeanne, and I just spent a 3-day "weekend" in Fort Bragg. On the second day we took the Skunk Train for the half-day excursion. We wanted to stop and get breakfast prior to departure time at 10:00 am. The Laurel is across the street from the depot and so was the perfect place.
When I walked in, my first thought was, "Oh no! A coffee bar!" I had visions of getting a Danish with as side of granola and good, but expensive, coffee for a breakfast to hold me though the day trip ahead.
Then I looked at the food on the plates of the customers and was comforted because what I saw was good, hearty, all-American comfort food. And everything I saw looked delicious.
Jeanne and I ordered. She got the breakfast croissant sandwich and I went for 2 pancakes (I'm always looking for the perfect pancake) and a side of link sausage. Our waitress was friendly and efficient--not chatty and smiley but pleasant and helpful. She said that we would easily make the train on time which was a little white lie (the "easily" part") as things tend to move a little bit slower at The Laurel.
Our coffee was refilled regularly as we waited for our breakfasts and I fretted a bit about the minutes ticking away. (I'm a worry wort.) When our plates came, I was astounded by the size and thickness of the two golden, steaming hotcakes in front of me. The sausages were huge--almost as big around as hotdogs and longer than your average breakfast link.
Jeanne's sandwich was piled with scrambled egg, lean ham and cheese, The croissant looked a bit soft and not crisp. This turned out to be the case and was one of the few disappointments of the meal. I was also a little disappointed in the amount of butter I got for my pancakes: Just one small ball for the two huge cakes. I could easily have used 2 butter balls on each one! (But that would be piggy, wouldn't it?)
Still, I used the butter I had and cut into the stack. The fork crunched a bit on the golden ring around the outside of the cakes and sank through the two soft cushions. I put the first bite in my mouth and was instantly in ecstasy! I had found them: The perfect pancakes. They are moist and thick. The texture is springy yet tender, There is a crispy edge around the outside. The flavor is perfect: Enough sweet and salt so they are not bland but not so sweet that they can be confused with dessert.
I am a syrup lover and am almost always let down in this department. There is only one kind of syrup as far as I am concerned and that is maple. Nothing turns me off faster that getting good pancakes only to find that they are served with that thick, sticky flavorless stuff called "pancake syrup" or some such.
The Laurel takes pride in their pancakes and they serve them with a good quality syrup. I won't guarantee that is is pure maple--I'm not that good at discerning--but it acts like real maple syrup and has enough maple in it to have the flavor.
The sausages had a wonderful, peppery flavor and were cooked perfectly.
Jeanne gave me a bite of her sandwich and I was impressed with the ham which was not too salty and excellent quality. The eggs and cheese were equally good and it all blended well into a pleasing bite. Sadly the croissant was lacking but in the humid Fort Bragg climate, crispy, flaky croissants may be impossible to find.
So do I recommend this place? Heck yes! Good quality. Good service. No Hype. Reasonable price. A fun place to eat. Okay, a bit slow. We made the train with about 4 minutes to spare: The Skunk is nothing if not punctual.
Go to The Laurel Deli. Take your time. Have a great breakfast.
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