Blue Mug Cafe recently opened in The Woodlands (one month ago as of this review) and we arrived just prior to end of breakfast service. The atmosphere was bustling when we arrived and continued to be steady, with a consistent flow of patrons lining up at the counter eager to place their order(s). If you have not yet eaten at The Blue Mug Cafe, be sure to put them on your list. Grab a menu by the front door, head past the bar, and you will find the service counter where you can order breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Breakfast is currently served on Saturday & Sunday until 2pm.
The counter-service concept isn't new to the area; in fact, the arrival and ordering process is reminiscent of The Black Walnut or Hubbell & Hudson's Kitchen. The restaurant itself has undergone renovations both significant - the addition of a spacious patio for outdoor dining (something, interestingly enough, the previous tenants lacked) - and minor, as seen in the addition of the charming, belt-driven ceiling fans and newly-stained exposed beams. The dining room is open and airy, and a comfortably-sized bar area is divided from the dining room, while still being open enough to maintain easy traffic flow.
One of my favorite breakfast items to try at any breakfast restaurant (as I've mentioned before) is French Toast. Breakfast at Blue Mug was no exception, and was especially appealing when described as thick-sliced sourdough, baked and grilled, dusted with powdered sugar and served with all-natural Bourbon Amber Maple Syrup, plus sausage or applewood-smoked bacon ($7.75). What I wasn't prepared for was the nearly-solid coating of crushed walnuts; and while I wasn't disappointed (I've become increasingly more tolerant of the once-offending nuts), I was mildly concerned. Concerned because though I like walnuts alright, I don't recall the menu stating they were included - which could pose a threat to those with tree-nut allergies. The other, more pleasant surprise was the assortment of fresh mixed berries atop the three slices of toast; also not mentioned in the menu description.
In Blue Mug's defense, their menu has been going through several revisions in these first few weeks. In print versions, we noted the one we ordered breakfast from the other day was already different than the one we ordered our dinner from a week and a half prior. And having spoken with several members of management, we know they're still working on it.
The Brûléed French Toast was, in a word, wonderful. I loved the tender texture of the sourdough, paired with the crunchiness of the walnuts and crispy outer crust. Aside from (or, in addition to) the walnuts, the toast had a nutty and cinnamon-y flavor to it. Their choice of syrup for the French toast is spot-on - I'm never a fan of artificial "maple syrup," and this Bourbon Amber Maple Syrup was a wonderful addition to the dish. And don't let the picture fool you; those three slices are HUGE; I barely made it through two of them, and didn't finish my bacon, either.
And I don't want to get off on a rant here, but I did have one bone to pick with Blue Mug. Beverages are self-service at Blue Mug, and that includes the coffee. Don't get me wrong, the coffee is wonderful; Blue Mug Cafe is serving Segafredo Zanetti coffee, and brewing it up strong and hot. My problem, however, is with the beverage station(s). There I was at the beverage counter, trying to add sugar and cream to my (HUGE!) Blue Mug coffee mug, when first I could find any creamer (turns out they only put out a dozen and a half or so individual cups at a time in one of those same mugs), and trying to scratch together more than three packets of sugar (because the two tiny little cups the packets are in are - well - tiny!) Meanwhile, other patrons are lining up behind me, because I'm waiting for the cashier to be between orders at the register and come over to find more creamer and then again for sugar, and I can't even stir the coffee a little because they only have those slightly-thicker-than-toothpicks wooden stirrers. Once she did get over there and find me more sugar and creamer, I hurriedly gathered up what I needed for our two mugs to carry to our table and finish, but that proved further challenging as the mugs are heavy, and with two, my hands were full. And to top it all off, there are no spoons in the pre-bundled silverware/napkins you're also given at the time of order, so back at the table, we found ourselves stirring our coffee with our knives. So what I'm saying here, is, if you order coffee, travel in pairs, or be prepared to make more than one trip... unless you have some available pockets.
The Build Your Own Omelette starts at $5.50, served with some Italian sourdough toast and Blue Mug potatoes, which includes onions and mild peppers. For varying additional charges, you have your choice of several items. I added black beans and tomato (both free), red bell pepper (+50¢), cheddar cheese (+$1), honey ham (+$2), and breakfast sausage (+$2) bringing my omelette to $11.00. The menu doesn't mention the egg count but by the size of it, we estimate it at three. The kitchen was producing plates of food as quickly as they could, and our wait was only about 23 minutes, giving us plenty of time to add sufficient amounts of cream and sugar into the giant blue mugs filled with the rather stout blend of coffee, moderately priced at $1.75 each. The potato mixture was quite tasty, the toast was good and not quite as chewy as some other sourdough breads I have sampled previously. And what about the blend of eggs, meats and cheese... The omelet was good, fresh tasting and cooked well. The cheese wasn't quite melted throughout so it could have stayed on the grill just a bit longer but as far as the eggs were concerned, it was pulled at just about the right time. Looking back, I think adding a little salsa would have made it perfect.
Opening a restaurant is no easy task, and based on our two meals there so far, we commend Blue Mug Cafe on the better-than-average first month showing. Everything they're doing well, they're doing really well - and things that (in our opinion) have room for improvement are few, and minimal. The recipes are new and different without being pretentious or unrecognizable. The ingredients are high-quality and fresh. And everyone we've interacted with on staff so far, from the owner/managers to the cashiers, chefs to the bussers, all are friendly, helpful, and seem genuinely happy to be there. With such a strong start, we're hoping Blue Mug Cafe can continue it's upward climb - and become a great dining and drink destination for those of us in "the back" of The Woodlands.
What do you think? Did we get it wrong or did we get it right? Let us know in the comments below. And remember, you don't have to take our word for it - give Blue Mug Cafe a try and decide for yourself! Maybe we will see you there as we plan to return to Blue Mug Cafe.
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