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Restaurant review

At the Frog Pond, our plate runneth over

Is it the plentiful servings? The special touches? The welcoming staff? Yes.

By CHRIS SHERMAN
Published June 1, 2006


photo
[Times photo: Bob Croslin]
Server Karin Scerenscko delivers several breakfast special plates to customers at the Frog Pond in North Redington Beach.

 
The popular restaurant is decorated in, what else, a frog motif. The Frog Pond has been serving breakfast at the beach for 15 years.
The Frog Pond is full of patrons on a recent Monday morning. On weekends, three dozen people may be waiting in line.

NORTH REDINGTON BEACH

It's easy to be impressed, make that embarrassed, by what's on the plates at the Frog Pond. Regulation 9-inch dinnerware can't hold most breakfasts; the toast has to be stacked on top.

Perhaps more impressive was what was on the table besides salt, pepper and sweeteners: real half and half, a small vase of unplastic white carnations and a pot of chunky strawberry jam. And, as it gets closer to noon, there appears a Kerr jar of thick dill pickle slices that can carry you back to hot summers in eastern North Carolina.

Okay, they had me at the pickles, even if only a few strong souls come here for a burger instead of breakfast. Yet the half and half, jam and flowers told the same message: There's a fresh hand and eye for quality here, not just a bulldozer pushing eggs and fried potatoes out of the kitchen in military quantities. Actually that bulldozer moves slowly and carefully; no rush jobs.

It's wise to look for the small touches like pulpy orange juice while you can. Any diner will be swamped by the largenesse of the servings.

How large? Omelets can't really be measured by eggs; think of them as three-person omelets. A frittata, which I consider a flat item, qualifies as tall food, 3 inches high.

Too much. I've never seen so many doggie bags leave a breakfast place; I thought I was at a pigout steakhouse.

Indeed, a dish of eggs Benedict qualifies as a light alternative here once you've seen other plates trundled out.

This is not the bacon, two over easy and a short stack breakfast that is an unsung treat of beach life, a nostalgic touch of home cooking for folks in kitchenless motels (or breakfast-deprived workday lives).

No, a Frog Pond breakfast amounts to an entire vacation, breakfast escalated a bit in price and a lot in quantity to celebratory feast. You can get a two-egg deal, but most of the menu is fritattas, omelets, Benedicts, waffles and a wicked "eggs in a pan.''

Add two cups of home fries (with nicely blacked edges), two slices of toast, an orange slice, parsley (for vitamins) and you have a mountain of carbohydrates that should come with a map of the Pinellas Trail. Not to mention the cholesterol from eggs to pork meat.

The latter is a big appeal of breakfast, and though the kitchen has turkey, steak and lox, spicy sausage patties and thick slices of bacon are best. (Or get them tucked inside waffle batter - why should pecans have all the fun?) Skip the Italian sausage, a surprising letdown, dry and dull.

Omelets are packed to overflowing, of course. The one I tried was an "Eastern'' special with sausage, onion, peppers, cheese and I'm sure more that I can't remember. Well made, but my favorite eggs were in a benedict. A lox benedict, since this is the Frog Pond, includes lox, cream cheese, tomatoes and bright, smooth Hollandaise over a bagel with tomatoes on the side. Gluttonous but not as crazy as it sounds.

An attempt at a light meal, a fruit crepe, was a delightful folly. "Home fries or grits?'' Grits were a smaller accompaniment, but still a full cup of perfect grits with a glorious golden pat of butter oozing in.

The crepes were packed with ripe melon chunks, grapes, a little jam and topped with apple wedges, bananas and a tidal wave of whipped cream dusted with nutmeg and cinnamon. Oh, and a small brick of banana nut bread, with butter.

Quiche with sun-dried tomatoes, a trendier option, came up limp, a soggy crust with a bland filling; the bacon and cheese of a classic Lorraine makes more sense.

After 15 years, the Frog Pond is a well-run landmark that can have three dozen or more in line on a weekend and rarely slows down.

Servers are busy, smart, beach-friendly and of such long standing that they've known their customers for many winters.

In dining rooms overrun by grinning frogs and scrambling grandkids, you'll always hear "Welcome back. When'd you get in?'' Or "See you next year.''

I hope that's testimony to the servers' memories: They make you a ''regular'' after a couple of visits a year. Come more often, and you have to train like a triathlete.

Chris Sherman dines anonymously and unannounced. The St. Petersburg Times pays for all expenses. A restaurant's advertising has nothing to do with selection for a review or the assessment of its quality. Sherman can be reached at (727) 893-8585 or sherman@sptimes.com.

The Frog Pond

16909 Gulf Blvd.

North Redington Beach

727 392-4117

Hours: Breakfast, 7 to 11 a.m. Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday; lunch 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Reservations: No.

Details: Credit cards accepted, no beer or wine; takeout available.

Prices: 4.25 to $10.95.

[Last modified May 31, 2006, 12:08:10]


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