I would have bet a thousand dollars even before it opened that the new Wynnewood location of Sabrina’s Café, which already has three popular sites around Philadelphia, would be a success in relatively short order. Indeed, it has come to pass: Full tables are the norm, and on weekends, especially around peak brunch-time, a wait can be expected. This is no surprise, because the reputation that Sabrina’s boasts—especially for breakfast and brunch, which they’ve always excelled at—is widely known enough that word on the street prior to the Wynnewood café’s opening in February was that it could really do no wrong.
Its dinners, I’ve heard, are very good—but given Sabrina’s reputation for excellent breakfasts and brunches, I decided to focus my attention there, the better to compare it to its more urban siblings. Sadly, the brunches I experienced at the Main Line outpost didn’t live up to that reputation: Too many dishes were marred either by weak execution or just a simple lack of conceptual rigor.
My high hopes were dashed by my first bite of an omelet seemingly devoid of seasoning, browned on the outside and suffering from a terminally watery interior. Fillings were unseasoned, under-seasoned or seasoned unevenly; there was little consistency from one bite to another. Even a side of fried potatoes was characterless, the beautifully mahogany-toned bites without enough salt and crowned with a dollop of caramelized onions, not mixed with them. A bacon-blue cheese frittata was better in that department—the two key components, of course, are plenty flavorful on their own—but the eggs themselves were offputtingly dry.
Issues with cooking times need to be worked on as well. A recent “Game of Thrones Edition” of brunch specials featured a fantastically named “Red Wedding Marriage Feast Special Breakfast” of “French toast-dipped sweet potato-pineapple strata with ricotta, parmesan cheese and caramelized red onions.” Sounded interesting, and how could I turn down the further promised lily-gilding of grilled ham, wilted spinach, eggs over easy and an “artichoke-basil pesto béchamel sauce”? Well, I should have, because what arrived was a lifeless, plodding strata base crowned with two eggs so overcooked that the yolks were chalky and set, as far from running as a morbidly obese octogenarian engrossed by an all-day TV marathon of old Murder She Wrote reruns. I sent it back, and shortly thereafter a more proper duo of eggs appeared. But the funhouse béchamel was still there, jiggling like cellulite and not really tasting like either béchamel or like any sort of pesto I’d want to consume.
Thankfully, there were bright spots as well. Strawberry pancakes had just the right balance of fluffiness and chew. And a pork sandwich I took home for lunch was very nice: sweet and subtly smoky and exactly as moist as I’d hoped. The 24-hour marinade and homemade barbecue sauce are notably good. Sweet potato fries were also well-prepared.
But overall, I was left with a sense of disappointment with the breakfast and brunch. The space is welcoming, its floors the color of sun-bleached wood and its sun-splashed walls a cheery shade of yellow. The staff, too, is helpful and understanding. But I just don’t see myself hurrying back there for breakfast or brunch—and I don’t live that far away. I have no doubt that the team will tighten up its morning routine—but it’s not there yet, and that’s both surprising and frustrating.
I will, however, be checking out Sabrina’s dinner.
Sabrina’s Cafe Wynnewood
50 E. Wynnewood Rd. 484.412.8790. sabrinascafe.com
Cuisine: Casual classics with forays to the far side of the spectrum.
Hours: Tues.-Sat., 8am-10pm; Sun.-Mon., 8am-9pm.
Price range: Under $15.
Atmosphere: Cheery and charming.
Breakfast/brunch: Food preparation doesn’t live up to Sabrina’s other locations.
Service: Helpful and friendly.
Wine with Mexican Food? Sí!