The Panel Room
Every year, for the past several years (sorry, I know that’s vague), my mom and my aunt have taken a fall trip to Las Vegas. It’s something my brother and I accidentally started about ten years ago when we thought we were doing something nice for my parents by buying them a trip to Vegas as a Christmas present. We didn’t know it was going to turn in twice a year (at least) thing for my mom.
They decided to skip the fall trip this year and just spend their money at the local casino’s. They usually find deals through Allegiant Air on airfare and hotel, but weren’t able to find anything really good this year. The decision was made to take the money they’d spend on airfare and just use it to gamble.
The two day excursion to the many casinos along I-94 in Indiana and Michigan (my parents live about an hour south of Chicago) started Monday night at Horseshoe Hammond Casino in Hammond, IN before they ended the night and stayed at the Ameristar in East Chicago.
On Tuesday morning, they were heading in to Michigan and my mom has never been to the Four Winds Hartford Casino. She thought that would be a good place to start the day and asked me if L and I would meet them for breakfast somewhere near Hartford before they spend the day gambling.
Tuesday is a day L doesn’t go to school, so I told my mom we’d meet them at The Panel Room. This classic small town diner sits just outside of the city limits on County Road 687 about a half of a mile south of the Hartford I-94 exit.
The planned meeting time was 10:00, but my mom and aunt got caught in traffic in Indiana. It ended up being a little after 10:30 by the time they got there, but it was still early enough for breakfast.
The restaurant has the same feel as thousands of small town family restaurants in the Midwest and that is such a good thing. The sign at the door said to find a seat, so we let L pick. She made her way to a raised booth not too far from the door and climbed up. I asked who she wanted to sit next to her and she said my aunt, so my aunt and L took one side while my mom and I climbed in to the other.
A waitress saw us sit down and grabbed a place mat and a bowl of crayons for L plus menus for the rest of us. None of us do coffee but we still needed our morning caffeine fix. The menus all said they had Pepsi products, but the machine I could see from our booth said Coke. My mom and aunt ordered Diet Cokes while I stuck to the regular.
When the waitress came back with drinks we had all decided on breakfast.
I was torn between my two breakfast go-to’s. I chose the Eggs Benedict over the Steak and Eggs for no reason other than that is what sounded good at that particular moment. The plate came with two large halves of toasted English Muffins with a thick, grilled slice of ham on each and two perfectly poached eggs topping it off. The whole part of this plate was covered with a thick, delicious Hollandaise sauce. Maybe it was the size of the plate or maybe it really was as big as I thought. Either way, the Eggs Benedict did more than just fill me up. They left me happy to have eaten them.
As a side option, I had either American fries or hash browns. I chose the American fries. The little cubes of potatoes were seasoned and grilled on the flat top. They were good, but after seeing my mom’s hash browns, I wish I would have went with them.
Before getting to that though, my mom’s meal choice was The Hey Ricky Omelette. This large omelette is filled with chorizo, jalapenos, and onion and served with sour cream and salsa on the side. My mom had no idea what chorizo is, but after I said it was a spicy sausage, she seemed to be on board. On her first bite, she says, “Oh! That is spicy.”, but then went and ate the whole thing. She cooled it down with the sour cream and the salsa which was on the mild side.
As I mentioned a second ago, she chose the hash browns as her potato and these were perfectly cooked, golden brown and crispy shredded potatoes. As soon as I saw them, I reached my fork over to steal a bite and was instantly remorseful that I didn’t order them with my meal.
My aunt chose a full stack of blueberry pancakes. Two things about these pancakes. One, they were huge. Two, the blueberries were mixed in the batter in the middle of each of the cakes. The three large, fluffy pancakes barely fit on the plate and she actually made a mess trying to pour syrup on the top. She eventually carved out a well and dipped each bite so she wouldn’t make a huge mess. There was more pancake there than she could eat and apologized to the waitress for not eating them all when she came to clear the plates.
L also got a pancake, but hers came out shaped like Mickey Mouse. I tore it up for her, but she only ate about half. She, for some odd reason, doesn’t like syrup on her pancakes and this one really needed a little butter or syrup. Her meal also came with two slices of bacon which she greedily ate right away. I also ordered an extra plate of bacon for her and I to share. This past Sunday we went out to breakfast and almost had a meltdown because she didn’t get enough bacon and we didn’t order any extra. I didn’t make that mistake again. The plate came with four slices and I only got one…so yeah, she ate five pieces of bacon and half a pancake for breakfast.
The bill for the four of us was just a little over $35. The Panel Room isn’t a place J and I would go unless we were traveling through Hartford on a Sunday morning. It’s just kind of far away for the late morning breakfasts we liked to do on weekends. It’s a delicious little hometown restaurant though and I’m very glad my mom asked L and I to meet them for breakfast.