Diner Series: Part 3 — Fox’s Family Restaurant

February 3, 2012

I am not a mall person. I avoid Lycoming Mall Drive in Muncy on Saturday and Sunday, so when my partner suggested dining at Fox’s Family Restaurant on a Saturday morning, I initially said, “No way!”

But I’d recently been scandalized by having looked up the nutrition information for the breakfasts at Perkins, which was our usual pre-grocery-shopping, weekend-morning haunt—purely out of convenience, I assure you—so I conceded and we hopped in the car and trekked out to Fox’s.

I am also not a buffet person. I wrestle with my weight, and buffets seem irresponsible because I have to remind myself to stop eating when I am full. I’m a plate-cleaner, and the bounty of buffets makes me feel obliged to eat too much. Plus I dislike the spongy or rubbery, generally over-warmed state of food on buffets. Buffet bacon? The worst. I’d rather eat salted rubber bands.

The first time we went to Fox’s it was a hot summer morning—the worst time of the year to work in a restaurant kitchen, I assure you. There was a swarm of folks at the buffet. The kid who ran the food out from the kitchen was replenishing scrambled eggs like they were water for the dehydrated. He was soaked in sweat from nose to waist.

Maybe the buffet is what I’m missing about Fox’s. But I really don’t get it.  

I read some customer reviews online and they were these gushy, hyperbolic portraits of remarkable service and food that will serve itself to you on a solid gold breakfast plate while massaging your atrophied muscles and reducing acne scars.    

We’ve been there about five times since summer. I order something different every time, and so does my partner. So far, with the exception of the sticky -un French toast, we’ve shrugged at each other afterwards and said, “Meh.”  We’ve tried the blueberry pancakes, the grits, the eggs, omelets, French toast, fruit cup, toast, bacon, potatoes, and corned beef hash.  

The blueberry pancakes taste as if they’re made from a box mix. The eggs are fine, but I’ve had eggs from gas station diners that were fine, too. My daughter loves the French toast. The fruit cup was lackluster. I ordered cottage cheese once, but they were out. I haven’t tried the bacon or corned beef hash personally, but my partner—a meat connoisseur—was unmoved.  

Truly, the mark of an excellent diner is its relationship with breakfast potatoes. The best breakfast potatoes I’ve ever had were in a tiny place in Newville, PA, between two row houses in an alley, with a handwritten sign. Those potatoes were buttery and crunchy and filled with delicious, caramelized onions, and not too salty, but salty enough.

Most of the time, however, diners get the potatoes wrong. They’re either undercooked or under-seasoned or uninspired. Fox’s potatoes are a bit starchy, and—unless you ask for them well done—never crunchy at all.

It’s not bad. I’m not saying that. It’s just not good. The corned beef hash comes from a can. The grits are always hot, which I like, but anybody can make grits; they store well on a steam table, and they stand up to any accoutrement. The bread, which I understand they bake there, is fine, but it’s not artisan bread, it’s like bread-machine bread: adequate, doughy, good because it’s bread.  

The place is decorated Country Living style, and the food servers wear those strange, severe nurse-type dresses that button up the front, like Nurse Ratched’s in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The hosts and buspeople wear black slacks or skirts and a white shirt of any type. It must be a swell place to work, because it’s always the same people.

There’s one server who’s really ebullient and friendly. But the one we’ve had more often doesn’t smile so much as press her thin lips together into an expression of tolerance, and though she is speedy and efficient, she does not make me feel as if she’s glad to have me to wait on or that she especially wants to wait on me.  

There are lots of tables on limited floor space, so getting to and from your table is sometimes a chore, and since it’s so busy you have to be on the lookout for traveling pots of coffee before attempting to leave your chair.  

And as often as not, we’ve picked up a little pastry on the way out to share later. We got a rhubarb muffin once that was both very small for the price and utterly unremarkable. Another time we got a fritter. It was a touch better than average.

Another time we ordered peach popovers, but instead they gave us the thing that was next to them, these funny, flat peach dumplings, which we decided to have for dessert after dinner, only to discover that they were moldy under their crust.       

I’m going to rate this place with some caveats: since I’ve only ever been there before eleven a.m., the following only applies to breakfast off the menu and the weekend morning dining experience.

Food: 2.5 capers, adequate. Atmosphere: 3.5 capers, clean and not stinky. Service: 3.5 capers, not bad, it’s just not the kind of service I expect from a small, local, family-owned family restaurant. So on a 5-caper scale, Fox’s Family Restaurant earns 3.17 capers.  

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