Restaurant review: Mona’s Table
By Heather Lyn Wood
Mona’s Table is aptly named. On my first few visits to Mona Personius’s small Encinal Market Shopping Center café for breakfast or lunch, it struck me more as a family kitchen than a restaurant: comfortable, authentic, and informal. A recent visit confirmed my earlier view. Despite somewhat laissez-faire service, the solidly good cuisine and friendly atmosphere make Mona’s a great spot for weekend brunch.
A vintage coffee pot collection, eclectic Americana décor and a shelf full of board games add an extra welcoming touch to this family-friendly neighborhood establishment.
Seated by the window, we took our time perusing the menu. American standards (Corned Beef Hash and Eggs; Crispy Chicken Club) mingled comfortably with more interesting dishes (Cured Salmon Flatbread; Mushroom Cakes with Mornay Sauce, Eggs, and Sautéed Spinach), giving us a range of choices.
My dining companion’s first course was the Monte Christo sandwich (rye bread layered with turkey, jam, ham, and Swiss cheese, dipped in a French toast egg bath, sautéed then dusted with powdered sugar) with roasted yams and potatoes ($8.50). The bread was fresh, the ham and turkey tenderly roasted, and the flavors well blended. The sandwich was decidedly meaty but still manageable, maintaining its structure despite the weight of several layers. The roasted yams could have benefited from a few more minutes in the oven, but were adequately cooked. The Monte Christo is not for everyone, but for fans of the bold (and potentially heart-stopping) creation, Mona’s is worth a try.
The next dish to arrive at our table was the Chile Colorado Beef Over Creamy Polenta ($9.75). Here, generous chunks of lean beef in a mildly spicy sauce of tender Anaheim chiles and pinto beans topped a hot bowl of farm-fresh eggs, corn tortillas, cheddar cheese and soft polenta. The resulting stick-to-your-ribs concoction – something you might be served on a luxury dude ranch trail ride – was a hit.
I ordered the Lemon-Ricotta Pancakes with Seasonal Fruit ($7.75), which may have been our favorite. Though not heavy, the cakes had a bread pudding-like quality: each three-quarters of an inch thick, hot, moist and plump with fresh ricotta cheese.
Each bite pulled apart easily, soft but not at all doughy. The lemon flavor was subtle enough to almost miss, but this did not detract from the overall excellence of the dish. The fruit sprinkled across the top of the pancakes – apples and pears soaked in something wonderful – was fresh and sweet.
Our food arrived within a reasonable time, but that was the last time we were visited by a server for quite some time. After finishing our meal, we had to go looking for someone to take our orders for more tea and coffee. There were a couple of times that it would have been nice to have a server check on us, and it is worth noting that the restaurant was not particularly busy when we were there.
For those seeking a polished dining experience with lots of attention, this is not the best place. That said, Mona’s main focus is obviously on her food – a fresh, well-planned menu with high quality ingredients and innovative flavors. That focus, combined with a homey, neighborhood atmosphere, makes Mona’s a destination worth going back to.
Mona’s Table, 3215 Encinal Avenue #A; 814-6179. Open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.