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Cosmos House of Pancakes
*** 1/2
Out of a possible five

Ace servers, stellar fare at Cosmos

You could not pick a worse morning to go out for breakfast than a Sunday.

And given how packed Cosmos House of Pancakes on St. Joe Center Road near the Marketplace of Canterbury was, I expected the worst.

I expected to wait for a seat. I expected to wait for food. I expected racing servers trying to keep up with little chance of actually providing proper service.

It is not that I wish for the worst; I just know how Sunday mornings can be at breakfast places, given my first restaurant job was at one so many years ago. And to be honest, I didn’t always have a bright smile, didn’t always go out of my way to help customers and didn’t really care about anything more than getting their butts out the door so it would slow down.

I could have never worked at Cosmos.

The service could not have been better during my visits. It was not just satisfactory, it was out-of-the-way good. I had a hot cup of coffee before I was even finished sitting down and my servers never missed a beat from there. They were warm, personable and, maybe I’m a sucker and they were just playing the part, but darn it, they really seemed happy to be working there.

And the food didn’t disappoint, either.

Eggs were in order on this Sunday, and I tried them two ways – whipped light and fluffy in the Greek Casserole and perfectly poached with runny yolks in the classic Eggs Benedict.

The casserole was dubbed as “healthy” in the menu because it is baked. But with at least four eggs, chopped gyro meat and feta cheese mixed in along with green onions, tomatoes and melted cheddar-jack on top, it was probably not something that would earn approval from a doctor. But it was delicious with the creamy, sharp bits of feta popping up in random bites.

The Benedict had its perfectly prepared hollandaise on the side so I could temper the amount of the lemon-kissed, rich sauce to mix in with the yolk. The ham was thick and tender, the English muffin was fresh and the side of fresh fruit was fine except for the out-of-date, giant lettuce garnish underneath, which just got in my way.

Lettuce proved to be my nemesis at lunchtime, too. The BLT Deluxe was made triple-decker style like a club sandwich, and the bacon on one layer was about as good as it can get – thick and fried to the perfect point of crispy and chewy. But the second layer had nearly inch-thick chunks of lettuce that made the sandwich impossible to keep together even with toothpick holders. I had to take half of it off so my BLT wasn’t an LBT.

My chicken noodle soup was simple – linguine in a hearty broth with just carrots, celery and diced chicken breast – but it hit the spot on a cold day. And it was much better than the lemon-rice soup, which had a little zesty lemon flavor but was too thick and pasty.

It looked like that same soup was used as sauce for my lemon chicken breast with artichokes, and it worked well with the nicely seared but still juicy, butterflied chicken. The artichoke halves had also been browned a little on the grill and the little burst of vinegar from each bite was a nice change-up.

What was also nice was a raised area in the back of the dining room and the textured artwork scattered throughout the restaurant, which added a little flair to a pretty nondescript place. But there was one truly beautiful thing at Cosmos and it came in the form of a dessert. Or was it a breakfast?

The Vegas Waffle is listed with all the regular waffles like pecan and cinnamon-apple, but I would really have a hard time justifying it as a breakfast entrée. It belongs in the “Cosmos Sweets” section of the menu because it is topped with strawberries and gooey sweet strawberry glaze, a giant scoop of vanilla ice cream and whipped cream.

The waffle was not browned to be a little crisp on the outside like a typical one; it was cooked to the bare minimum so it was light and airy like angel food cake, which allowed it to soak up all of that sauce and the melting ice cream.

And if there was any question of whether I would return to Cosmos House of Pancakes, the Vegas Waffle answered it with a resounding, “Oh yeah!”

Restaurant: Cosmos House of Pancakes

Address: 3232 St. Joe Center Road

Phone: 492-6262

Hours: 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Cuisine: American/Greek

Handicapped accessible: Yes

Alcohol: None

Credit cards: Yes

Kid-friendly: Yes

Menu: Soup ($2.99), eggs Benedict ($7.69), Mediterranean casserole ($7.79), lemon chicken ($9.59), BLT ($7.69), Vegas Waffle ($7.09)

Rating breakdown: Food: ** (3-star maximum); atmosphere: 1/2 (1 maximum), service: * (1 maximum)

Note: Restaurants are categorized by price range: $ (less than $20 for three-course meal), $$ ($20-$29); $$$ ($30-$39), $$$$ ($40-$49), $$$$$ ($50 and up).

Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. Email him at rduvall@jg.net; call at 461-8130. DuVall’s past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette.net. You can follow him on Twitter (@DiningOutDuVall) and he can be heard every Thursday from 3 to 4 p.m. on 92.3 FM, The Fort.