Oh, Mr. Groundhog. You’ve angered a lot of people with what seems like a false prediction of early spring. Many of us here in the Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire region are currently having another snow day, after just having one on Friday. Because I think Salem is gorgeous in the snow, despite the hassle of bringing the car to a packed parking garage during a snow emergency parking ban, I wanted to make the best of the morning. I thought, what better way to kick off a snow day than trying a breakfast spot we hadn’t been to before? Enter: The Ugly Mug Diner!
The Ugly Mug Diner opened in 2014 while I was living in New Hampshire, or I would have tried it back then. I’m thrilled that this snow day allowed me the opportunity to check it out because this is definitely going to be my new breakfast spot. This diner, while cozy, is definitely not what I like to call a “dive bar diner”. You won’t find a dark, outdated environment or outdated menu items here!
The interior is very clean with a creative, quirky style of decor. If you look close enough in the photo above you can see that the lights over the counter are actually coffee pots! There were also cheese grater lights above our table. I absolutely loved this – what an excellent and unique idea. While not what I would call a rustic place, the multiple chalkboard menus added a touch of a homestyle feel. Near our seat I was delighted to see “pigography” by super talented and super sweet local photographer, Joey Phoenix. Retro 80s tunes played over the sound system, and the vibe in the diner was upbeat and friendly, yet relaxing.
Now, for the best part: the eats. The Ugly Mug Diner is a far step ahead in my eyes in inspired diner food and beverage offerings. Sure, you could get plain pancakes and regular coffee here if you preferred, but with so many other standout menu options, I’m not certain you’d want to! It’s obvious that all involved in running this diner take pride in the food they serve. Their website describes it perfectly on the welcome page when it says, “We are a foodie haven, not a greasy spoon”.
An example of items on the sweeter side would be “The Elvis Waffle”, which includes peanut butter cup chunks, banana, bacon and whipped cream. Looking for something eggy? Perhaps try the Vegiluxe off of their “Deluxe Egg Sammiches” menu, which includes a fried egg, caramelized onions, Portobello, roasted tomato and roasted garlic goat cheese. If Benedict is your style, there are several options (hello Joe’s Fishprints Dueling Crustaceans benedict, I imagined to be named after the shop on Pickering Wharf). This section of the menu is complete with a photo of British actor Benedict Cumberbatch at the top.
There are also “Sammiches” and burger options sure to please the palate. Meat lovers will drool over The P.E.L.T., which includes “bacon and pork belly confit in a double decker BLT with sriracha aioli on sourdough bread”. I could go on and on about the different mouthwatering combinations of food at The Ugly Mug Diner, but you can just check it all out yourself here.
We can’t forget about drinks, and drinks there certainly are here! I have never seen such a wide variety of drinks at a diner, and I think I’m in love. They even serve adult beverages, people! You want beer? Order it up! Even try a beer cocktail while you’re at it! (The High Life Lime Rickey sounds good to me.) Don’t whine about no wine here, because it’s on the menu. Mimosas? Of course!
If the morning isn’t quite your happy hour, perk up with one of the many caffeinated options. I’ll admit, I played the safe route because I was strongly craving a Chai Latte so that’s what I got, but it was very hard to pass up ordering something like their Salted Caramel Mocha or Nutella Latte. The Toasted Marshmallow Hot Chocolate was also in the running for me. I didn’t regret the Chai Latte though, because it was actually a combo of their own Chai made in-house with tea from MEM tea in Watertown, MA.
Drinks are served to customers in random “ugly” mugs, of which I’ve heard come from a huge collection within the diner. One of my favorite parts of the experience was looking around to see all the crazy awesome mugs other patrons were sipping out of. I definitely got an ugly mug as you can see – it has the name of a water treatment company from South Carolina on it. Nick’s mug is actually really cute, though. Who doesn’t love cartoon penguins in winter hats? Around the room, I also saw a mug with an image of the Beatles, and a funny-shaped one with the face of what seemed like a troll or a giant of some sort. I can’t wait for my next trip back to the diner just to see which mug I get next!
As for the meal, I couldn’t resist the sound of the Carrot Cake pancakes, which were written on the Specials chalkboard, complete with little carrot drawings next to it. I’m a sucker for anything adorable like that, so the deal was sealed for me. I also got a scrambled egg on the side. Nick ordered the Western Omelet (sans avocado, which it usually comes with) and a Banana Nut muffin, which was also on the chalkboard, grilled up for warmth with butter on the side.
I don’t think I’ve ever had more enjoyable pancakes. The thought of Carrot Cake pancakes never even occurred to me. These were SO delicious, warm and soft with the scrumptious taste of carrot cake as if it was fresh from grandma’s kitchen. Sweet but not too much so, as the melty, sweet-tooth satisfying frosting provided that extra shot of sugary delight. There were actually carrot shavings on the side, so I tricked my mind into thinking, oh look! We’re even getting our vitamins today! I hope this is one special that returns again and again on the chalkboard.
I know, I know, this is a horrible shot of Nick’s plate, but that’s because I was in a rush to take the first bite of those Carrot Cake pancakes 😉 As a side to his Western Omelet, Nick got a homefries mix, half regular and half sweet potato. I just had to try the sweet potato (love everything s.p.) and they were outstanding. I would take those over regular homefries any day, any time.
All too soon, it seemed like we had devoured our plates and our time at The Ugly Mug Diner came to a close as we geared up to head back out into the bitterly cold wind and snow. At least we would walk home (actually, to the bank first) full and satisfied! I’m already thinking ahead to my next visit to this delicious diner, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. After all, Ugly Mug won Editors’ Choice for Best Breakfast and Readers’ Choice for Best Brunch in Northshore Magazine’s Best of the North Shore 2015.
If you’re in the Salem, Massachusetts area, take some time to start your day out at The Ugly Mug Diner! Or, check it out for lunch. It’s open 7:00 AM – 3:00 PM every day. When you do go, let me know what mug you get in the comments 🙂
Featured: The Ugly Mug Diner – 122 Washington Street, Salem, MA, 978.745.MUGG (6844)