Robin’s Nest Café
11014 County Hwy. B, Hayward, Wisconsin
Winter hours, open from 7am to 2 pm, Saturday and Sunday
Phone (715) 462-3132
www.robinsnest-hayward.com They also have a Facebook page
We get up to Hayward, WI, twice a year; once in the summer for vacation, and with a group of friends every Thanksgiving weekend. Saturday morning, John, Lance and Terry went into town for breakfast, and tried to talk us into doing the same. Jerry wanted to go to the Robin’s Nest.
The Robin’s Nest is a small place about fifteen minutes out of Hayward on County Road B, tucked in between the general store and the bait shop we frequent when we’re up on vacation. It’s a family-owned business for the Mahoneys, and they’ve owned it for eleven years now. Tom the owner does any job that needs doing – greeting customers, waiting or bussing tables – his wife does the graphic design for the menus, and his brother is the winter cook who also lives upstairs.
We’re greeted nearly as soon as we walk in the door. Lynn of the dark curly hair and startling deep blue eyes gives us a bright, cheerful greeting as she comes to the front to collect some menus and tuck a slip of paper under the register. Contrary to the sign, she adds, “Just go ahead and sit anywhere you want to, and I’ll be right there.” Lynn has worked at the restaurant for twelve or thirteen years; I can see her pride in her work and the restaurant in her open friendliness, her familiarity with the clientele (“Would you like a menu, or your usual?”) and her striving for our comfort (“Oh my word, it’s gotten cold in here! It was 80 degrees earlier so I turned the heat down, but now it’s really chilly! I’ll just go ahead and turn it back up. You let me know if it’s good enough.”).
The restaurant looks like a converted house; the main dining area was probably the front porch. Two of four walls are dominated by large windows, one would have been the former front wall of the house, and the fourth is dedicated to a fireplace. We choose a table between one of the large windows and the fireplace. Each table is well-equipped with silverware, a bowl with pats of butter, salt and pepper, plus two small white baskets, one of different flavors of coffee creamer, the other with jams and jellies.
All around, the available wall space is dotted with watercolor paintings by Katie George – loons, bears, woodland scenes; above the fireplace is a painting of songbirds on a wire. It’s fun to try identifying each bird, and if you get stuck, there’s a key listed below!
When Lynn came to take our drink order, we both ordered hot chocolate – just the thing for a chilly morning when the snow coats the ground. Oh. My. Word. I was expecting the usual coffee cup with maybe a dollop of CoolWhip; what I saw when Lynn brought them out to the table was easily twice the size I had pictured, with creamy, thick whipped cream overflowing the top of the glass, accented by mini chocolate chips.
The menu runs to breakfasts, which are served from open to close. Jerry chooses the Ham ‘n Eggs; I order off the a-la-carte menu – pancake, sausage and Cajun fried potatoes. (I’m sensitive to eggs and allergic to onions, so I try to avoid both.) I was careful to ask about the spices used in the Cajun seasoning, and Lynn described the dish, adding that the seasoning was powdered, so for me – no problem. The Robin’s Nest also serves lunch; two older couples were dining at the table next to ours, and when Lynn found out they had a hankering for sandwiches she said that there was a lunch menu available and brought it out.
When our meals arrived, I’m pretty sure my eyes bugged out – I know Jerry’s did – over the size of the portions. Lynn was beside herself apologizing for there only being one sausage on my plate and said she’d bring the second one right out once it was done cooking. Meanwhile, Jerry and I fell to eating. He had me try a piece of his ham; I don’t know how the Robin’s Nest cooks it, but it was juicy and hot, with the taste of salty pork touched by just a hint of sweet. It was enough to make me drool for more – and I don’t really like ham. The Cajun potatoes were both hot-temperature, and hot-spicy, exactly the right accent for the ham.
As I spared a moment to wonder where John, Lance and Terry had gone for their breakfast, Jerry said, “Them guys don’t know what they’re missing.”
I had to agree.