McKenna’s Cafe (Dorchester, MA)

Prior to starting our 21.7 mile march through the various neighborhoods of Boston, we needed a place to have a breakfast, meet up with other hikers, and get a good start to the day. Luckily, only about 100 feet away from the Savin Hill T station is McKenna’s Cafe. A cozy little cafe (note to others: we showed up at 7am to a near-empty cafe, but those showing up later on a Saturday, I’d expect a wait, the place is pretty small), it fits well into the neighborhood. Savin Hill is a surprisingly quiet and mellow corner of Dorchester (and, indeed, even several of my Boston friends mentioned that it was one of those T stops they’ve never gotten off at), and this is the exact sort of cafe you expect in a neighborhood like this. Walk in, get greeted by the staff, and quickly get seated with some coffee to peruse the menu.

The menu at McKenna’s is your basic American breakfast joint menu, with pancakes, French toast, omelets, scrambles, and the like. One notable difference from many other places is that they also have a lot of Irish breakfast items (bangers, black and white pudding, and the like), and a few healthier options (several egg white specials, several turkey dishes, and such). After some review, I settled on one of the healthier items (the Energizer, an English muffin with layers of egg white, turkey, and Swiss) and a side of home fries to balance it out. I had to be somewhat reserved, since I was expecting to eat at over half a dozen places during the day. Carol decided to order up some French toast and share my home fries.

It’s one of those menu items that doesn’t lend itself to good food photography (the colors are a bit bland), but this was actually a very good breakfast sandwich: a nicely-toasted English muffin, several layers of moist turkey that had been lightly grilled, some fried egg whites, and two layers of Swiss cheese. The result was a nice combination of egg, cheese, and turkey, without being too heavy. I’d certainly get this again if I was in the mood for a breakfast sandwich.

Carol’s French toast was quite good as well. She had opted for the granola-crusted French toast, and the result was two substantial slabs of nicely-fried French toast. The inside was light and fluffy, the outside crunchy, and the granola added some pleasant texture. I’m not usually a French toast fan (having suffered through too many bad renditions of it), but here it’s good, and I’d be happy ordering it.

The home fries, however, were the real surprise. One of the big disappointments I had moving to New England is that most places up here don’t do hash browns (shredded potatoes), but home fries (fried potato chunks). Done well, home fries can be excellent (in particular, up my way the Tumble Inn Diner and the Fairlee Diner both do some boss home fries), but all too often a place either (a) breaks out the Sysco bag and fries them up, or (b) just dices some potatoes up and throws ’em in the fryer. Either way, the result is usually a pile of fairly disappointing starchy or waxy lumps of potato. Well, McKenna’s goes down as another place that knows how to actually cook home fries correctly. My home fries were nice and perfectly fluffy in the middle (with no waxiness or starchiness), warm, and having the perfect crispy exterior. These weren’t just good home fries, but probably the best I’ve had in Massachusetts.

Overall, we liked McKenna’s a lot. It’s a nice little neighborhood gem in a somewhat quiet part of Boston, and they have a nice cozy little cafe that was a great way to start our day of hiking. I’d like to come back and try McKenna’s another time. I rather liked my breakfast (and loved the home fries), and I would like another chance to try some of the more complete breakfast menu entrees on a day when I’m not having to conserve stomach space.

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