FOODIE FILES

Breakfast rules at Rockland’s cheery, bright Home Kitchen Cafe

Posted July 05, 2013, at 11:49 a.m.
Last modified July 05, 2013, at 2 p.m.

As any cook — amateur or professional — will tell you, Hollandaise sauce is pretty easy to screw up. Sure, you can make a general approximation, but to make a really great Hollandaise requires practice, skill and patience.

James Hatch, co-owner and head chef at the Home Kitchen Cafe in Rockland, has attained Hollandaise mastery, and now applies his skill to seven different types of Eggs Benedict: traditional, with Canadian bacon, or with regular bacon, or a variety of veggies, or corned beef, or smoked salmon, or even panko-crusted fried mac and cheese. And that’s just the tip of the breakfast iceberg.

“He’s always loved to cook,” said Susan Hatch, wife and co-owner of the Home Kitchen Cafe, which has been open on Route 1 in Rockland since February 2009. “Eventually he wanted to make that his career. And so far, so good, you know?”

The laid-back vibe and huge variety of items available at the restaurant had a vast appeal right out of the gate — from day one, the Home Kitchen Cafe attracted a devoted local following. Before they opened, Susan and James Hatch ran a screen printing business in the midcoast for more than a decade, with James Hatch moonlighting as a breakfast cook at his family’s restaurant, The Cupboard Cafe in New Harbor. By the late 2000s, the couple was ready to take a break from T-shirts and try their hand at food.

“I’ve got the graphic design background, he’s got the cooking skills, we both have a lot of opinions about food,” said Susan Hatch. “We’ve been lucky enough to see all of this come to fruition.”

Aside from the “bennies” Hatch serves with his signature Hollandaise sauce, there are two other dishes the Home Kitchen Cafe has become known for. Their huevos rancheros, a spicy, satisfying, not overly decadent dish which Hatch has been making for over a decade, and their Banh Home, a take on the classic Vietnamese Banh Mi sandwich, made with pork meatballs, pickled daikon radishes and veggies, with hot chili mayo.

In the fall of last year, the restaurant closed for some serious renovations — they enlarged the kitchen and fixed up the upper level, where there’s a deck for outdoor eating. The interior remains bright and homey, however, with the built-in concrete bar, the cheerful Fiesta plates and mugs, and an overall laid-back attitude. The biggest difference, aside from the kitchen itself, is that the Home Kitchen Cafe now offers dinner.

“This place used to be a car garage,” said Hatch. “The kitchen was tiny for the amount of volume we were doing. So we closed in the winter and reopened, again in February [2013], just like the first time. It’s been going strong ever since. Having dinner has helped.”

The restaurant is also well-known for its cinnamon buns — the Sinny, which is just glazed, or the Sticky, which has pecans. The Food Network, The Boston Globe, Downeast Magazine, Maine Magazine and newspapers from all over the Northeast have praised its gooey, sugary delights.

“People love them,” said Hatch. “We sell out almost every day.”

The Home Kitchen Cafe is open for breakfast and lunch from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesdays-Mondays. They are open for dinner from 5 to 9 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays. They are closed on Tuesdays.

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