I've been intrigued by the Breaking Bread stores – in Cary and Crystal Lake – since they opened.
But I had never had the right chance to stop in.
One's in the Jewel shopping center in Cary, off Route 14, and the other is in the shopping center near Savers and Pablo's in Crystal Lake, not far from the old TJ Maxx location.
The intrigue is the fresh deli, homemade bread and what they describe as a unique menu of hearty sandwiches made fresh to order with natural products. It's a tough market to go up against the chains that people know, like Jimmy John's, Subway and the like.
But Breaking Bread is far more than those places offer.
On a recent evening, we stopped in to order but, ultimately, took the food home to eat. We were ahead of the 7 p.m. closing time, but not enough that we wanted to hang out and keep them open for our post-Christmas stop.
They have a wide variety of sandwiches, subs, burgers, hot dogs, salads and soup. There were five of us, and we ordered a wide variety of food.
One went with grilled cheese. There are plenty of options, from the balsamic grilled cheese, to a loaded cheddar melt to a grilled cheese burger with avocado spread, bacon and jalapeņo peppers. But this fellow diner went with the original American ($4.67) with two toasted slices of Italian bread and American cheese.
I'll add another "this is a kid" disclaimer and say that a Chicago dog ($2.95) was ordered with just ketchup, as well. They usually come as the works and there's also a $5.60 two monster Chicago dog special along with a reuben dog ($6.50), chili dog ($3.99), chief dog ($6.50) which had pulled pork, pickles and pepper jack on a pretzel hoagie, and the double down dog ($11.99) which is a 12-inch french roll with two dogs, fried chicken, bacon and ranch with mozzarella on top.
Another of us ordered a classic cheeseburger ($5.98) on gluten-free bread ($1), one ordered the taco burger ($6.50) with guacamole, taco sauce, American cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and Fritos, and I ordered the chicken wing sandwich ($6.50) which was some spicy shaved chicken with pepper jack and lettuce doused with spicy wing sauce.
We ordered shoestring fries ($1.99), curly fries ($2.49) and pretzel cheese curds ($3.99) on the side to share along with a couple 32-ounce drinks ($2.49 each).
It was a lot of food and a couple bags to bring with us.
They cater and have free delivery, as well, if you wondered.
A lot of restaurants are decorated like they could be anywhere, but the Breaking Bread we were at was clearly unique to Cary, filled with Cary things and Cary-Grove student IDs on the wall, along with photos of people who didn't complete the Sub Club Challenge. I didn't ask what it was but our archives say it's 20 minutes to eat three six-inch subs, a pound of shoestring fries and a pound of potato salad to benefit the Cary Food Pantry.
Luckily, I didn't have to do that. All I needed to do was handle the heat of the chicken wing sandwich, which was high but tolerable with my huge Sierra Mist.
The gluten-free bread was a great option for the burger, instead of that diner having to just eat the burger with no bun, and it was finished quickly, along with some fries.
The grilled cheese was pretty good, as well, and the hefty hot dog, on the traditional S. Rosen's poppyseed bun, also was a hit.
I'd never had pretzel breading on curds before, and it's a unique take that I enjoyed.
And the burgers were pretty darn good themselves.
We were all full, happy and ready for some rest as we re-watched “Rudolph” while we ate.
Hopefully, we won't wait until next year to chow down at Breaking Bread again.
• The Mystery Diner is an employee at the Northwest Herald. The diner’s identity is not revealed to restaurant staff before or during the meal. The Mystery Diner visits a restaurant and then reports on the experience. If the Mystery Diner cannot recommend the establishment, we will not publish a review.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Breaking Bread
WHERE: 638 Northwest Highway, Cary, and 230 W. Virginia St, Suite 250, Crystal Lake
WHEN: 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday
INFORMATION: Call 847-516-2223 or visit breakingbreadrestaurants.com