J.P. Spoonem’s jonnycakes are iconoclastic. For one thing, they are spelled Johnny Cakes. For another, they are made with yellow corn meal instead of the traditional white. Furthermore, they are faintly sweetened with maple syrup. In other words, they’re not for the jonnycake purist.
These are west-of-Narragansett Bay-style, meaning fairly thick, dense, and griddle-cooked until the edges are crisp. Real pressure from a fork’s edge is required to sever a bite, and they are flavorful enough in their own right that only minimal butter and/or syrup is required. They are stout enough to be an entree and to star in a johnny cake platter, which is a pair of them with Swiss cheese and very good ham, accompanied by home fries and fruit.
Beyond the Rhode Island signature flapjack, Spoonem’s offers an extensive menu of Benedicts, omelets, frittatas, corned beef hash, salmon hash, and veggie hash of black beans and roasted corn. House specials include French bread French toast stuffed with fresh strawberry cream cheese (in strawberry season), spiced pumpkin, or coconut and pineapple. I enjoyed a wickedly sweet item called Portuguese raisin sweet bread French toast. It comes topped with butter and brown sugar, raisins, bananas, walnuts, and whipped cream.
While the ambiance is casual and diner-like, décor has a modern edge (like the menu). A U-shaped counter with chrome-pedestal stools is surrounded by a floor that is part tiny-tiles as in a vintage hash house and part varnished wood like in a stylish 21st century café.
When we think of breakfast in Rhode Island, our thoughts naturally turn to jonnycakes, and our favorites are from Jigger’s Diner in East Greenwich, which has endured a lion’s share of business woes over the years. After it closed for the umpteenth time, WanderingJew and I planned a jonnycake tour of Rhode Island to find other worthy candidates. After sampling many of the sundry cornmeal cakes across the Ocean State, our top pick of the day was the Johnny Cake (two words!) Platter at J.P. Spoonem’s in downtown Cranston. Two johnny cakes are layered with thick, hand-carved ham and melted Swiss cheese. Homefries and fresh fruit came on the side.
This kitchen uses yellow cornmeal as opposed to the traditional white variety (hence the variant spelling of jonnycake with an “h”), and their johnny cakes taste slightly of maple syrup, despite the very light sprinkling of powered sugar on top. The texture reminded us of moist cornbread, and the distinctive taste was complemented by the mildly salty ham and cheese. The homefries were the soft, uncrusty kind, the flavor waking up with a dash of pepper. On our next visit, we’d like to try the award-winning corned beef hash, their creative eggs Benedicts and an Italian-inspired dish called Eggs Carbonara. J.P. Spoonem’s is open Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m.-2 p.m. (serving breakfast all day, lunch after 11 a.m.); Saturday, 7 a.m.-2 p.m.; and Sunday, 8 a.m.-1 p.m. (serving breakfast only). Be advised that payment is cash only!