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What's Cookin'
A Hearty Breakfast
Roy Lawson shares his 'famous' breakfast casserole
By: Rick Schanz

As I stopped in front of the Uptown Cigar Company at 33 N. State St., the crisp wind whipped through my jacket and scattered the leaves on the sidewalk in front of the store that Roy Lawson and Mike Daffin own together.
Through the shop boasts an impressive variety of cigars and accessories, I was there to find out about Lawson’s other passion.

“I like to grill,” Lawson, 66, says, “ribs, burgers anything like that.”

His interest for grilling and cooking started when he was a young boy in Indianapolis. His mother worked at Buckley’s BBQ, a family-style restaurant. It was there Lawson started cleaning the restaurant’s parking lot and then was promoted to a dishwasher when he was 16 years old.

“I was paid $1.67 an hour,” Lawson says, “That was like minimum wage back then.”

Once inside the restaurant, he learned how to grill, making barbeque sandwiches and burgers and fries on the weekends. On weekend mornings, Lawson learned the intricacies of making a good hearty breakfast, something he integrates into his “famous” breakfast casserole recipe, he says.

“Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day,” Lawson says, “Nothing can beat having some casserole and washing it down with a good Bloody Mary.”
With that, he invited me to the back room of the cigar shop, not for a cigar, but for some of his breakfast casserole. He doled out a generous portion and waited for me to take my first bite.

The casserole lived up to Lawson’s hype. It’s the Mercedes-Benz of breakfast and no doubt outclasses Cheerios, scrambled eggs and orange juice any day.
The first thing you taste is the sausage, then the cheese and the moist croutons. Perhaps the best part of the casserole, according to Lawson, is the caramelizing of the ingredients’ juices around the edges, I agreed.

I may have gobbled down another two pieces if I had one of Lawson’s Bloody Marys.

What separates his Bloody Mary from others is that he uses not only vodka, but also gin, he says.

“It took some trial and error,” Lawson says, describing how he came to settle on his two recipes. He adds that Marcia, his wife of 17 years, stays out of the kitchen when he’s cooking, as he prefers to cook alone.

When not in the kitchen or the cigar shop, Lawson is the vice president of sales at Trimble Insurance Agency in Westerville.

He moved to town in 1993, after moving to Gahanna from Indianapolis in 1986. After shooting the breeze with Daffin about the lack of a special cigar shop where “guys could go to hang out and have the finest hand-rolled cigars with leather chairs and TVs,” the two opened the Uptown Cigar Company on Oct. 27, 2007, he says.

“A guy once told me smoking a good cigar provides the same satisfaction as a good cry for a woman,” Lawson says with a grin.

Lawson’s passion for a good cigar almost rivals his passion for cooking his casserole for his family – three children and five grandchildren – for the holidays.

“I usually make (the casserole) once a year other than Christmas,” says Lawson, is to preserve the recipe for special occasions.

Roy's Breakfast Casserole

1 lb. sausage, browned and drained

2 cups cheddar cheese

1 can cream of mushroom soup

2 ½ tsp. dry mustard

1 ½ cup milk

8 eggs

2 ½ cup croutons

Combine all ingredients except croutons together and refrigerate overnight. Line the bottom of a 9 x 13 casserole dish or pan with croutons then pour mixture over it. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour.