Unfortunately, as you might be able to infer from the tone, this was one of those "you can never go home again" kind of experiences. We couldn't tell that anything had changed when we walked in the door; the crowd seemed slight for a Sunday morning, especially as the church down the street was just getting out, but it wasn't empty, and the walls were still a friendly yellow and decked out with great photos of the Aurora Borealis. We seated ourselves at the one empty booth and the hostess rushed over to clear away the mess of the last guests. She handed out menus, took our drink orders, and let us know our waitress would be on her way shortly.
That the waitress was cloyingly annoying isn't the point of this review. She did her job, mostly. So I can't really ding her for being overly, synthetically pleasant. Wife could, but I didn't really care. What did stand out as the first negative of the trip was my Diet Pepsi. In the couple of years since we'd last dined here, the size of cup soda comes in managed to shrink by half. It was basically a juice glass, and I downed it before she'd even finished sorting out which kid got which hot chocolate. (Pro Tip: They are the same.) Considering how cheap soda syrup actually is, my chintzy cup seemed like an unnecessary cutback.
My omelette--picked off the "build-it-yourself" portion of the menu so I could have bacon and jalapenos--was just your everyday diner omelette. There were only three jalapeno slices, all cohabitating in the bottom right corner of the filling, but the cheese was melted and the bacon crisp, and I didn't expect much more. The fried potatoes were just that. The only real complaint I had with my food was the toast (not pictured,) a couple of pieces of rye that were coated so thinly they deserved a tag line, like "I can't believe it IS butter."
Here's the thing. I would be completely willing to forgive the bipolar service--waitresses come and go, but I go out to eat for the food. The kitchen staff fixed our complaint quite ably. The salmon scrambler (at least the second one) was still delicious. But while it's nice to know of a place that serves smoked salmon, and sausage made of caribou, most of the food is just average diner quality and that's not what you are paying for. Portion sizes have gone down and prices have gone up, and while I understand the ups and downs of economics common sense says that if you have to sacrifice for the bottom line you need to at least limit yourself to just picking one of those things. Instead our happy morning ran into a brick wall when we realized that we'd spent fifty dollars on breakfast, and several of us were still hungry. You could certainly do worse than the Northern Lights Cafe', but in the years since we were regulars it has become apparent that you can now easily do better.