The Café, at 2011 Walnut St. has quite a different atmosphere than its sibling restaurant, the Irish Pub, located next door. These bistros feature similar retro artwork, but the similarities end there. The Irish Pub works for an energetic get together, while The Cafe, in comparison, is the place for a laid-back dinner or drinks.
The light fixtures are strikingly similar to those found at Starbucks. They provide a soft light, adding to the romantic vibe that emanate from this dining establishment. Melodies from artists like jazz musicians Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday drift through the air, adding to this calming dining experience.
The seats in the back of the restaurant are unique and perfect for drinks, though awkward for dining. The chairs are low to the ground, as are the tables and one would have to hunch over their food. A far better dining choice is the booths in the restaurant’s front dining section.
The menu is comprised of a hodgepodge of different cuisines. Offerings include Santa Fe chicken egg rolls, an Asian sampler, Walnut Street salads, cilantro chicken quesadillas, veal shank Osso Buco, fish and chips and Sicilian chicken sandwiches. A menu like this is often disheartening, as one worries what the chef’s specialty really is.
Whatever her secret is, Chef Colleen McAuaddy seems to have the Cafe’s kitchen under control. Although a bit on the greasy side, the thick chips, tortilla crisps as they are called on the menu, were great for scooping up the delicious spinach artichoke dip and red pepper hummus. The soup du jour was a creamy and filling potato soup, complete with carrots and corn.
Since some of the entree prices of the restaurant might not exactly suit a student budget, ordering the potato soup on its own is an excellent choice. As for entrees, the prices are steep, but the selections do not disappoint.
The cedar plank salmon may look like a small serving, but any more fish would be too much, as it also comes with a generous helping of vegetables, the soup du jour and a side salad. This smoked fish dish was quite good a tasted like a healthy choice. It was cooked quite traditionally and served on its own plank.
The steak frites were a bit more experimental. The steak was served on top of tiny French fries, which is predictable. The experiment was found in the creamy sauce atop the fries. The sauce was pleasing to the eye, but not so much to the palate and was most likely placed on the fries to create a nice presentation, but leaves the diner unable to choose if they want sauce or not.
Skipping dessert is not a wise choice at The Cafe. For chocoholics, The Cafe’s brownie is drenched in caramel and chocolate sauce. As any brownie should be, it’s rich and gooey.
Stopping at The Cafe for drinks is a good idea too, for a varied selection featuring several notable cocktails, including the Sugar Daddy made with Bombay Sapphire gin and the Snickers and hard pink lemonade martinis.
Overall, The Cafe has quite an assortment of comfort food, desserts and drinks. It’s just like what mama made, if your mom sticks with the standards and throws in the occasional ethnic dish. The food isn’t bad, though if you are looking for something exotic, you might want to keep looking.
In its defense, it’s not uncommon that an adventurous eater will have to blaze their own trail. What The Cafe lacks in flair it makes up for in charm.
Lauren Hard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.