Up North Downtown
Soups, salads, and sandwiches present a symphony of hit and miss. A great tomato-basil soup, thick as pasta sauce, has meaty chunks of tomato and nice Italian spicing, whereas a from-the-can-tasting clam chowder blushes pink, not knowing whether it's a New Englander or a Manhattanite. Salads come fresh-leafed and mildly done up: the least garlicky Caesar around, for instance, with toasty croutons that match the sandwich breads, like super-swirly marbled rye from the light, tasty Reuben sandwich. My BLT had thin-cut, well-flavored cherrywood-smoked bacon, but the slices of tomato were so thin they were starting to disappear. Thicker-cut tomatoes held their own in the well-balanced Caprese with pesto on a baguette. An albacore tuna with dill sandwich scored a near ten. Less successful was an odd chicken salad with soggy grapes and dried cherries--one or the other would have been plenty. A side of blueberry applesauce, on the other hand, was the best kind of fruit overload, not too sweet, blended fine but with just enough fruit-seedy texture for interest.
A disconnect between front counter and kitchen showed up a few times on our visits barely a month after May's opening day: sourdough for a BLT requested grilled dry came drenched in butter (for dry-grilling done right, try Afternoon Delight down Liberty). Trying to find out what's homemade can be frustrating--the menu-proclaimed "housemade ranch dressing" arrives in a sealed packet, and many items seem to fall somewhere in between, shipped from the eighteen-store parent company "fresh-frozen" or half-made (one reason this semi-corporate cafe bakery evokes deja vu of the Panera around the corner). And how about turning down the volume a bit on the mood-busting "order-ready" LOUDspeaker?