December 19, 2012

Grub Notes

Broad Street Eats

Photo Credit: CD Skehan

Broad Street Coffee

Virtue: The little building at Broad just up from Hancock most famous for housing the Arctic Girl and, later, Walter’s BBQ, has undergone a lot of transition lately, turning over tenants every year or so. But does that mean the location is cursed? Or has it just been unlucky? After all, neither hot dogs nor BBQ is a particularly high-profit genre of cuisine. 

Vanessa and Juan Molina, who recently moved back to Athens (he played in bands including Time Toy and Squalls), opened Broad Street Coffee (1660 W. Broad St.) in the space a few weeks ago, and they instantly made the tiny quarters their own. Remodeled to include tables and chairs inside, in unquestionably intimate arrangement, it is cozy rather than cramped, with fresh flowers and many cute decorating details. 

The name is confusing. Yes, the restaurant serves coffee (Counter Culture), iced tea, homemade hot chocolate, fancy sodas and crazy expensive smoothies ($6.95!), but it also serves considerably more. The itty-bitty kitchen is turning out vegan cuisine and baked goods for breakfast/brunch, lunch and dinner, with a sizable menu of organic produce-based dishes. Technically, Broad Street isn’t 100 percent vegan—Juan says coffee isn’t coffee without real milk—but that one dairy product is the only exception, and you can also have your caffeine with soy, rice, almond or even hemp milk. The bacon is tempeh, the cheese is made sans milk, and the “no huevos rancheros” uses tofu as its base. The restaurant is also toward the virtuous end of the vegan spectrum, relying little on oil or easy shortcuts to flavor, much like the dearly departed Gymnopédie. That makes it a harder sell to anyone who isn’t vegan, like yours truly. 

The plates are cutely put together, sandwiches arriving on nice serving-ware and joined by sides of sautéed kale and Asian cabbage salad. It’s hard to do wrong with kale, one of the loveliest and tastiest, not to mention healthiest, members of the brassica genus, and it’s not that Broad Street does, exactly, but the stuff needs a firmer hand, either a more aggressive sauté or a bit of massaging to soften up its tough cell walls. Some of the offerings succeed reasonably well, like the BLT with tempeh bacon, avocado, lettuce, tomato, alfalfa sprouts and spicy veganaise on good homemade bread and the pasta veggie bowl, which tosses angel hair with kale, olives, vegetables and whole roasted garlic, the latter ingredient supplying fragrance and flavor both. Others have a little way to go. 

The seaweed salad, which combines red dulse and green wakame seaweed with veggies and an Asian dressing, needs more protein than the sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds can provide and, despite filling your tummy, will leave you hungry and cranky a few hours later. The burrito (black beans, rice, vegan cheese, mushrooms, avocado, tomatoes, onions, peppers and jalapenos, with sides of vegan sour cream and a mango salsa) isn’t as exciting as its description; the rice is a touch undercooked, and you might well be able to assemble a superior one that would be less organic but equally animal-friendly at one of Athens’ many burrito joints. 

The “We Love Kale” salad is a nice combination of antioxidants, with red onion, garlic, raisins, blueberries and walnuts nestled among the central green, but the red peppers it includes take over the dish, as they tend to do, and could be scrapped. The baked goods are excellent. The chocolate chip cookies are as good as any in town that contain eggs and butter, and the kitchen doesn’t skimp on the chocolate, which almost runs like a layer through the middle of the cookie, and the coffee cake, if you are lucky enough to catch it warm from the oven, is outstanding. 

The restaurant is young yet, and it clearly has a devoted audience, but there are things it offers that should please anyone, and its focus on presentation is welcome. Its current hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday–Friday and 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. weekends, and it takes credit cards.

Indulgence: If, on the other hand, you want a burger and a milkshake made with beef and dairy products, Steak 'N Shake is operating at 2033 W. Broad, just down the street, and is executing at just the level it should be. A milkshake with your lunch may leave you logy later in the day, but it may be worth it, especially the limited-edition peppermint chocolate chip version now pouring. The burgers are just as you remember them, if you’ve ever been to another location: well sized (i.e., not too big), with nice, crisp edges and uneven shape, of the flat rather than tall school, and simple. Yes, you can get lots of toppings, but you don’t have to. The fries are thin and equally spartan, but reliable. Service is seriously trained, and despite the constant stream of customers, things seem to be running with impressive smoothness. The restaurant is open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day, has drive-through and take-out as well as eat-in and takes credit cards.

What Up?: Creature Comforts, a 30-barrel brewhouse, will open in the 297 W. Hancock Ave. space recently vacated by Snow Tire.