Date of Visit: Sunday, February 13, 2011 at 1:00 p.m.
IMPRESSIONS: Here’s the story. My wife and I used to live just down the street from Cafe Corner. I remember my first visit when it was essentially a wide open coffee shop. They had decent coffee. They had public computers. It was good, but nothing that really drew me back. Then, slowly, the owners expanded and revamped. We heard more and more about the sandwiches. They built a patio. They made the most of that tiny corner spot on Third and Pennsylvania Avenues. We visited during Restaurant Week 2009 and I reviewed it. And loved it. The Cafe has since transitioned into the hands of Kathleen Day, who has continued to make it a culinary hotspot.
ATMOSPHERE: The cafe itself is pretty small, as the building is a former gas station (see picture of it at the end of this post). There are maybe 7 tables total, plus a few seats at a counter looking out the front window. So beware if you’re coming with a big group. Of course, the game changes in spring and summer, when their big, beautiful patio triples the amount of seating.
The decor mixes elements of country kitchen with trendy cafe. One thing I always love to see in breakfast places are hand-written signs. The aesthetics appeal to me, and it shows that their menu is changeable based on specials, seasonal ingredients, or just plain old rotating offerings.
Self-serve coffee setup featuring Stauf’s roasts.
Visually, the whole cafe is fun to look at: big, bright windows. Colorful menu boards. Homemade iced tea served in mason jars.
FOOD: The breakfast menu covers your standards, but delightfully goes beyond that with things like Hens in a Basket, Breakfast Tacos, and Truffled Egg Sandwiches. This is, indeed, a foodie’s breakfast.
If anyone in your party is not-so-adventurous, they’ll be satisfied with the Classic Breakfast, all done right. Toast, crispy bacon, eggs scrambled and not overdone, plus good, crispy hash browns.
You can (and should) get sandwiches for breakfast, too. Here’s my wife’s Fig & Prosciutto, with provolone, white truffle oil, and a balsamic reduction. It’s such a creative interplay between salty prosciutto and sweet figs. Really a big hit.
Swedish pancake balls! Essentially fried dough balls dusted with powdered sugar. You can get them filled with Nutella or strawberry preserves. I asked the guy at the counter if he suggested one over the other. I barely got the question out before he answered, “Nutella.” And he wasn’t wrong. These are soft, warm, doughy balls of sweet goodness. Plus you can dip them in maple syrup. Also, this comes with a side of CC’s sweet and spicy bacon (which I didn’t get a picture of – gah!). I’ve long been hesitant to list anything as my favorite bacon on my best-of list – I still have lots of exploring to do – but this takes the top spot. The bacon is thick cut, and the topping is a sticky sweet mess with a bite at the back of the throat. I was delightfully surprised by it.
The Prosciutto Mozzarella sandwich, with a tomato-basil pesto and balsamic reduction. So good…
I was drawn to Cafe Corner this day by a weekend special of Eggs Benedicto, aka the Mexican Eggs Benedict (it has been offered again since). There’s the standard poached eggs, but they’re served with prosciutto on a toasted croissant, and a chipotle hollandaise. Um. Yes. Please. Eggs benedict is one of my favorite breakfasts, and I’ve neglected to properly research them in Columbus. But if CC’s is anything to go by… it’s gonna be a fun adventure. I loved almost everything about these. Eggs were perfect, croissant is a very nice touch, hollandaise was light and yet flavorful. I really liked the prosciutto, but it pushes things toward the salty side (obviously), and its nature makes it a little hard to cut with a knife. Eggs benedict is not a sandwich, so you have to use silverware, and I like being able to cut nice portions of egg, meat, and bread. The prosciutto made that a little difficult to do. That said, it all tastes lovely. You must try it.
Side of hash browns. Nice and crispy. Not tons of seasoning, but they’re done right without being greasy.
SERVICE: The cafe service is run at the counter. Place your order there, take a number, and find a table. Coffee and drinks are self-serve. The folks at the counter are very nice – not terribly talkative – but very helpful. (Cafe Corner also does a healthy take-out business. The old owners, after all, started the breakfast delivery service Late Night Eggs out of this space; it has since been relocated to the campus area and renamed Eggfast.)
Kathleen shared this picture from the Cafe’s history with me. Here it is in yesteryear as a corner gas station. Makes you really appreciate how much the neighborhood has changed over the decades.
OVERALL: I look forward to more return visits to Cafe Corner. Having moved away from the neighborhood is no excuse not to be back more often, especially with that patio enticing us in the spring and summer months. And that menu is sufficiently big and creative that we’ve still got lots of exploring to do.
-> my older review of Cafe Corner