Wednesday, May 23, 2007

art cafe 26

It was a gray, rainy day when my husband, Dave, and I popped by art cafe 26 (yes, it is spelled in all lower-case letters). The interior draws you smoothly in with its clean lines and varying textures of wood, dotted with happy pots of thriving flora. It came as no real surprise to later discover that it was designed with the guiding principles of feng shui.

Fiddling about with beverages, a man behind the counter invited us to find a seat— someone would be with us shortly. It seemed that the bustling room was short a server or two, so we busied ourselves with the art. Paintings were hung on every wall, each individually lit.

By the time we’d circled the room and made it back to our table, the buzz seemed to be dying down. A woman came over to our table with not only menus, but the whole daily specials board from the front! She set it down where we could both see, presented our menus and warmly welcomed us.

“I’m Sibilla, and I’m so glad to have you here! Thanks for waiting,” she said in a smooth German accent. “Can I get you something to drink?”

Dave asked for the wine list, which having just been revised, was still only scribbled on a scrap of paper. They had recently changed their hours, opening later and staying open for the dinner crowd. After some discussion, Sibilla said she knew the perfect wine for us, and hurried off to get it.

The Staatlicher Hofkeller Wurzburg 2005 Silvaner -Trocken Franken could not have been more perfectly crafted. It was deliciously dry, with a touch of steely minerals balanced with a healthy squirt of bright acidity.

While filling up our glasses, Sibilla talked about the day’s offerings. Additionally, each dish is made to order, meaning that there may be more of a wait than some are accustomed to.

Perhaps it was the wine or the good conversation, but the wait didn’t seem too terribly long. My small spring salad ($5.50) came with mixed young greens, chopped sweet peppers and cucumbers. The honey vinaigrette was so light I thought they’d forgotten it — until I put a forkful in my mouth. It was indeed delicate, with a welcome hint of sweetness. Two small pieces of wholesome house-made bread were the perfect tools to make certain not a drop was left behind.Dave, in the mood for breakfast, had been steered toward the Artist Breakfast Omelet ($5.90). “You have never before tasted an omelet until now!” Sibilla had proudly declared, and rightfully so. Served open, the golden eggs provided the base for an artfully arranged border of mushrooms. Bits of red onion peeked out, while a chili-type powder warmed from the center. Deep inside, savory bits of ham were suspended in pockets of creamy, rich cheese. Dave is no slouch around breakfast, but found himself unable to finish this utterly delightful dish.I had gone with the business break special, an Austrian vegetable strudel ($9.90). It arrived looking almost too pretty to eat. Three dabs of a mellow tomato sauce dotted the rectangular white plate, while tiny wedges of vibrant cherry tomatoes kept the eye moving. Three fat slices of the strudel were sprinkled with black sesame seeds and bursting at the seams with a vegetable melange. Mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes and onions were succulent and soft, while fresh rosemary and thyme slowly revealed themselves, growing bolder as the dish cooled. A cheese I couldn’t quite identify, but turned out to be a fresh feta, was pillowy soft, without any overt trace of saltiness. Extremely well done.We needed a bit of a break before heading back into the world, so we ordered a couple of macchiatos and some cookies to go. The macchiatos ($4.70) were more like a latte, and the largest one that I have ever seen in my life! One would certainly have sufficed the both of us, so we paid up and sat out front to finish.

While fairly full, I’m never one to resist the temptation of cookies, and after staring at the bag for several minutes, I had a go. Three chocolate chippers ($1.60) were happily chewy, with a definite bent towards the darker side of chocolate chunks.

Two hours after we walked in, we finally left, exhilarated at our new find. Art cafe 26 is an independently owned venue that lends eclectic local flair to the new mixed-use community of Williamsburg’s New Town. Don’t go if you’re in a hurry — there are plenty of chains ready to satisfy that particular need.

Otherwise, come and sit for a spell. Linger over the art on the walls, feast upon the art on the plates, and please, check the rat race at the door.

art cafe 26
5107-2 Center Street, New Town, Williamsburg
Phone: 565-7788
Specialties: freshly prepared lighter fare
Price range: breakfast: $1.20-$10.50; soups: $4.90- $12.40; salads: $5.50-$14.50; entrees: varies by selection and day, around $15.99 at lunch and $20-$33 at dinner; desserts: $2.50-$8.90
Hours: 11 a.m.- 2 p.m. Monday-Friday; 5 p.m.- 9:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; 8:30 a.m.- 9:30 p.m. Saturday; closed Sunday
Alcohol: beer and wine
Smoking: permitted on the outdoor patio
Vegetarian: yes
Wheelchair accessible: yes
Payment: cash, credit card, check
Noise level: conversational to noisy
Atmosphere: art and food in a laid-back, European-style setting
Additional Information: outdoor seating, daily specials, private evening events, small dinner parties, business receptions, art/poetry/music discussions/events
Star rating: food 4, atmosphere 4 1/2, service 4
(out of five stars)


Blogger Courtney said...

oh wow. All these cool places come in town after I graduate. That looks like the perfect place to relax after an intense study session.

6:49 AM  
Blogger iamchanelle said...

oh my GOSH woman - i thought i was reading a steamy love scene - most sensual descriptions! loved this post. even though i cannot actually walk into this place (as it is like a million miles away from here, sniff), i felt as though i really had been there and enjoyed a meal with you. well done, well done!

10:04 AM  
Blogger Deborah Dowd said...

How lucky I am that when you find a great place to eat, I can go there! You have made me drool!

7:18 PM  

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