Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Cafe 4 - reviews of our (re-)re-returns

After raving about Cafe 4 and its potential to revolutionize Knoxville dining in all three courses, I've been back twice, and a separate good friend who first suggested the cafe as a dining location has as well. The reviews are definitely mixed, and don't change my global opinion of the restaurant, but merely confirms some fears but reinforces some hopes...

Since our first visit for lunch I've been back for Sunday brunch and dinner, and the aforementioned friend went for brunch as well.

So first I'll be critical... brunch is not the greatest. Our experience wasn't bad per se. Like so many local establishments hot tea was lacking. When the wife ordered it our waitress got this somewhat pained look on her face and started into this kinda slow "oooh.. yeah... we only have Chamomile..." muttering. Clearly a calming warm tea to relax you is not what anyone needs at brunch. We need either booze (bloody mary, mimosa, or screwdriver) to chase off the lingering effects of the prior night, or our caffeine delivery mechanism of choice. Chamomile just doesn't cut it. The service was incredibly slow with my caffeine delivery mechanism of choice: coffee. But it did arrive, it was tasty, and overall it wasn't so bad. The staff was clearly bored since it was pretty dead at 11:00 on a Sunday.

I had the french toast, which was fine if not spectacular, but then again I am incredibly spoiled in the department as my wife makes the best-ever french toast. The wife got a quiche without crust and full of veggies that was very tasty and made me jealous (especially since it had been my first choice... damn!) The prices remained reasonable so we left 95% happy. With tea in place and slightly faster refills of my caffeine IV it would have been perfect.

Now for a bit of bad news which is merely hearsay but I respect the speaker's taste so I will repeat it. He also showed up for brunch, fairly early, and it was dead. He received prompt service and oh-too-prompt of food delivery. He ordered a-la-carte: cheese grits, bacon, and a sweet roll. The grits and bacon were just cold, and arrived less than a minute after he ordered. The sweet roll tasted very good but was clearly not made day of. These kind of foibles can sink a ship. I hope they were a one-off and will never occur, but this is exactly what has driven me away from other local breakfast joints and I hate to hear it.

Now for the good news. When my father was visiting we let him buy us dinner there. It was great all around. We once again started with the requisite parmesan and truffle oil fries (amongst three of us the portions were only a little large) and random beers around the table. A word of recommendation to the serving staff: when someone orders a nice American craft IPA feel free to provide a glass... this ain't no Bud here... Dad had the fried chicken and herbed waffles and declared it delicious. My beautiful wife had the roast chicken with potatoes and followed suit. I had a perfectly rare burger with black pepper aioli and concurred. No dessert was in the cards, and it likely never will be if the portions remain so large. After dinner we had coffee but the tea selection, two weeks after our brunch visit, had not been refreshed. When I not-so-delicately suggested to our server that he mention this to his manager he pretty much ignored us... whatever, I'm not sure what I expected.

Lest I sound too harsh it should be noted that I'm taking my wife back for her 30th birthday (her choice!) later this week so clearly I'm not too put off. I simply do not want see my favorite to-date restaurant in this bizarre town get my official black-listing. In fact, once they get their espresso machine going and their baristas trained I hope to go there and never dare to step into Coffee and Chocolate again.


ck said...

your well written reviews have landed you a slot on the sidebar at the wigshop. look forward to reading more in 2009!

Knoxville Steher said...

Awesome... the Wigshop is my favorite local blog! Keep up the good work. I appreciate the link.