IF YOU GO
Where: Caffeine, 233 E. M.L. King Blvd. Phone: 756-5911. Hours: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday.
ANNE BRALY: While many restaurants have come and gone along M.L. King Boulevard over the past few years, business at Caffeine is strong. And there’s a good reason: Consistency in the quality of food. It’s been a while since I’ve eaten there, primarily because my favorite sandwich is not on my Weight Watchers menu. But on our recent lunch visit, my No. 1 sandwich was just as good as the first time I had it when the eatery opened four years ago. It’s a heavenly, layered sandwich with a thick slice of turkey, avocado, brie, red onion, lettuce and tomato, with just enough spicy mayonnaise to make it just a little messy. It was incredible, as always.
HOLLY LEBER: I remember hearing in a high school human physiology class that rice and beans is a good balanced meal, so the fact that it’s one of Caffeine’s specialties pleases me. The addition of tomatoes (yay lycopene!) and sliced avocado (yay potassium!) ups both the nutritional benefits and the flavor, although the dish could stand to be spiced up. A lot, actually. It’s quite satisfying but a bit on the bland side, even with the added vegetables. What can I say? Some like it hot, but it was still very fresh and tasty.
ANNE: It looked excellent, so next time maybe you should take a bottle of hot sauce along. My only complaint was the wait, but considering that each dish is prepared fresh to order by one person in a small kitchen, I wasn’t surprised. It was worth the wait. And while waiting, it’s kind of fun to look around. I like Caffeine’s ceiling with the different suits of cards painted on the fluorescent light coverings. It’s quite a clever disguise. Another thing I like about the place is the casual atmosphere — mismatched furniture and decorations. Somehow, it all works together.
HOLLY: It’s definitely a comfortable place to be. Of course, being the herbivore, I also appreciate the mix of vegetarian options that are available. I’m looking forward to trying the hummus wrap. And ... I snuck a peek at the brunch menu on the back. Well, I thought it was the brunch menu for Caffeine, but Anne tells me it is actually for Blacksmith’s Bistro, a St. Elmo restaurant owned by the same people, Blacky and Kelly Smith. Kind of confusing to have two places on the same menu, just saying. But anyway... some weekend I’m going to go there and splurge on the toasted baguette with brie and peach preserves. It’ll be all my Weight Watchers bonus points for a week, but doesn’t that just sound like it would be worth six days of raw spinach to make up the calories?
ANNE: Let’s go together. Kelly mentioned to me that she wanted me to give it a try. I’d like to wait until the weather warms up, though, so we can spend our brunch on the patio outside Blacksmith’s. The Smiths are an enterprising couple, maintaining two restaurants in today’s gloomy economy. Kinda brightens my day to see their success.
Holly Leber is a reporter and columnist for the Life section. She has worked at the Times Free Press since March 2008. Holly covers “everything but the kitchen sink" when it comes to features: the arts, young adults, classical music, art, fitness, home, gardening and food. She writes the popular and sometimes-controversial column Love and Other Indoor Sports. Holly calls both New York City and Saratoga Springs, NY home. She earned a bachelor of arts ...