Any time a new restaurant opens in Brainerd, I like to try it, and if it's decent, eat there as often as I can as a show of support. We have a few, but could always use more, and we could definitely use a nice place to grab a cup of coffee or tea while having a quick meeting or interview.
Downtown has plenty of such trendy places with nooks, couches or tables to sit with a laptop and talk business or gossip while you sip a chai tea latte or a drip coffee.
Now the Ugly Tree Cafe brings trendy to Brainerd Road. It's an eclectic place with limited offerings, but there is something for vegans and meat eaters along with several beverage options.
I've been twice, and been happy with both sandwiches.
The Ugly Tree serves breakfast and lunch. You can get your breakfast burrito as a mini for $5 or a large for $8. They come as an egg or tofu scramble, or with black beans, eggs, cheese, salsa, leafy greens and breakfast potatoes. You can add Land to Table Farm ground sausage for an extra $1.50.
There is also a two egg, potatoes and toast with greens dish for $6.50. The Ugly Tree also has an assortment of pastries.
Five sandwiches are offered including a Toasted Tofu Sandwich ($10) with pan-fried tamari tofu, hummus, sun-dried tomato and spinach; Deluxe Grilled Cheese ($8) with olives, sun-dried tomatoes, spinach and onions; Roasted Garlic Toast ($5.50) with roasted garlic spread over toast, tomato, spinach and a hemp seed topping; Hot Italian Turkey Panini ($10) with Swiss cheese, marinated onions, turkey, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes and olives; and Turkey Apple Panini ($10) with turkey, apple slices, Gouda cheese and spinach.
The cafe also offers a hummus plate for $6, which includes hummus, carrots, cucumbers and blue corn chips with kalamata olives and toppings.
I had the Turkey Apple Panini on my first visit on the recommendation of the cook. She was correct in saying the apple gives it an extra crunch and zip, and is the perfect complement to the turkey and Gouda.
If you go
› What: Ugly Tree Cafe, 3950 Brainerd Road
› Hours: 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday
› Price Range: $5-$10
› Phone: 423-402-0036
I also got a cup of the soup of the day, which was an Italian black bean. It was a little bland for me with a simple broth, a few black beans and pieces of spinach.
On my second visit, I got the Toasted Tofu Sandwich, which was my other choice on my first visit. The tofu is cut into thin strips and pan-fried, and the sandwich is pretty dang good with everything blending together perfectly. Both sandwiches were served on grilled sourdough bread from Bluff View Bakery.
I also got a cup of the hummus, which included a few sliced olive pieces and some blue corn chips as my side. Other sides include Boulder potato chips and cole slaw.
The menu says the sandwiches come with pickles, which I didn't get with either of mine.
Located near Belvoir Avenue, the place has a been a pub and an ethnic restaurant/market with an unfinished decor in recent years, but the new owners have transformed the interior into a cozy, multiroom space with leather couches, coffee tables and a piano near the door, which pretty much announces right away that it's a different place.
It's a comfortable place to grab a meal or a cup of coffee or tea. An espresso will run you between $2 and $3.50, while a cinnamon mocha is $4 and a hot chocolate is $2.75. Iced versions are in the same price range.
I look forward to going back.
Contact Barry Courter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6354.