city fare
May 13 , 2005

Expresso III adds to the neighborhood appeal
by Lisa Waterman Gray

The first time I visited tiny Café Expresso III Restaurant, 723 S.W. Blvd., I was the lone patron at 11:20 a.m. But the décor kept me engaged in my surroundings. The pale yellow and orange walls, nearly floor-to-ceiling windows, riotously colorful artwork and Oriental lanterns that camouflaged light fixtures immediately enchanted me. Glass-topped tables and wrought iron chairs accentuated the airy feel.

My Chocolate Truffle Hot Chocolate ($2.75) was smooth, light and sweet, enhanced by a swirl of equally sweet whipped cream.

The Café Expresso regime began almost a decade ago in Mission Mall. Sadly, the coffee shop/deli did not survive the influx of larger retail operations to that neighborhood. But Café Expresso III has offered lunch, dinner and even a bit of breakfast for the last 14 months, in addition to an extensive beverage menu.

Mark and I sampled the dinner menu on a warm Saturday evening, Candlelight and table lamps reflected the sunny walls as a vocalist crooned classics to a karaoke background. The restaurant hopes to offer beer and wine in the near future.

A Chocolate Truffle Hot Chocolate and a piece of Caramel Crunch Apple Pie.
(photo by Sam Garcia)

Pasta dishes, grilled meats and fish ruled the dinner menu. After we placed our orders, the waiter delivered pretty salads of crisp iceberg lettuce, red pepper and carrot bits, red cabbage gratings, and cucumber and tomato slices. Dressing came on the side. Use of romaine lettuce would enhance this salad’s flavor and texture.

Two soft rolls and perfectly softened butter arrived sans bread plates, which proved particularly problematic with my dish-filling entrée, Shrimp Augusteo Fettuccine ($10.95). A pale orange Parmesan sauce with a mild kick, green and red pepper chunks and small shrimp topped thick spaghetti noodles. A pretty plate, but I would have preferred no tail shell on my shrimp.

Mark ordered CharGrilled Steak of the Day ($18.95), which, though perfectly seasoned, was cooked medium-well rather than the “medium-rare” he requested. Then he found a large cut in the meat. Mark has barbecued almost 52 Sundays a year, for more than a decade, and knows a thing or two about grilling a steak.

“You should never cut into a steak to see if it’s cooked because you lose the juices,” he said. “You should be able to tell by poking it with your finger.”

For this price, the steak also should have been larger and/or a better cut; and the potato could have been heftier. Mark had to remind the waiter that the menu promised onions or mushrooms with his steak. When the chef delivered a pile of lightly sautéed onion and pepper slices he apologized for the missed veggies and offered dessert on the house.

We ordered Caramel Crunch Apple Pie ($3.50) and a Chocolate Lover’s Bundt Cake ($3.50). A moist, soft crust wrapped thin, al dente apple slices, which contributed most of the sweetness, so caramel drizzles were a happy addition rather than an over-the-top dose of sugar.

My dense, dark cake featured a layer of equally dark, rich chocolate frosting, with a decorative squiggle of white icing on top and a whipped cream garnish.

On a cold spring day Ellen’s lunchtime special, a Top Sirloin burger, was a bargain at $2.95. A good, though unremarkable burger, it arrived on a grilled wheat bun. Dill and onion flavored freshly made, mayonnaise-based potato salad, accompanied by half a hard-boiled egg.

Ellen could have chosen coleslaw instead, as I did with my Grilled Panini ($6.95). Primarily composed of red and green cabbage, the creamy slaw also sported occasional carrot bits. My delicious sandwich arrived piping hot with a layer of savory turkey pastrami, melted provolone, tomato slices and yellow peppers, tied together by a sweet/savory onion dressing. Other lunch choices included a Reuben, croissant sandwiches, melts and salmon salad.

We each ordered a beverage. Ellen opted for the fruit smoothie ($3.75, 12 ounces), a pink and creamy combination of strawberry, peach, mango, raspberry and banana, topped with whipped cream. My iced cappuccino ($3.25, 12 ounces) arrived in a tall foam cup with plenty of ice, full-bodied coffee, milk, and a whipped cream topper. I added a generous sprinkling of cinnamon sugar.

Service was somewhat slow during both visits, but always cordial. And there’s no question that co-owner, Luke Hackbart, loves doing business in this Westside neighborhood where he lives. With a little work, Café Expresso III’s service and food presentation can achieve the same appeal as their surroundings.

Café Expresso III Restaurant

723 S.W. Blvd.



HOURS:: Mon.,- Tues. 10:30 a.m. to 6p.m.;
Wed.-Thur., 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.(early bird dinners, 5:30-6:30 p.m., $2 off all entrees); Fri. 10:30 a.m. to 3 a.m., Sat., 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. (breakfast, lunch or dinner, midnight to 3 a.m.)

(photo by Sam Garcia)

Ratings: (out of four stars)

FOOD **1/2

Key: $-under $10 • $$-$10 to $20 • $$$-over $20


fork, knife, spoon


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