May 13 , 2005
III adds to the neighborhood appeal
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.
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 salads
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
You should never cut into a steak to see if its
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
Lovers 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 Ellens 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 theres no question that co-owner, Luke Hackbart, loves
doing business in this Westside neighborhood where he lives.
With a little work, Café Expresso IIIs service
and food presentation can achieve the same appeal as their surroundings.
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