The Observer

by Sharon Nash

If you haven't had the opportunity to go to Batata Cafe, all I can say is you might want to consider making a visit on one of your New Year's resolutions. Some serious lunch enthusiasts I know told me about their mouth-watering sandwiches and the casual, friendly atmosphere, but it was the lure of one of my personal favorites, sweet potato fries that drew me to the door. The proprietors have come up with a winning combination, breakfast and lunch served in an inviting interior enhanced with featured artwork by Eti Grifel, Glenn Fischer, Jo Tuck, and Brian Fleischman.

Before we went to the counter to place our order, I couldn't help but smile at the writing that was on the wall.

"One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, If one has not dined well." - Virginia Woolf

We lunched on New Year's Eve, and we most certainly ended 2005 by lunching well.

The items we tried were first-rate! In keeping with one of my New Year's resolutions, I didn't force Bob or any member of the staff to help me decide between my...three choices! I managed to narrow it down on my own and was quite pleased with my decision. The North Portobello ($7.95) was available as either a sandwich or a wrap, and I chose the honey wheat wrap in keeping with my "wrapping up 2005 theme." A winning decision on my part, since when my name was called to pick up our order, the wrap was so large, I didn't initially see the whicker basket it was served in.

The wrap was made with a grilled Portobello mushroom, mozzarella cheese, fresh (and I do mean fresh!) baby spinach, red peppers and a fabulous pesto sauce. I had serious doubt that I could finish it all, lucky for me, Bob was not only there, but he showed enough interest in my wrap to graciously offer his serviced by taking half out of my basket. Of course, his kindness made it seem unlikely that I could keep all the sweet potato fries ($1.45 with a sandwich or $3.45 for a side order) to myself, so I reluctantly gave up, one. They were, after all, perfectly done, and I knew by glancing at his side of the table that he would never finish his own lunch if I gave up more than that one!

The soups change daily, and when Bob saw one of his favorites, Corn Chowder ($4.45/$5.95) there was no question that this was how his lunch would begin. Bob's contribution to our garden is planting and growing corn; mine is coming up with ways to cook it, corn chowder being one of our favorites. He is quite partial to mine, but now I know if we ever have to give up the garden, I could bring home Batata Cafe's Corn Chowder, and he would still be an extremely happy, well-fed man! Bob was kind enough to offer me a taste and it was everything corn chowder should be! It certainly succeeded in bringing back memories from this past summer, and what could be better on a rather rainy, cool day?

Though I do vaguely remember trying to tell Bob that soup and bread could in fact constitute a meal, I also recall his laughing at what was obviouly a lame attempt at humor on my part. He therefore ordered the Garlicky Roast Beef Panini ($7.95) to compliment the soup. Can you fall in love with a sandwich? Perhaps not, but my bite suggested that it would not be impossible. Made with roast beef, fresh mozzarella, and red peppers on garlic bread with au jus on the side, we both agreed it was the best either of us had all year!

There were so many other choices for not only lunch, but breakfast as well, that we both made a resolution to come back frequently in the new year. A visit to Batata Cafe's website is an experience itself. Not only will you find the menu and the daily specials, but the featured artists and upcoming events are listed as well. We may have had our last lunch in 2005, but we certainly found a jewel of a restaurant for 2006!

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