I’m going to review this place without having eaten anything more than a cup of bright red borscht and a dish of complimentary spiced edamame. If a place is all good or all bad, thirty minutes in the joint is all you need to figure it out. With a sign out front boasting organic-smoothie-vegan-gluten-free––my stereotype hater for years had simply forbade me to step foot in there. For fear of being accosted by essence of patchouli , platters of tofu scramble and yoga décor. But last week between work and my writing group, I needed soup! With a supposed TMJ issue in my jaw (which feels like an alien is probing my brain with an ice pick thru my right ear), I needed some sort of non-chewable sustenance and there it was, Café Evergreen , on US 41 in Nokomis, en route between office and writing group in that adorably rehabbed historical building.
I’m a sucker for historical buildings.
I cased the joint at first, driving around behind it, coming up on its north side then finally pulling into the rear gravel parking lot, which was actually quite full at 5:45 in the evening. I’d pictured a Formica counter behind which a bearded hipster in a white apron whirred a giant blender. A smoothie was fine with me under my current circumstances. Maybe the smoothie would be as good as the totally hippified Paradise Café in Kihei, Maui in the eighties, when natural everything was the rage when organic and gluten free hadn’t yet become buzzwords –– and I was in my twenties and liked all the natural everything. But were all these cars from people eating smoothies and tofu wraps with wheatgrass chasers for dinner? In Venice-Nokomis where the median age is 69?
Ah when expectations, assumptions and brain-spinning stereotypes are shot down, doncha feel foolish. I pulled open the glass door and stepped into the restaurant’s entry, where a few tables, a four-seat wooden bar, a picture window viewing US 41, all shimmered with a wine bar feel. It reminded me of some of the sidewalk fronted 1978 neighborhood cafes in Portland, Oregon. A woman of median age sat at the bar eating a luscious looking burger. (Burger?) Behind all this I could hear the comforting clinking and humming of a full dining room. The café was yes, a real restaurant and no blender whines could be heard. Scents of garlic and caramelized something made my mouth water.
Standing rigid just inside the doorway, I picked up one of the menus from a two-top table and reflexively inspected the beverage one for a smoothie to go.
But wait ––
I’d originally wanted soup, right? And here were counter seats and I had half an hour. Why not sit and stay awhile? This was very ––nice. And I could inspect the food menu. (When alone, I like to read while I eat and menu-reading is a Food Bitch habit). I picked up the food menu, took a seat at the bar and my eyes landed on the borscht. A cup for $3.75. Can’t beat that.
A smiling, young and clean-shaven kid took my order then asked if I’d like some complimentary edamame. Sure! The median-age-burger-lady at the counter ordered flourless chocolate cake and I read the menu. And wow, is all I can say. I read through it three times, my mind –– to my surprise –– wanting to try some of this food (when I can chew). Menu mix is what really caught my attention. Yes, plenty of gluten free, organic and vegetarian dishes mixed with what my redneck husband may call “normal food”: buffalo burger, Reubens, grilled fish. Like, we can both go and I can try the shrimp with potato gnocchi as he chows down on a French dip! And organic wines and micro-brewed beers!
The Borscht was great, by the way, red and luscious and the edamame was also a delight. I had to think, sitting there slurping my red soup, in my youth I would’ve loved a place like this. Would’ve been there on opening day to start my graze through the entire menu. The place is hip and cool in a way but not too much so. Perhaps the median age ensures the place doesn’t fall into major stereotype. Or maybe it’s just done well, the balance of décor, menu, ambiance. Like the owners, chef, management do a good job of it and maybe I should get off my high horse. That’s it. I’ll go back. I’ll bring Hubby. I’ll try that shrimp and gnocchi. Or maybe the eggplant Napoleon. . . which organic wine will be good with that?