Thursday, May 22, 2008

Cafe Java

11900 Metric Blvd # K
Austin, TX 78758
(512) 339-7677

2051 Gattis School Rd # 120
Round Rock, TX 78664
(512) 238-0700

My good friends Leslie and Joel are getting married in July. After picking out the awesome bridesmaids dresses on Monday night, Leslie was about to head up to Pflugerville to pick up her invitations from her friend Sarah of the stationary company, Icing on the Paper. Seeing an opportunity to be a super bridesmaid, I volunteered to save her a trip and pick them up for her, as I would be heading up north the next day anyway.

I arranged to meet Kyle, Sarah’s husband on our lunch breaks. I let him pick the place and he chose Café Java. I had never been there before, so he gave me directions and told me it was in the Randall’s parking lot.

I pulled into a rock star parking spot in the front row and made my way inside. There were a good number of tables and they were about at 75% capacity. This was a good sign.

I found Kyle and sat in the booth next to him across from a corporate couple (i.e. husband and wife team from the same company) Kyle works with. They were very friendly and after the initial introductions and business dealings with Kyle, they began to extol the virtues of Café Java. As Wells Branch area residents, they were regulars. The wife was very excited to announce that the café serves breakfast all day long. This definitely scores big with me. Sometimes you just want breakfast at 2 in the afternoon… perhaps this is because you didn’t get up until 2 in the afternoon, but hey it happens.

I looked over the menu and was pleased by the amount of options included on it. I was even more pleased when I noticed that there were options for those with vegetarian diets. They had lots of different coffees, usual breakfast fare with pancakes, omelettes, migas, huevos rancheros and various meats with eggs, hashbrowns and toast. Oh, and also Corn Beef Hash (Mariah I know you appreciate that). The meals included burgers and sandwiches, soups and salads and tacos.

I debated between a grilled garden melt (like a patty melt with a garden burger), a veggie sandwich (white swiss-american cheese, sprouts, tomatoes, carrots, mushrooms, onions, cucumbers and ranch dressing on grilled whole grain bread) or the avocado grilled cheese. I’m a sucker for grilled cheese, but I’m even more of a sucker for avocado. In the end I ordered the veggie sandwich because I had my eye on the vegetable of the day as my side item. The vegetable of the day was spinach casserole, and I suspected that was going to be heavy with cream/and or cheese and I wanted to balance my meal out with the lighter sandwich option.

Kyle ordered a cheeseburger and was extremely disappointed when the waitress said they didn’t have fries (not just that day, but ever) and he settled for chips. The wife ordered the 1x1x1, which is one egg, one pancake, and one serving of bacon. The husband went with the chicken cheddar melt- a chicken breast smothered in cheddar cheese with lettuce and tomatoes on grilled hoagie.

I listened as the table discussed life in the suburbs (which highways are best to live next to, etc etc) and the wife pointed out that the café was very Austin. I stopped to think about this and look around the room. Yes, there were vegetarian options, yes there was local art, and it had a mildly funky feel to it. You wouldn’t confuse this place with IHOP or Denny’s. But the décor seemed very vanilla when compared to Magnolia or a few other places I’ve been. Granted, I hadn’t tried the food yet but it seemed more like a normal cute coffee shop/café to me. I’ve been to equally charming cafes in San Antonio, Houston, DFW, Tucson, Seattle.. and well yeah. Just about every major city. I think she could tell that I was thinking too hard so she threw in that the other location (the one on Metric near ACC campus) was more funky and that this was Round Rock afterall, and that the Round Rock answer to the Keep Austin Weird slogan was “Keep Round Rock Mildly Unusual.”

The food arrived and I was disappointed to find that the spinach casserole was littered with pieces of bacon. The waitress was very nice and offered me another side item choice. I went with potato salad (which by the way had egg in it for any of you vegans out there.) My sandwich was pleasing. The bread was grilled as promised and tasty, and not soaked in olive oil like the sandwiches at Caffe Panini. The vegetables were fresh and the cheese and ranch dressing brought just enough smoothness to the sandwich. The potato salad was pleasant as well, but not the spinach casserole I had been pining for.

The breakfast plate and cheeseburger looked a little bleak, but the chicken cheddar melt looked amazing - the colors from the vegetables were appetizing and the cheese melted across the chunks of chicken and bread oozed of tasty comfort. Kyle complained that the food was too healthy, but I have to argue with that. I think he was just jaded from the absence of French fries and that you can go unhealthy there if you wish.

We finished our meals and paid at the counter where I got a chance to examine all of the pastries. They looked delicious, but so did the rest of the dessert menu and sadly I was too full.

The cashier was a little bit weird and went into a rant on how she thought drinking water without ice was nasty. I thought that was odd commentary on my ordering habits. (I order it that way because I chipped my front teeth as a kid and despite having them fixed, I now have very cold sensitive teeth.)

I was asked by my dining partners if I enjoyed my lunch. I responded that I did and that after seeing the chicken cheddar melt, I will definitely try the garden patty melt for sure next time.

And yes, there will be a next time. It’s nice to have a place like this in far north Austin.

Update: So I went back and ordered the soup and sandwich - not the garden patty melt as I had promised. I chose the grilled cheese and avocado sandwich and the tomato basil soup. The grilled cheese was not what i expected. Instead of a super cheesey flattened sandwich like your mom used to make, it turned out to be just a sandwich on toasted bread. But, I must say, it was good, and much healthier for me. In addition to two slices of cheese and half of an avocado, it had sprouts and tomato. When combined with the soup, it was just the perfect amount of lunch. The only thing that bothered me was that the waitress came by to snatch my plate away while I still had my mouth full. When I told her no she couldn't have it, she gave me an odd expression and looked at my empty plate. At that point I had to mutter through a full mouth that I was on my last bite. Maybe it's just me, but I need the sense of security of the plate until the end. Also, I tend to save the best bite for the last, and sadly i had to swallow it up really quick so that I could defend my plate. There's something odd (and not Keep Austin Weird weird) about their waitstaff...

Bottom Line: A charming café that doesn’t rock the boat in north Austin with a good range of options and all day breakfast.

Laura - 7.5