Sunday, October 5, 2008

Counter Cafe

626 N. Lamar

I started noticing the café that replaced G&M Steakhouse on Lamar and their slogan “Local Food, Global Love” a little over a year ago. It took me a while to get around to trying it and even a bit longer to write a review.

Counter Café is a socially conscious health aware greasy spoon diner. Now you’re confused? The establishment is a tiny diner with a grill and a menu that includes locally grown, naturally raised and organic items. The menu is small, simple, and vegetarian friendly with several creative touches. Items range from your typical diner foods of biscuits with cream gravy, hamburgers and fries to not so typical items like Bandera quail and crabcakes.

The atmosphere is terrific. The space is small with several tables and a lot of counter seating. If you arrive at a popular time, you may be seated at a large table next to another party. You get this sort of having brunch at your best friend’s house type of feel. Patrons are encouraged to get up and refill their own coffee cups if they so desire and people can be seen talking across tables. The establishment has a local vibe and is home to many regulars.

I’ve been to Counter Café three times, all for weekend brunch. The first time, the food was good, but did not stand out and the service was decent. I knew I needed to come back to really get a good opinion of the place.

The second time, I was seated near the back of the restaurant and ordered a pimento grilled cheese sandwich with side salad. The staff was friendly but overworked. The restaurant was uncomfortably warm and my eating companion and I ended up waiting about 30 minutes for our food before we asked our waitress if our order might have potentially been lost. Voila, it had. Our ticket had slipped off the rack and disappeared into a black hole. The waitress was extremely apologetic; she rushed our food to us and comped our entire meal (without us even asking). I could tell she genuinely felt bad about the ordeal. My meal itself was great. The pimento grilled cheese sandwich was the perfect comfort food and was balanced by the fresh greens of a very enjoyable side salad.

The last time I visited Counter Café, the service was sluggish, but not terrible. I ordered breakfast tacos with potato, cheese and eggs. When they finally did arrive, the potatoes were undercooked and hard.

So, I’ve had some disappointing experiences at Counter Café, yet for some reason I really want them to succeed. I see a lot of potential here but I cannot say that I’ve had a superbly pleasant experience. I would love to hear some reader insight into this dilemma.

Bottom Line: Wonderful atmosphere. The diner shows a lot of promise, but I’m still waiting for it to simultaneously perform to expectations on service and food.

Laura ~ 5.5