Restaurant Review: Cafe Corner
What the hell kind of miscreant would gobble up tacos for breakfast? My kind, of course, especially if they're the simple yet glorious egg and chorizo tacos made by Cafe Corner. Wait, let me amend that to say the award-winning breakfast tacos made by Cafe Corner.
See, in a professional chef taco challenge I helped judge at the North Market last year (which drew some heavy-hitting local toques), Cafe Corner snared first place with those aforementioned a.m. models. Now you can score the very same blue-ribboners when they're available as a Cafe Corner chalkboard special - which is apparently most weekends.
These morning tacos (I'll get to them in a bit), along with other Latinized goodies, represent the kind of daily rotating fare diners can expect from this exceptional sandwich maker.
And now that it's under new ownership, there are plans for increased specials, plus other changes, too. Like more of an emphasis on "seasonal, local, ethical and organic ingredients," a proposed beer and wine license and a decor upgrade.
Fortunately Cafe Corner seems to be leaking in these changes slowly, while operating on that old "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" dictum. Because there's a lot here that ain't broke.
So while I welcome a decor makeover - there's practically no place to sit inside, and it's fun to imagine the already pleasant deck-like patio only getting better - I'm glad the terrific original menu is still in place and being flawlessly executed.
Thus you can still get all of Cafe Corner's many knockout sammies, such as their veggie-tastic Pesto Avocado (a personal fave, $9) and their famous Sandwich Tapeno ($10), which made its way into the pages of Bon Appetit last year. Like all of this place's fantastic-tasting and artfully made sandwiches, they are huge enough for sharing, feature wonderful bread crunchily toasted and are expertly packed with top-notch ingredients.
OK, those dynamite Breakfast Tacos ($9). On a large platter came three warm, toasty corn tortillas crammed with a blend of scrambled eggs jolted with that magical ingredient -Mexican chorizo - that I defy anyone not to love. The creamy yet zesty filling was sexily accessorized with a tangy salsa verde, chopped tomatoes and queso fresco.
The visual effect was of wrapping those bad boys in the Mexican flag. The flavor effect (and this is the kind of food that can start fights within a group pretending to share) was rich, alluringly salty and piquant. Also on the plate was a generous ration of loose, decent hash browns given an attractive crisping up.
Breakfasters with more of a European penchant could opt for the excellent Country Egg Sandwich ($10). On that one, melty cheddar bounced off roasted garlic and a vibrant pesto sauce to provide high and low accents for a soothing, omelet-like mass. Kicking up the lively and salty Euro aspects on the back end was thinly sliced prosciutto.
A little bit of Philly soul harmonized beautifully with Latin jazz in the delightful Chimichurri Steak sandwich ($9). On a crackly, toasted, thinnish hoagie-style roll came the basics of a real-deal Philly steak sandwich - onions and mushrooms sauteed with thinly sliced beef layered juicily beneath melted provolone cheese. On top of that base was the bold, house-made chimichurri sauce.
A nightly special Chicken Milanese sandwich was just like lunchtime in Mexico. In fact, it amounted to an excellent torta, meaning on a ridged and toasted giant sub-like Mexican loaf was a happy assembly of avocado, mayo, leaf lettuce, tomato, onions, cheese and the star of the sandwich: a pounded thin, lightly breaded and crisply fried chicken paillard.
Other specials I enjoyed were a lively gazpacho whose cilantro and spiderweb-patterned crema garnish made it more Latin American than Spanish, and a homemade blueberry iced tea whose restrained sweetness made it like the best Snapple I never had.
If all these specials hint at the kind of ambition the evolving Cafe Corner is thinking about, then this restaurant has got its mind in the right place.
For more local food news and reviews, click to G.A. Benton's blog Under the Table at ColumbusDiningGuide.com
1105 Pennsylvania Ave., Victorian Village
Price: $ (up to $10 per person)
Cuisine: Soup & Sandwiches
Hours: 9 a.m.-9 p.m. daily