The shtick:An all-day café with a Euro vibe.
The vibe C.C. Ferns, California Clipper, Spinning J., Haywood Tavern, and Rootstock are all within a stone’s throw of this newest entrant to Humboldt Park’s suddenly smokin’ California/Augusta intersection. The former Knockbox Café space is still recognizable and maintains its spare, grungy-hip aura. It’s not particularly warm, but it worked well for a coffee shop and it still works for a Parisian-style café. 6.5 out of 10
The food Since executive chef Mike Simmons logged time at two of our faves—Lula Cafe and Rootstock—our expectations were lofty. The mostly à la carte menu lists not-in-Kansas-anymore stuff like Braunschweiger and creamed herring, and took a bit for us to wrap our heads around.
We settled on the approach of, “order whatever sounds good and call it a meal,” digging into housemade sausage patties ($3; tender, juicy, and divine) and a bowlful of squash and hazelnuts ($5; a sticky-sweet mound of deliciousness) from the à la carte selections. Next, we housed a delicate, buttery omelet ($9) stuffed with whole sautéed mushrooms, herbs, and creamy comté cheese. The grand finale—dense, custardy French toast ($10) topped with smoked pecans—was insanely decadent. It currently haunts our dreams. 9.5 out of 10
The drinksWith a dozen or so fairly priced by-the-glass options ($8 to $12), this place makes you want to do as the French do and sip wine in the morning—and that’s the route more than a few of our neighboring diners chose. The coffee—a strong custom blend from Metric Coffee Co.—is also a darn good choice. (Side note: There’s a small retail selection of vino, craft beer, and coffee beans. Niiiice.) 8 out of 10
The service Here’s where you realize you’re still in the good ol’ Midwest: The staff we interacted with ranged from gracious to hilarious. And unlike our overseas bistro experiences, the meal pacing was completely on our terms. 10 out of 10
Overall Like, whoa. A refreshing concept that dares to be different and totally nails it. 8.5 out of 10