I set out to find treasure in Mount Lookout Square, and I found a real gem. Annabel’s is a cozy little jewel — a great neighborhood eatery with a fresh, creative menu that’s full of surprises.
The first thing I noticed at Annabel’s is how abso-freaking-lutely cute the place is. Surrounded by attractive and stylish diners, I was thankful I'd spruced myself up for my treasure hunt.
Seating is limited, but it wasn't crowded when I arrived at 1 p.m. There's a major French vibe about the place — a little hard to describe, but I think it was the attention to every little detail. And the butter.
I felt as though I was sitting at the chef’s table at a five-star restaurant, waiting to be delighted by whatever whimsical dish was about to be put before me. Maybe it was the Classical music wafting through the air, but I was as excited as a 6-year-old on Christmas morning as I waited to make my selections.
Choosing turned out to be a major challenge for me. I was fawning over the Carrot Cake Faux Toast ($9) and the Tart Du Jour (Sausage and Roasted Red Pepper, $9) but ultimately caved to the daily special ($12), which was a succulent crab cake served atop the springiest spring salad I’ve ever consumed in the Queen City.
Now I don’t want to go overboard about a salad, but I really can’t help myself: It was so light, fresh and perfectly dressed. Lemongrass vinaigrette so perfectly complimented the mixed greens, bright edamame and crisp pea shoots that my mouth was in a bit of spring bliss. Coupled with a mouthwatering crab cake, the two dish components married delicate flavor with a rich, buttery, satisfying crunch.
For those with heartier appetites, you can choose (as my husband did) to sample the Sky Haven Ham and Brie Croissant ($10.50). Prepared with roasted grapes and served with a choice of soup or salad, it’s a satisfying, hearty option. He opted for the black bean soup and a dollop of sour cream. The soup was good but might have developed some additional layering of flavors if allowed to meld for a few days.
Another impressive selection was the Grilled Veg Pizzette ($9.50). Build this picture in your mind: flaky croissant crust, a brush of Kalamata olive tapenade, layers of artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers and feta. Salivating yet? It was savory and sublime.
We usually try to avoid ordering dessert at restaurants, for a multitude of reasons, the most frequent being fear of disappointment at being served sub-par sweets. This time, we gambled. The dessert menu consists of three or four handcrafted goodies, all made in-house. The menu boldly declares a daily offering of “Chocolate Hazelnut Flourless Torte and Whatever Moves Me.” On this day, Annabel’s offered Lemon Meringue Tart ($5) and Butter Pecan Cupcakes ($2.50) in addition to the torte. All three tastes moved us, so we ordered one of each. Can you say “gluttony?"
Having already developed a healthy respect for Annabel’s eclectic menu, attention to detail, commitment to serving locally grown, minimally processed and organic food, my admiration soared to the next level when our server returned to our table sans Chocolate Hazelnut Flourless Torte ($5). OK, I was a little disappointed, but when the server informed us the Torte wasn't being served because it appeared too dry to her, my disappointment turned to admiration.
It’s not often a server takes the initiative to ensure only the best quality dishes make it to the table, and we definitely appreciated her interest in ensuring our pleasurable dining experience.
The butter pecan cupcake was definitely made from scratch and had almost as creamy a flavor as any bowl of ice cream with the same name. Topped with butter cream frosting, then hand-dipped in chocolate ganache, it was accented with a thick, earthy pecan half. It was soooooo rich and decadent.
The tart was an enlightened combination of sweet, crunchy crust, thick, creamy, tart-yet-sweet lemon curd and a light as air meringue. In a word, heavenly!
We're definitely going back to Annabel’s soon. I’d like to stop in for breakfast and sink my teeth into the Carrot Cake Faux Toast or the Buttermilk Corn Cakes ($8). I’m also prepared to polish off whatever tart du jour makes an appearance.
I think I'll plan a special trip for the next time my Aunt Jill from D.C. comes to town. This is a place with a special charm that's perfect to share with friends and family who truly appreciate food homemade with love.
Go: 1004 Delta Ave., Mount Lookout
Hours: 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Wednesday-Friday and Sunday; 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday
Entrée Prices: $5-$11
Red Meat Alternatives: Varied
Accessibility: Fully accessible