While many were complaining of the ice and slush (with more on the way) in January, I was happy to sample and sup on the healthy comfort foods of a new bistro for brunch and lunch in Mount Auburn. Having worked down the street for several years, I knew there was no restaurant within an easy walk and had heard of Café Tazza as a welcome addition to the medical buildings lining Auburn Avenue.
As I stomped the muck off my feet inside the door, I felt like I was coming home to a place I'd never been before. Between the eggshell wall on my right and the scrubbed, exposed brick on my left were two cozy seating arrangements with a variety of second-hand chairs and sofas coupled with reading lamps, coffee tables and potted trees and plants. These carpeted areas called for me to drape my coat on the couch and adopt the posture of the reclining diner or tea sipper, contentedly flipping through copies of Victoria magazine and books on hiking and flowers. Like a true living room, some of these chairs probably need to be retired to the basement, but that only makes this more comfy amid a block of sterile waiting rooms.
The little restaurant fairly demands one to drop all pretense, relax and select a sandwich, salad, quiche or even a dessert that's not only going to provide sustenance, but is also likely to be healthy. Having just navigated past skittish drivers and pockmarked roadways, this seemed most promising, for both my lunch and the meeting I was to attend.
Our foursome settled into the menu quickly: a simple photocopied sheet with this week's options. The soup changes daily and our option that day was Russian Sweet and Sour ($2.75 for a bowl, $1.75 for a cup).
This unusual vegetarian soup was presented in cafeteria-style bowls, full of chopped vegetables in a light broth with a nice, tart flavor. I enjoyed this and began wondering if I could make it back the next day to try the Hungarian Mushroom soup.
The table was full of teapots brimming with a variety of Republic of Tea selections ($1.25 each) as we began our meeting, only to sweep the table free of papers shortly thereafter to make way for lunch.
One quiche of the day was Cheddar, Bacon and Scallions ($5.95), which had good color and texture, a pleasing cheddar flavor, complemented by the subtle highlights of vegetables and herbs and the mild smokiness of crumbled bacon topping. The other quiche offered was Spinach, Tomato, Basil and Feta ($5.95), which had a light custard texture and a slight mustard tang, beautifully layered with a flaky crust. Both quiches were accompanied by a mildly tart and crisp slaw of carrots, red cabbage and broccoli, and balanced out with fresh fruit.
The Brown Rice Salad ($5.95) is a favorite of regulars. Nutty brown rice was tossed with smoked turkey, sliced red grapes and fennel seeds, placed over chopped romaine and topped with toasted pine nuts; it came with slices of peasant bread. The tangy lemon Dijon shallot vinaigrette was delivered on the side.
The final special of the day was a Black Bean Tart with a corn meal/cumin crust ($5.95). Kernels of corn and cheddar studded the light crust, and the spiced black bean compote was accentuated by lemon slices and sour cream. Served with slices of orange and ruby grapefruit mixed with grapes, this was a lovely presentation and a satisfying meal.
Café Tazza's homemade desserts really should be sampled. We decided a midday sweet was deserved after our healthy lunches and the bitter weather outside. The Almond Poppyseed Poundcake ($1.50) was moist and had a lovely macaroonlike top crust. The Almond and Milk Chocolate Brownie ($1.25) was a large, fudgy concoction, crunchy with chocolate and nuts.
One feels almost compelled to wander around Tazza: The counter displays handmade soaps, scented vinegars and Tootsie Roll pops, while corner shelves hold locally made jams and jellies, book covers, baskets and other craft items. There's also a side room equipped for smokers. It has an aquarium, card tables, board games, another living room setting and a large Smokeater for the benefit of the rest of the restaurant.
This simple storefront with violet doors opposite the Mount Auburn Baptist Church is a tasty and eclectic addition to a neighborhood in need of a comfortable hangout.
Welcome home to Café Tazza. ©
Go: 2146 Auburn Ave., Mount Auburn
Hours: 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday.
Payment: Cash and checks only.
Vegetarian Friendliness: Primarily a vegetarian restaurant.