I think a foodie friend recently said it best: “I’m no longer interested in the ‘complicated’ food. What I like best are restaurants with simple menus where they do simple food well.”
I don’t know if she was channeling me or we’re channeling a general food trend that’s building, but I wholeheartedly agree.
And, as if on cue, Troy’s Cafe walked into my life. This unassuming spot resides in a strip mall that appeared in the cornfields I remember as a kid growing up in West Chester B.I. (before IKEA). It’s casual, bright and filled with linen-clad tables topped with butcher paper.
Owner Troy Meyers comes to Cincinnati by way of Tampa; locally he worked with Paul Sturkey when Sturkey was still part of the Encore group. And while this background and his experience in catering and as a personal chef give him street cred, the best testament to Troy’s food is his staff. They couldn’t stop raving about the food when we visited, and after tasting it I can see why.
His staff was also as friendly as you could ask for. When we walked in, one member explained how we should order: You just come up to the counter, order, get a number and in minutes tasty dishes are delivered to you.
All of the servers wore Troy’s T-shirts, which I secretly hope they’ll sell to the public. On the back are pithy sayings from people like Orson Welles (“Do not ask what you can do for your country; ask what’s for lunch”) and James Beard (“Food is our common ground, a universal experience”). When I placed a follow-up call to Meyers, he said he thinks the Beard quotation in particular reflects what he’s trying to do with his food.
Troy’s does a smart lunch business right now, but dinner business is steady as well. The menus are the same and can work for either meal. There are appetizer plates, salads, soups and sandwiches like the grilled cheese ($6) with tomato, applewood bacon and Brie cheese and the Uovo ($7) with fried egg, Parma ham, Romano cheese, baby spinach, aioli and tomato. There’s also a comfort food category with a daily comfort feature and options like the Smoked Mozz and Chicken Pasta ($8) and the Ginger Crab and Fish Fritto with Lemongrass ($9) — crab cakes with jasmine rice and napa slaw.
We started with the Sesame Seared Ahi Tuna Salad ($9) and the Dip Duo ($5), which consisted of hummus, olive tapenade and flatbread crackers. Each of these could have easily been a meal in itself.
The ahi tuna was beautiful. The slices of ruby-red flesh encased in black and white sesame seeds contrasted brilliantly with its bed of salad greens. The hummus was bright and good, but the olive tapenade was the star of the Dip Duo.
Most tapenades I’ve eaten are based on black and green olives. Troy’s was made with kalamata olives, roasted red peppers and sundried tomato — a combination I found to be a nice change to the palate — and topped with feta cheese.
We ordered the Sundried Tomato Meatballs and Fedelini ($7) and one of Troy’s burger selections, the Greek ($7), for our second course. The menu claims that the meatballs accompanying the fedelini (a strand pasta slightly thicker than vermicelli) are “the best meatballs in the world,” and damned if they might be. They were lean, heavily spiked with garlic and accompanied by just the right amount of sauce.
The burger, with more of that tapenade and feta, came with a side of freshly made café chips. It had that good outdoor grill flavor rarely found outside of your local neighborhood block party.
Though stuffed, we just couldn’t pass up dessert — that might have broken the heart of one of Troy’s staff members. She was so excited about the berry tart ($4) that we had to get one to go. It turns out that if we hadn’t it might have broken mine as well.
The tart was made of light sheets of phyllo dough and a thick vanilla pastry cream and topped with fresh strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries. Not wanting to discriminate, we took a slice of cheesecake home as well. (Both desserts are made in-house.)
Troy had just finished cutting the slices of simple, plain cheesecake ($4) that was to die for — don’t besmirch it with berries or whipped cream. You’ll be missing out.
Troy’s Café and Catering
Go: 4877 Smith Road, West Chester
Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday
Entrée Prices: Everything is $9 or less
Payment: All major credit cards
Red Meat Alternatives: Salads, sandwiches, chicken, seafood
Accessibility: Fully accessible