wireless_kitchen (2007-13)

One, Two, Trio

Market Square's newest restaurant addition adds up

by Gay Lyons

Trio Café, which just opened a couple of weeks ago, is an attractive, inviting place, offering "fast casual" dining. Because it's casual, you order from posted menus, pay, take a number to the table of your choice and wait for the meal to be delivered. Because it's fast, you don't wait long for your food. In fact, at peak times, you may wait longer to order than you wait for your food. Each time I dropped by, business was brisk both indoors and on the patio.

In addition to the menu, there's a hand-tossed salad option where, for $5.99, you get your choice of lettuces, dressings and "toss ins." The extensive list of items to be tossed in is divided into fruits, crunchy things, veggies, cheeses and "must haves," which include hard boiled eggs and corn and black bean salsa. You can also add items ranging from roasted chicken breast ($1.99) to blackened shrimp ($3.99). It's like a salad bar, but more interesting--and definitely more hygienic. I haven't made it from the menu to the hand-tossed salads, but I know someone who hasn't made it from the salads to the menu, so there's obviously something good going on in that corner of Trio.

Beverages are self-service: Pepsi products, water and lemonade. Bottles of domestic and imported beer and "airplane" size bottles of wine are dispensed at the counter. Pack your ID. You'll be "carded" no matter how old you look. If you order one of the four cocktails--mimosa, bloody mary, lemon drop or cosmopolitan--you'll be given a glass of the set-up plus the little bottle of liquor or champagne. I recommend grabbing a straw to use as a swizzle stick.

Because Trio serves breakfast, lunch and dinner--their slogan is "sun up 'til sundown"-- I sampled broadly before sharing my opinion. The menu is so large that there are entire sections-- sweets and soups and chili--I haven't tried. I have my eye on the RBC sandwich (roast beef, cheddar, caramelized onions, tomato and creamy horseradish) and the chicken pot pie. And I've barely made a dent in the breakfast menu, which includes omelets, waffles, several versions of eggs benedict and signature lunas--croissants stuffed with egg and your choice of several ingredients. However, after having two lunches, two breakfasts and one dinner, with liberal sampling access from most of my companions, I'm ready to go on record.

I absolutely love the Southern Bennie--poached eggs and a sausage patty atop a biscuit with fresh, lemony Hollandaise. I also love the option of having one egg ($4.99) or two ($7.99). One is plenty for me. The non-traditional shrimp and grits (with lots of pesto and grape tomato halves) is listed as an appetizer but   is yummy enough and large enough to be an entrée, especially with a side salad. I eschew cream-based dishes because I want to keep my girlish figure and maintain my healthy cholesterol count, but the macaroni alfredo is superb. It's a side dish that could be a small entrée with a salad.

I liked the not-too-large portion of pan roasted Alaskan salmon with its drizzle of zesty pesto aioli and fresh, garlicky sautéed spinach. The simple, fresh house salad is attractively presented in asymmetrical bowls with a couple of skinny bread sticks. I liked both dressings I've sampled--the thin Asian miso-ginger and the chunky bleu cheese. I also liked the veggie-veggie sandwich with its generous pile of portabella mushrooms, roasted peppers, baby spinach, havarti cheese and pesto aioli. I wasn't sure I'd like the reuben, made panini-style on ciabatta bread, but the thin slices of corned beef were so tasty I didn't miss the pumpernickel or rye.  

I wasn't as crazy about the meatloaf and the chicken salad as my companions were. We all agreed that personal preferences played a big part in this. For example, if you like a chicken salad that is mostly chicken, you'll love this one. Personally, I like chunks of onion and celery in mine. However, I liked the mild tarragon flavor. I was disappointed in the applewood smoked pork loin. The merlot mushroom sauce overpowered the smoked meat and the thin mushroom slices. If I order this dish again, I'll ask for the sauce on the side. I liked the flavor of the cornmeal waffle served with sliced ham, scrambled eggs and cheddar cheese, but I found it a little dry.  

So far my favorite snack is the pretzels--four warm pretzels served with two sauces, cheddar ale and creamy salsa. I'd add a tad more heat to the salsa, but for those who prefer a milder sauce, it's perfect.

One thing I like about Trio, other than its location on Market Square, is its willingness to tweak the menu and offer what people want. For example, the grits were changed from a dry triangular polenta-type dish to more traditional creamy, cheese grits within the first week. Don't be surprised if something isn't exactly as I've described it. This tinkering is a sign of a restaurant that is good--and wants to be even better.