World Cafe unites international flavors
World CafÃ© â¢ 16 Market Square, 226-2962
by Gay Lyons
Iâ’d been meaning to visit the new cafÃ© in the World Grotto on Market Square, but after my friend Holly gave me a menu, I headed right over. World CafÃ© serves â“global comfort foodâ” made with â“local produce and far away spices.â” The menu also identifies vegetarian and vegan dishes and includes gluten-free options. It had the potential to be my kind of place: fresh and healthy, lots of ethnic flavors, and everything priced $3-6.
The white bean hummus successfully marries the smokiness of sun-dried tomatoes with the slight bitterness of capers into the creamy beans, equally good as a wrap or as a spread. The faintly spicy yellow-hued couscous has so many pumpkin seeds and bits of apricot and organic cherries that these can hardly be described as secondary ingredients. There was a seed or piece of fruitâ"sometimes bothâ"in every forkful. Couscous by itself doesnâ’t do much for me, so I liked the chunky mix.
The Chilean chickpea salad, mixed with currants and finely diced orange bell peppers, has a mellow burn with smoky undertones. The Caribbean tofu provides evidenceâ"in case you needed anyâ"that while tofu alone lacks liveliness, the right ingredients and spices take care of that. This tofu is jazzed up with pineapple, red onions, yellow pepper, and jerk seasoning, with a result that is sweet and hot.
My favorites are the roasted chicken wrap and the thyme wrap. The peppery chicken is mixed with red onion, celery, and red grape halves. The mustard cayenne sauce and grapes produce a honeyed heat that outlives each bite. The thyme wrapâ"cracked thyme, smooth kefir cheese, cucumber strips, and sproutsâ"is sensational. Itâ’s as though that old tea-party favorite, the cucumber sandwich, has been carried around the world, picking up flavors along the way. I donâ’t know what cracked thyme is, but cracking thyme apparently intensifies its flavorâ"think of it as thyme squared.
My tabouli-loving friends have bestowed their blessings on World CafÃ©â’s version, but while I have tasted it, Iâ’m going to refrain from critiquing it. I just donâ’t like tabouli. Itâ’s good for you, so I keep trying to like it, but for me eating tabouli is like what I imagine munching grass to be like.
The truffled egg salad has potential. Made with organic eggs, wasabi, truffle oil, cilantro, and creamy herb mayo, it promises flavor but doesnâ’t always deliver. The first sandwich I tried seemed all-egg. Because it had been so highly recommended, I gave it another chance. The second time I could taste each ingredient in almost perfect proportion. I might give it a smidge more wasabi for extra punch. The biggest problem is that the two batches were so different.
Only a couple of things Iâ’ve tried were clinkers. The basil and black bean hummus was bland. It needed somethingâ"garlic? lime juice? salt? more basil? My objection to the curried salmon relates to texture as much as flavor. A piece of grilled salmon with a curry sauce sounds fine, but salmon smushed to croquette consistency didnâ’t work for me, no matter how tasty the curry and craisins. There was a faintly fishy flavor but nothing Iâ’d identify as salmon if I didnâ’t know it was there.
Some friends raved about the caramel apple pie, but every time Iâ’ve dropped by itâ’s been sold out, which lends credence to my friendsâ’ assessment. There is also a white chocolate cherry cheesecake and a linzer torte, a jam-filled lattice topped pie.
You can dine there, but mostly itâ’s a quick lunch standâ"though not strictly so, since itâ’s open 10:30 a.m. until 3a.m.â"with take-out and delivery service. The food is prepared fresh daily, and some items sell out quickly. There is a menu, but what counts is whatâ’s in the refrigerated display case.
If you need to get back to work or donâ’t have much time before a movie or concert, you donâ’t have many â“grab and goâ” choices downtownâ"and certainly not healthy, tasty choices. World CafÃ© fills that void.
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