Comforted at Cafeteria 15L

Cafeteria 15L on Urbanspoon

Cafeteria 15L Shortrib

I’ve gotten pretty darn comfortable at Cafeteria 15L. It took me long enough. I had procrastinated going for some time. There are so many other places to try. Besides, I had often sampled some of their food at special events. I was comfortable in the knowledge that they weren’t going anywhere and would have better staying power than other new restaurants in a bad economy. Then they did the Groupon deal and I snagged a couple. Good incentive to finally stop by. So far I’ve gone twice and I plan on returning. They’ve definitely made a good impression on me.

Cafeteria 15L’s focus is comfort food. Food that reminds one of a good Sunday dinner with family. That includes the traditional items like meatloaf, mac n cheese, ribs, and fried chicken. The website says they make the dishes with a twist. What matters is that they make them good!

I also must point out a great feature for me - the mocktails. As a non-drinker, I am thrilled when a place takes the time to offer some refreshing and different non-alcoholic beverages. The first visit I had a lovely drink of muddled berries and basil finished with carbonated lemon/lime. The second time it was the Fruit Punch which was muddled berries with mint, if I remember. Anyway, both were bright and fun and such a nice alternative for me.

The first visit was with my girlfriend. I wasn’t really feeling up to a full dinner, so I went with a small plate. My friend went for a three course meal and let me share.  First up, the mac n cheese. I had had this several times before at special events. They use a Orecchiette shaped pasta, like little clam shells. These perform the function of holding the cheese sauce in their little scoops. The sauce is creamy and cheesy. We only wished it had a bit more salt.

I ordered the Spicy Tuna Ahi Poke. I've been into eating ahi tartare lately and this was such a presentation. The raw ahi is chopped and mixed with chopped avocado, and a citrus dressing. They then fill a ring to create an attractive and rather generous mound of the mixture. It is served with housemade potato chips. I always like this dish because it is light, refreshing, and healthy. And I was impressed with how much they gave me. A good deal at $11.95, I thought.
My friend had the grilled pork chop. It comes with maple glazed sweet potatoes, greens, and an apple cranberry chutney. She swapped for garlic mashed potatoes. We were happily surprised by a hearty, thick cut chop. It wasn't small, by any means. It was flavorful and tender. I took several bites with the wilted greens and chutney and loved the mixture of the sweetness of the chutney with the bitter of the greens. The maple sweet potatoes would have sent it to a 10 I'm sure. But the mashed potatoes were good too, not glooey or too stiff.

For dessert we decided to share the Trio of Ice Cream Sandwiches. Unfortunately, we were disappointed in them. The cookies were simple, thin chocolate wafer cookies. Nothing special.

This week I braved the rain and went by myself and ate at the bar. The bartender, Grant, was very nice and approved of all my choices. I went for the Braised Beef Shortrib. He said that was his personal favorite. And why not? Who doesn't love a well braised piece of meat? I was not disappointed. Out came a  mound of garlic mashed potatoes with the sauteed greens on top, and then a lovely piece of tender beef topped with wild mushrooms. Around the plate was a generous ladleful of the braising liquid. The beef was so tender that there was no need for a knife. It just flaked apart easily. It was one of those dishes that when you put a forkful of everything in your mouth it all just melts together perfectly and you are left with a sheepish grin of pleasure on your face. Yes, it was that good. I plan on making shortribs at home in the next couple of weeks and can only hope that they come out this fabulous.

Cafeteria 15L Banana Cream Pie

Because I was on my own I got to pick what I wanted for dessert - the banana cream pie. I'm a sucker for any creamy dessert and appreciate a well done banana cream pie. When it first was presented to me I was a little taken aback. Silly me thinking a slice of pie when these days restaurants do individual mini pies. I was also shocked by this giant mound of whipped cream. After scraping it back I found a thin pastry shell coated with chocolate and  then a  small layer of banana pastry cream and fresh banana slices. The mound of whipped cream had been sprinkled with chopped, toasted almonds and chopped chocolate and there was a swirl of homemade caramel sauce all over.

To start with, I was feeling a bit of disappointment. Lots of whipped cream but the pie part itself seemed a little lacking. By the end, though, I was singing a different tune. The crust was crisp without being tough. The bananas to banana pudding ratio turned out to be well balanced. The whipped cream was so full of air that it quickly deflated so as not to be an overwhelming component. And it wasn't too sweet. Often pies can be. Instead, the chef let the sweetness be accented by the caramel sauce.

I knew the desserts were made in house and asked about the pastry chef. Turns out they don't have one, the head chef makes the desserts as well. Nice to see that in this case the chef has the skills to perform in the pastry department as well.

I must end with a comment about the excellent service. On both visits I had warm and friendly servers. The staff worked well together, helped each other out, and conveyed a sense of warm and comfort befitting the theme of the restaurant.