Walter Mencken 11 a.m., May 24
Cafe on Park for Lunch
The inside of this cafe is undeniably charming. The expanded dining room on the restaurant's north side is a bit brightly painted, but the main area has this odd Provencal-Industrial thing going on that actually manages to work somehow. Combine that with the fact that the place is brightly lit by the huge windows and the overall effect is supremely welcoming.
Service is always a bit indifferent at the Cafe on Park. It's hard to put exactly into words, but it seems like the staff is a bit too cool for school. This doesn't lead to bad service per se, but it doesn't exactly engender affection. At the very least, the service is clean and efficient enough that it doesn't really factor into the place's overall impression.
The Cafe on Park has a habit of serving massive portions of food. The cafe only serves breakfast and lunch (it's open every day but only from 7:30 to 2:00), neither of which is a meal that begs to be super-sized. Still, if one has a big appetite, Cafe on Park will fit the bill. And if it's time to go for broke, the cafe sells beer, wine, and cocktails as well so it can be an opportune chance to chase too much food with just the right amount of alcohol for a great afternoon stupor.
The lunch menu is pretty huge and has plenty of sandwich and salad options, as well as a few full meals and pasta dishes. Sandwiches and burgers come with a choice between fries, onion rings, soup, or salad as a side dish; which is a much appreciated degree of flexibility that alleviates the compulsion to eat fries or pay extra for a substitution.
A corned beef sandwich on rye bread was quite excellent, and as gigantic as expected. The grilled bread has a little touch of caraway and the sandwich is surprisingly light and winsome. Rather than a heaping pile of meat and cheese, it's respectfully limited to a reasonable portion of beef and a good assortment of fresh veggies and some sprouts. The soup is a brothy concoction of leftover vegetables and trim from the corned beef, which is an interesting combination that also contains some rice. It's not as finely executed as the sandwich, but serves adequately.
At $10.50, the sandwich isn't exactly a bargain. Nothing at the Cafe is cheap, in fact. All the sandwiches are ten dollars and up. The salads, burgers, and larger plates are priced similarly. The large portions are unquestioned, but the quality of the plates can be a bit hit or miss sometimes. At the end of the day, Cafe on Park is a good bet for an ambitious, leisurely lunch, but perhaps best passed-on by diners in a rush, especially if there's a wait.
Cafe on Park
3831 Park Boulevard
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