Cafe Society

Saint Elsewhere

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There are no rules to this menu. You want to start with a cheese course? No one's going to stop you. You want a cup of espresso and then three desserts? Go for it. The Meyer lemon tart with preserved Italian cherries is particularly nice, and who's ever gone wrong with a bowl of double-chocolate pudding topped with fresh whipped cream?

The food and service are solid, but business is still uneven. One night when I stop by, I'm the only guy in the house. Another time I show up with a party of three on a Wednesday night and am turned away because the dining room is full, of all things. I'm so happy, I almost don't mind having to go somewhere else.

Finally, in December, Laura and I come in for a full dinner -- ten courses. We eat curried chicken casserole with sliced black figs; spicy pork albondigas in a fiery tomato sauce; a stiff country pâté served with pickled haricots verts in lieu of the more traditional cornichons, along with more figs and a spicy dot of mustard. For a moment we're confused, because there's nothing on the plate to spread the pâté on, but then we realize that every ten minutes or so, one of the servers comes around with fresh bread. That's a smart idea, because almost half of the items on the menu need bread, and lots of it: pâté, baba ganoush, the chicken stew and patatas bravas served in a sweet/spicy paprika sauce so good that to leave even a smear of it on the plate is unthinkable.

We eat and eat, going through plates two at a time, pacing ourselves, and when we're done, we order desserts to go. We pay with a credit card, and that feels good. We have to wait to have our check rung up because there's a backup of tickets at the register, and that feels even better. And while we're waiting, who's there to chat us up? Sean. He's been working the four feet of oak that makes up Somethin' Else's bar all night, opening doors, helping people with their coats. He's had his eye on the kitchen, sure, but he doesn't jump behind the line once. He's making the transition smoothly -- no sweats (at least, none that show) and no shakes. For a guy like Sean, whose whole life has been on the other side of the swinging doors, that's really something.

In fact, that's really somethin' else.

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Jason Sheehan
Contact: Jason Sheehan

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