3120 Ridge Pike
After 20 years as manager at an upscale restaurant – with the attendant upscale headaches – Andrew Lee decided that it was time to strike out on his own. What he envisioned was the personal touch of a more modest venture with infinitely more satisfaction and infinitely less stress. With the opening of the Thyme Café, he has obviously succeeded in his quest.
But as you hang a right and enter the diminutive dining room, you begin to understand why Mr. Lee was so enthused with the location’s potential. This attractive area was transformed by an enterprising interior decorator and features contrasting white and pumpkin colored walls, wall sconces, abstract art, and other modern imaginative stylistic touches. Chic but decidedly comfortable.
The real story here, however, is clearly the excellent eclectic cuisine. Mr. Lee is currently serving only breakfast and lunch, but will continue with dinner service sometime in October. And he’s obviously given a great deal of thought to fine tuning his menu. There are just enough options to peak one’s interest without causing an over-choice meltdown.
Should you drop in for breakfast, for example, you may choose from the breakfast burrito (skirt steak, black beans, cheddar cheese, egg, and mixed greens) buttermilk pancakes (blueberry, banana, or chocolate chip), eggs prepared any style, French toast, frittata, or huevos rancheros.
The lunch menu, as one would surmise, is a bit more expansive but still sharply focused. And a good way to begin is with the hummus, whipped tahini (ground sesame seed paste) infused with morsels of feta cheese. This is accompanied by perfectly toasted pita triangles, freshly cut carrot strips, and kalamata olives. Simple but sublime. The house favorite, however, continues to be the Korean taco, a folded corn tortilla filled with strips of soy-honey skirt steak; accoutrements include Asian slaw, hot pepper paste, and a pinch of cilantro. A definite winner on all counts.
On the other hand, when it is available, you will find the “mac & cheese” a sensual and irresistible treat. Prepared with a rich and incredibly creamy house-made cheese sauce, it is baked en casserole and topped with panko breadcrumbs and bits of crisp smoked bacon.
As you move on, there are some absolutely first rate salads & sandwiches, and Mr. Lee just recently added several entrées to the noonday mix. The Mediterranean salad, for instance, is comprised of a variety of baby greens adorned with olives, feta cheese, red onion, tomato, and cucumber all tossed with light & lively lemon vinaigrette. This pristinely fresh combo is then placed on pita bread and adorned with a dollop of hummus and two pepperoncini (pickled chili peppers). The Cobb salad, on the other hand, boasts finely diced house roasted chicken, bacon, tomato, hardboiled egg, red onions, cucumbers and crumbles of Roquefort blue cheese all reclining on a pillow of mixed greens doused with aged balsamic. A nice take on an old favorite.
In the sandwich department, Mr. Lee does a sophisticated turn to the classic Philly cheese steak. He buries thin slices of sautéed rib eye in a long roll, adds a bevy of addictive caramelized onions, and throws in melted American cheese for good measure. And the blue cheese burger is another delectable variation on this meaty theme, which includes an ample portion of crumbled blue cheese aided & abetted by generous slices of apple wood smoked bacon. Dedicated carnivores take note.
In a somewhat lighter vein, you also can’t go wrong with the various chicken preparations, all of which are roasted in house. The chicken salad sandwich is awash with tender white meat, candied walnuts, cranberries, and thin slices of Granny Smith apple on ciabatta bread; while the gyro boasts pulled roast chicken and a house made tzatziki sauce (a yogurt-based sauce mixed with cucumber, garlic, salt, olive oil, pepper, lemon juice & various herbs).
All sandwiches are sided with your choice of mixed greens or potato salad, which is most assuredly a win-win situation. The greens are obviously freshly tossed with a judicious coating of light vinaigrette just seconds before their arrival at your table; and the potato salad furnishes an ingratiating bit of zip to your tired taste buds.
The newly added luncheon entrées include blackened catfish, burrito, crab cake, shrimp fra Diablo, and roast chicken with penne in a vodka sauce. The only item I have personally sampled is the burrito… and it is well worth ordering.
Burrito literally means “little burro” and originally referred to a type of snack food, a small flour tortilla filled with a number of savory ingredients. However, once north of the border, it assumed an entirely different persona, morphing into a gastronomic goliath infinitely larger than its Mexican counterpart. And the representative proffered at Thyme Café is certainly no exception. It is stuffed to the gills with strips of skirt steak, black beans, roasted jalapeños, and Mexican rice. Sided with a tangle of fresh greenery and artistic dollops of sour cream, guacamole, and pico de gallo, it is certain to satisfy the heartiest of appetites.
As noted above, the Thyme Café is currently serving only breakfast and lunch and is open Tuesday – Friday, 7:00 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.; and Saturday – Sunday, 8:00 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. (closed Monday). If all goes according to plan, chef/proprietor Andrew Lee will begin serving dinner in October.
This locally-owned, independent restaurant offers its patrons excellent food served up in a comfortable, customer-friendly environment at reasonable prices… And those are culinary commodities that are increasingly difficult to come by in this fast food age of cookie cutter chain chophouses.
For my money, the Thyme Café is always worth a visit. Just be sure to BYOB.
The Artful Diner
Diner is an independent, freelance food writer. His latest review and an archive of past reviews for restaurants around the country and the world can be found on this site on the REVIEWS page.
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