Bistro Beauty

Café Ramey's light, inexpensive fare is worth checking out for breakfast or lunch

Café Ramey was full of surprises--most of them pleasant.

I figured any restaurant that calls itself "an American bistro" would be open for dinner. I had planned a weeknight visit and a daytime visit. But the hours of operation are 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., and just breakfast and lunch are served.

So those hours and that restaurant style mean no alcohol, right? Nope: Café Ramey has a nice little wine list, some beers and a handful of mixed drinks.

Regarding the fare, Café Ramey again surprised, offering items like crepes and blintzes and ingredients such as portobello mushrooms, ahi tuna, quality cheeses and flavored butters.

Then there was the location. Could a restaurant with no significant street presence find customersÑor could customers find this hidden little place? Well, indeed, they have. During both my visits, the place was filled with people lured by inexpensive prices and tasty food.

Dining solo, I ordered the eggs Benedict portobello Florentine ($7.59). The dish came with a choice of home fries or hash browns; I opted for the home fries. In this version of this classic, two perfectly poached eggs were served atop English muffins, fresh spinach and chopped portobello mushrooms, and covered with hollandaise sauce. I think keeping the mushroom whole would have had a stronger impact on the dish, but other than a need for salt, this was a nice, light take on the old standby (which is also on the menu). Even the hollandaise sauce seemed lighter. Instead of the thick, gloppy mess that many places make, the thin, smooth sauce here blended in nicely with the eggs and other ingredients. The home fries were mixed with finely chopped green pepper and onion. They, too, could have used more salt, but that was easily remedied at the table.

Service was nice and efficient in spite of the fact that the place was pretty busy, due in part to a big table of "ladies who lunch" and about a half-dozen other occupied tables. Food got to my table in a timely manner, with a smile or two.

The room itself is pretty low-key: A few knickknacks and photos are arranged here and there, along with lightly stained wainscoting and the coolest wallpaper I've seen in awhile. It's blue-green in color, ribbed and "fuzzy" (I think the technical term is "flocked"); it helped create a nice overall look. Bright and cheerful, it all complements the home-style menu. There is also a nicely shaded patio.

As I left, I grabbed one of the cookies (79 cents) that were on the counter. I think it was a molasses cookie. I didn't finish it, because it was a little dry and overbaked.

John and I visited on a Saturday for lunch. Again, there was a big party, and it appeared another one had just left since the servers were cleaning off numerous dishes from the little patio. Still, things moved smoothly.

John ordered the BLT on rye ($6.19). Sandwiches come with a choice of two kinds of fries, a small salad, potato salad or fruit salad, which is what John chose. I ordered the Swedish crepe ($5.59) with ligonberry butter. We stuck with water, forgoing the stronger stuff.

The sandwich was delicious due in part to the thick slices of bacon. The fruit salad had great eye appeal and was equally delicious.

My dish had three crepes topped with petite scoops of a pretty pink butter that was slowly melting all over the thin pancakes. Light and eggy with golden brown edges, the crepes were delightful.

We decided against desserts, as nothing appealed to the palate or the eye.

Cafe Ramey seems to have attracted quite a following. The menu has a nice balance of breakfast fare, sandwiches, wraps, melts, salads, burgers and more. The ingredients seem to be of high quality--and best of all, the prices are unbelievably low. The highest priced items were less than $10.

A return visit is certainly not out of the question.

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