Hippie Haven

The Beatles co-star with tasty sandwiches and friendly service at the Glass Onion Café

The Glass Onion Café sits in a shopping center at the intersection of River Road and La Cholla Boulevard, tucked in between a Panda Express and a Burger King. If you're hungry, the Glass Onion is definitely the best choice among those three options.

Visitors to the Beatles-themed Glass Onion Café ("Glass Onion" is a song on the "White Album") are greeted by a "hippies welcome" sign, an immaculately clean, bright room and, more likely than not, owner Jennifer McDonald. If she doesn't say hello when you walk in, chances are she's in the kitchen, making a sandwich or a salad for a hungry customer.

I first learned about the Glass Onion several months ago, when McDonald e-mailed me with an invitation to check the place out; Garrett and I finally got to the Glass Onion on a recent weekend. The Glass Onion always offers daily specials, make-your-own sandwiches ($7 for a full sandwich; half for $4), salads, soup and desserts, but the weekend brings a different set of specials. I had my eye on one of those weekend specials, the "Hard Egg Night"--basically, an omelet sandwich with ham, cheddar, red pepper, tomato and green onion ($7, plus an extra 50 cents for avocado). Garrett ordered the "Octopus' Garden" salad, featuring artichoke hearts, small shrimp, green olives, green onion and roasted red peppers on greens, topped with a "Lennon pepper" vinaigrette ($7.50). I also ordered the minestrone soup, but the woman working the register apologetically informed me that they'd just served the last of it.

You'll note that the menu leans quite heavily on the Beatles theme. However, the theme (thankfully) doesn't dominate the décor; there are just enough Fab Four-themed posters and works of art scattered here and there to get the point across. (One area in which the Glass Onion could use more of the Beatles: the music. The Glass Onion had on an adult-contemporary/soft-rock radio station during my visits, with music like Yes' "Owner of a Lonely Heart.") Ten or so tables, a couple of outside tables and a comfy couch offer seating for those who drop by to dine, chat or study. A big "X" on the service counter reminds folks that the space used to be occupied by a Coffee Xchange. If you're a live-music fan, check out the Glass Onion each Friday evening.

After a bit of a wait, we received our food. I enjoyed my meal; my only complaint was that it was a bit dry, seeing as there was nothing on the bread (like butter, mayo or salsa) to soften it up. Garrett's salad was merely OK, thanks largely to the fact that the vinaigrette was bland and oily. (Apparently, he got the last of that batch of the homemade dressing.) The salad also seemed a bit overpriced.

We then decided to try out some of the yummy-looking pastries and desserts that tantalize diners next to the cash register. Apparently, most--if not all--of the sweets are made-in house. I picked the bread pudding ($3.25), and Garrett got the peach crisp ($3.50). The desserts were soon delivered, and I was in heaven: Other than one dry edge, the bread pudding was splendid, packed with cinnamon and raisins covered with a delicious butter-whisky sauce. Garrett's peach crisp was tasty, but it could have used more peaches.

I returned to the Glass Onion on a recent weekday for a late lunch. I decided on the "Lonely Hearts Club" sandwich ($8): Boar's Head mesquite-smoked turkey, ham and salami with green chiles, tomato, lettuce and Dijon mayo. (The sandwich normally comes on "toasted organic sourdough," but I asked for eight-grain bread instead.) I tried to get soup, but again, they were out, so I instead got a side of the "Eggman" potato salad ($1.50).

The sandwich was fantastic. The green chiles tied together the flavors of meats and the Dijon mayo perfectly, making this tastier than your average club sandwich. On the flip side, the potato salad was a bit of a bust; what flavor was there was nice--eggs actually dominated--but there wasn't enough of it. The addition of salt and pepper helped a bit, but the salad was still somewhat bland.

It's also worth noting that the $9.50 I paid for that sandwich and potato salad is a bit pricey compared to many other sandwich joints. I don't mind paying a bit more for a good sandwich at a locally owned restaurant ... but others might.

If you're on the northwest side, and you're looking for a good cup of coffee, a tasty sandwich, a freshly made dessert or just a nice, friendly place to hang out, I strongly endorse the Glass Onion Café. On the menu, Jennifer McDonald writes, "With love from me to you"--and after a visit or two to the Glass Onion, you'll realize that she truly means it.

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