Tuesday, August 30, 2005
2nd Street Cafe
89 Second Street, Cambridge, MA 02141, 617-661-1311
Mon - Fri 7:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.
This little cafe is a bracing retro throwback to a less frenetic era, one in which “buzz” and “glitz” weren’t yet invented, and service and damn good cafe food was the rule rather than the exception. One step inside and your internal gyroscope stabilizes as if you stepped into a time warp. Not a square inch of plastic or blinking neon or polished granite in sight.
Cheerful goldenrod walls and walnut wainscoting all around, stained and filigreed old oak book cases filled with crockery, chips. juice drinks and bottled water, line the rear wall. Several small round cafe tables each with two wrought iron teetery chairs and a stretch of four stools at a window counter facing Second Street take up the space for diners. The chest high order counter and compact kitchen, from which the aroma of seasonings and warm bread emanate are three steps inside the front door. And overhead looms a colorful chalkboard on which are inscribed the day’s specials and nearly the whole menu. The place can’t be much more than thirty by twenty. Every square inch smacks of authenticity.
“You’ll love it!” I was confidently assured by the young lady when she learned The Adventurer had driven from Watertown with the cafe’s vaunted Cubano sandwich on my mind. I sat back and basked in the old world charm of the place and had just begun writing my observations, when it arrived at my table. The pressed sub roll, into which roast pork loin, ham, swiss, mustard, mayo, relish, and hot pepper relish were intimately layered, disappeared faster than the upper class in Havana after Fidel took power. It was 2 p.m., long past The Adventurer’s customary lunch time.
Other special sandwiches ($6.95/$4.00) on the regular menu include grilled chicken with pesto, tomato, and mozzarella; grilled Reuben; roast beef with arugula, boursin, and horseradish mayo; Mom’s meatball grinder with provalone; vegetarian sandwich with humus, tomato, red onion, cucumber, and sprouts. And about ten home made soups ($3.50/$4.50), salads ($6.75/$5.75), and home cooked gourmet specials with salad ($7.95).
Out of the corner of my eye, I glimpsed two women being served a Moroccan chicken dish, one of the specials, that made me believe that the chefs don’t toss around the word “gourmet” lightly.
As The Adventurer licked his fingers, he finished reading the part of the menu stating “All our food is made with the freshest ingredients available.” As if on cue, owner Jonathan Adelson picked up his phone and called four vendors for tomorrow’s meat, cheese, vegetables, and bread. I just might return then to sample one of those specials.
To see the daily menu, go to http://www.2ndstcafe.com