Wouldn't you just know that I go out of town for a couple of weeks and that's the moment that a new restaurant chooses to open in Jackson Ward? By mid-day yesterday, not even home for 48 hours yet, two different people had told me I needed to check out Ettamae's Cafe over on Second Street and a mere five blocks from my apartment. I'm on it, guys.
The building is small and charming and, at the moment, next to a major building renovation right next door. The construction fence extends well into Second Street, all but blocking the little cafe that could from view as you walk toward Leigh Street. Soldier on, kids; it's just beyond that fence.
I'd enlisted my J-Ward buddy for company because I knew he'd be just as eager to learn of a new neighborhood joint doing breakfast and lunch as I was. The upstairs salmon-colored dining room is classic J-Ward architecture, except for the opening in the floor that looks down over the kitchen. Through a two-part door (almost a Dutch door, but not quite) there's a sweet little patio with tables and umbrellas overlooking the street scape. Choices, choices.
Sandwiches come three clever ways: Lonely (sandwich only), Two-Street (sandwich and one side) and Three-Sweet (sandwich, side and dessert). My friend was very pleased to see that they serve locally roasted Blanchard's coffee; it's so good, he said, that it needs very little enhancement (translation: he didn't need to add some noxious chemical to the coffee to sweeten it). He had three cups, so I have to believe he knew what he was talking about. Score one.
There was no way for me to resist their oven-braised corned beef and I went the Two-Street route with the tomato basil salad. The corned beef was heavenly and clearly done in house, fatty bits still attached, as they should be. The salad was a pretty collection of halved, multi-colored grape tomatoes and onions in a balsamic dressing; it had the perfect tartness to offset the richness of the corned beef. Score two.
After being told what Manchego was, my friend ordered the Cumin Pork, Manchego, onion and pepper sandwich with a side of Mom's potato salad. I asked him if it was like his own Mom's and he said no because his Mom used mustard and this was a white potato salad, which he actually prefers. We'll just call it Better than Mom's Potato Salad. His pig sandwich was divine, with the cumin not overpowering the pork, but providing a healthy dose of flavor with bits of red and green pepper mixed in with the onion. Score three.
Our large cow and pig orders had precluded ordering dessert, but on the way out we admired a nearby diner scarfing the chocolate bread pudding, which looked mighty appealing. I'd say maybe next time, except that we'd already agreed that next time will be for breakfast and even I don't need dessert with my morning meal.
Because you know I noticed, I'll tell you that the music was just the right volume and ranged from the Carpenters to They Might Be Giants. Like Jackson Ward itself, it was an eclectic mix.
And rather than telling you about the hard hat special, better you drop by Ettamae's and find out for yourself. Just maneuver around the construction fence and follow the J-Ward types to the colorful little cafe. It's undoubtedly the only place in the 'hood where you'll find Russian tea cakes.
How's that for eclectic?