"Downtown Bistro" Ledger Restaurant Review
December 7, 2006
Lakeland Coffee House Brewing Much More than Coffee
Brothers Chris and Mike McArthur saved themselves a trip to Vegas. In mid-February they put all their chips together and bet they could make a go of Black & Brew Coffee House & Bistro across from Munn Park in Lakeland.
They hope what money's brought downtown stays downtown and that they get a piece of the action. Judging by a recent lunch, the boys have a safe bet.
The restaurant is charming - bare tables, wood floors, a brick wall, neat art, a conversation area of cushy sofas, and an outside eating area.
Soups of the day, usually three, are listed on a board outside. Make sure you find out what they are. You can have a bowl for $3.59 or a sourdough bread bowl of soup for $5.95.
A new menu is in the works, and it will list the drinks as well as food. For now, you have to read the wall for the beverages.
Make up your mind and order at the counter. Take a number and a seat. It wasn't long before my food started to arrive.
Here's a neat idea that isn't new to Black & Brew. You can have a 12-ounce bowl of soup and half a sandwich or half a salad as a lunch. The price is $6.75.
The combos let me taste a bunch of things for a very reasonable amount of money.
Of the three flavored iced teas, I chose mango - a real winner.
The menu looks compact - five sandwiches, three paninis, three soups, four salads, and any sandwich can be made into a wrap with your choice of three flavors of tortilla.
With the half and half option, it's way more choices than I have digits.
Soups were Italian Wedding (very nice, with plenty of tiny pasta balls and fresh herbs in broth) and Mushroom Brie. The cheese-flavored thick broth, with big pieces of mushrooms that had texture. I would get this in a bread bowl on another visit. Move over Ronald, this makes a "happy" meal.
A half order of Sweet Tango Salad ($5.95) looked generous, a nice portion with a sandwich. Walnuts, mandarin oranges, cucumbers and crumbled Gorgonzola cheese had been arranged over clean spring mix for a delightful contrast of tastes and textures. More than enough raspberry dressing came on the side.
In a Caesar salad, four slices of chicken breast topped a bowl of crisp romaine with crunchy croutons and shreds of Parmesan. The dressing included a small ball of grated cheese, a pleasant surprise. I have a friend who is always looking for a wonderful Caesar. She must try this one.
The chefs built Honey Ham and Swiss ($6.30) on a croissant. It's surprising just how big a half sandwich can be. Hammy, Swissy and with enough red onion that you can't miss it. Honey-mustard kicked it up a notch.
Paninis come on ciabatta bread, crisp outside and fluffy inside. It's delicious.
Chicken salad on a croissant tasted like tuna, but good tuna, with grapes, celery and walnuts ($6.25).
Sandwiches include a huge pickle spear and chips or a cookie. To be really healthy, you can substitute a fruit cup for 75 cents.
Take a look at the desserts when you order your meal. Cinnamon buns and cookies paled next to Hazelnut Mocha Bombe ($4.25).
According to the latest health inspection, on Oct. 3, no violations were found. Congratulations.
A few things they could do to improve are:
Offer pickles. Everyone who wants one can have it, but it cuts waste.
Servers wear black tops over jeans. Long black aprons would make the place look as classy as the food is fine.
Make ciabatta bread an extra-priced option with soups.
If the time comes when the brothers branch out into more complex meals they should do fine and earn more stars. Black & Brew Coffee House & Bistro earns three and 1/2 stars.
BLACK & BREW COFFEE HOUSE & BISTRO
205 East Main St., Lakeland.
7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday
THE GIST: Coffee house
PRICE RANGE: $3.95 to $6.95
Credit Cards: All
DON'T: Expect a formal meal
APROPRIATE FOR KIDS Adult atmosphere
MUST TRY: Sweet Tango Salad, Caesar salad, mushroom brie soup.
Trent Rowe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-7512.