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 V.17 No.30 | July 24 - 30, 2008 

Restaurant Review

Just Muffin Around

That’s right, they said “muffin”

Italian loaves are grilled for toasted sandwiches.
Tina Larkin
Italian loaves are grilled for toasted sandwiches.

With a name like “Just Muffin Around,” there are a couple directions I could take this. I mean, come on. You use “muffin” as a verb, and you’re asking for it. But they’re just so sweet over there that I don’t think the owners realize how funny their moniker is. So I’ll be nice.

This place is a cute little breakfast and lunch spot. Unlike other bakery/lunch places, this place isn’t at all saccharine in decor. The small space is adorned with works by local artists instead of teddy bears and dried flowers. It’s bright and open in a way that defies its cramped quarters.

Service is on the ball. Order at the counter, take a seat and soon a sweet-as-can-be lady will deliver food and napkins. A station in the dining area allows you to fix coffee and tea to your liking, and the staff is pleased as punch to bring you anything else your little heart desires. They really are that nice. One woman, seeing my son ignoring his grilled cheese, sat down with us and threatened to eat it for him. He quickly gobbled it up and showed her his empty basket when she passed by. To a parent, that’s damn amazing.

The orange-cranberry muffin's made with fresh cranberries.
Tina Larkin
The orange-cranberry muffin's made with fresh cranberries.

Where the food is concerned, you have two choices: Gorge yourself on fresh-baked muffins or order a lunch mom would be proud of. The muffins rock. Of course, there are the typical flavors like blueberry and chocolate chip. And there are the endless fruit and chocolate combinations, from orange-chocolate to pomegranate-chocolate. Really, you can’t go wrong where chocolate’s concerned, but venture out a little and you might be surprised. I tried a savory spinach-Parmesan muffin. The crumb was somewhat coarser than I could call ideal, and it could’ve been moister, but the balance between the ingredients was perfect. The less legalistic diner probably wouldn’t complain.

As for lunch, not bad. The joint was filled with ladies. You know what ladies I’m talking about: those nicely coifed, perfectly pedal-pusher pantsed ladies. Everyone looked like they were ditching out on a church social. And who could blame them? With a wide variety of sandwiches that take two hands to hold, I'd certainly pass up the pastor’s wife’s potato salad.

With a wide variety of sandwiches that take two hands to hold, I'd certainly pass up the pastor’s wife’s potato salad

The No. 2 "Downtown Turkey"—sliced turkey, alfalfa sprouts, tomato, red onion, bell pepper, cucumber and cilantro-lime mayo stuffed into a ciabatini roll—was an ample midday meal. The turkey and veggies brought no complaints, but I was disappointed by the mayo. Cilantro and lime are favorite flavors of mine, but I could hardly taste them.

Tuna salad was, well, tuna salad. Canned mayo never makes a big impression, and neither does canned tuna. It wasn’t bad, and it was probably better than what your roommate makes. I was annoyed because the menu said “made from scratch” and the mayo obviously wasn’t. (But, in all honesty, I may be the only person left who makes mayonnaise from scratch for sandwiches.)

The ladies who lunch
Tina Larkin
The ladies who lunch

A Southwest turkey sandwich, with green chile, pepper jack cheese and chipotle mayo, promised punch but managed to come off as benign. If the ingredients hadn’t suggested it would be a spicy number, then the garden-heavy sandwich would have been perfectly enjoyable. But there was little piquancy to speak of. Ladies, and I hate to use Emeril here, but let’s kick it up a notch.

All sandwiches are served with your basic chips, but what really makes lunch tasty is the mini muffin served in each basket. Every day a different bite-sized morsel is baked to accompany the sandwiches. My first visit yielded chocolate chip; my second, lemon poppy-seed. Too damn adorable for words. And so is this place. Just Muffin Around is a sweet little joint that'll satisfy ladies who lunch or anyone looking for a place to take their mom.

The Alibi recommends:

• Chocolate/fruit muffins

• Spinach-Parmesan muffin

• Downtown turkey

Just Muffin Around, 4400 Wyoming NE, 294-0202. Hours: Mon-Fri 6 a.m.-3 p.m.; Sat-Sun 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Price range: $4.75 (tossed salad) to $7.25 (most sandwiches). Ambience: like an art gallery, but with your grandparents hanging out. Credit cards, takeout by fax, catering.

 
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