Fresh ideas in seasonal cuisine
Meat, of all the ingredients a restaurant serves, is arguably the most deserving of care in how it is sourced. Unless, perhaps, the name of the restaurant in question is Cafe Green. At the three-year-old Downtown breakfast and lunch joint, the greens of both the salad and the chile persuasions are local. And some of the meat on the menu is too, if you consider Pueblo, Colo, to be local. (We do.)
Of the many ingredients in the pantry, local and jet-lagged alike, vegetables are king. The juicy cucumbers and greens in the marinated skirt steak wrap, for example, held their own against the delicious beef inside. And salad, not surprisingly, is a strong suit.
The menu changes quarterly, which means the summer menu is only a few weeks away. Before the change, I highly recommend grazing on the spring salad. It’s daring and spicy, with a body of spring greens supporting an assortment of snap peas and shoots, bright radish slivers, watercress, and chunks of freshly sizzled tofu, all drenched in a citrus dressing.
Even the breakfast frittata comes with a small version of the house salad—spring greens, pine nuts, dried cranberries and roasted tomatoes in a thick vinaigrette. The frittata I ate was so perfectly symmetrical, I imagined it was made in some sort of special pan.
Cafe Green is open for breakfast and lunch on weekdays, plus a Sunday brunch that includes live music between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Both breakfast and lunch menus are served all day, but the place always has the sleepy feel of a breakfast joint. When you order bacon, the waitress asks how crispy you want it.
Greek columns painted around the doorways and other touches of faux classic architecture give an expansive feeling to the dining room. There's even an Italian Renaissance-style mural of bored, chubby cherubs lounging above one of the windowed nooks. But the food is no more Mediterranean than it is New Mexican. Request a side of red or green, and it will appear with no questions asked (the green is better).
The pan-fried gnocchi had developed a slight crisp around their chewy, ethereal bodies.
A side of batter-fried green beans is another greenish dish that's always on the menu. Served in a cone of wax paper supported by a spiral-wire deal, the french fry-sized beans come coated in an herbed cornmeal batter.
Lunches are strong. The braised beef in an order of ravioli was soft from being slow-cooked, and the pasta that surrounded it was nubile without being a pushover. This satisfying plate came with a side of snap peas and shiitakes. Also impressive were the pan-fried gnocchi, which had developed a slight crisp around their chewy, ethereal bodies.
One thing I hope they don’t change is the crème brûlée. I requested mine with a soft top, and that’s exactly what I got. It was perhaps the most satisfying crème brûlée I’ve ever had. Cool, white and thick, the custard was heavily speckled with real vanilla flecks, especially around the bottom.
Cafe Green's menu is conscientious in its use of local ingredients. Still, co-owner Kyle Weaver says using more is a direction he's headed. If a local grower can supply regular quantities of a quality item at a reasonable price, he’s interested in talking. In the mean time, the well-prepared produced and carefully sourced meats at Cafe Green is a winning formula—one that's "green" without sacrificing decadence.