The news was dire. I read Renee Erickson was closing her lovely restaurant Boat Street Cafe, to focus on several new enterprises. The restaurant is mere blocks from my office but it had been years since I’d gone there for either lunch or dinner. Now that it appeared to be going away, I jumped at the invitation of co-workers to have a “last hurrah” lunch in the airy, white space. Down the steep driveway and around the overflowing planters, into the lush courtyard and through the door into the cafe, everything was exactly as I’d remembered from my last, long-ago visit.
Seated by the friendly staff, we perused the single page menu. Much to my delight, there at the top in big letters was the news that, though the Cafe was closing, the “Kitchen” portion of the enterprise was not only staying open but was expanding into the main dining area. Crisis averted! Of equal importance, given our level of hunger, were the choices available for immediate consumption. Lentils can sound like a meager dish but in the hands of the Boat Street chefs, they are rich and savory, mixed with wilted kale and crowned with a poached egg – the accompanying toast soaked up the juices and bits of renegade yolk while the chunks of beets added a fresh earthy edge to the dish. At least that’s what I’m assuming – my friend didn’t offer to share, she was so busy enjoying her selection. That was fine, as I was swooning over my roasted mushrooms and garlicky, creamy greens, which had been topped with a rustic sausage link. A crusty baguette, perched on the edge of the plate was a perfect sponge for the savory sauce that pooled at the bottom of the dish. We didn’t hear a peep out of our other dining companion as he enjoyed his roasted pork loin, nestled in a mound of custardy polenta.
Maybe it was the sunny Friday afternoon, the great company or the crisp Rose we were drinking; maybe it was the warm welcome or the relief that a great lunch spot wasn’t going away any time soon. Whatever the reason, it was one of the best meals I’ve had in a long time.