More bang for the Lira

La Dolce Vita steeps penny-pinching in romance and taste

Something happened here, and I hope it's just growing pains. Mission statements larded with self-righteous pretensions aside, Cafe Society, with its book-friendly atmosphere, diverse selection of coffees, provocative art and poetry, and eclectic assemblage of old chairs and tables, was one of the best spaces ever created in Dallas when it opened in 1992. Founders Cheryl Cooper and Laurie Sandefer built on the concept, launching a coffee roasting company in 1994 as well as a cafe in Manhattan in 1995. Sandefer, who now is the sole proprietor, decided to move the cafe next to the coffee roasting facility in Deep Ellum after prohibitive hikes in their Travis Street lease. The new space has promise, if for no other reason than the coffee roasting factory-cafe linkage is a juicy twist on the brewpub concept. Unfortunately, it's stuffed with cliched warehouse touches such as used brick, high ceilings with exposed rafters, and concrete floors.

It still features art, music, books, coffee, and the hodgepodge of old tables and chairs, but the cozy nooks and crannies, like the food, are gone. Perhaps Cafe Society's mission statement writers are open to the possibility that rigorous standards and structure are often necessary adjuncts to expression, whether it be in the arts, politics, or cuisine.

La Dolce Vita. 1924 Abrams Parkway (214) 821-2608. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.-midnight.

Cafe Society The Factory. 209 Henry St. at Commerce (214) 745-1964. Open Monday-Wednesday 7 a.m.-10 p.m.; Thursday & Friday 7 a.m.-12 a.m.; Saturday 9 a.m.-12 a.m. Closed Sunday. Local Delivery, take-out, and catering.

La Dolce Vita:
Shrimp and calamari $4.75
Italian cold cuts $4.75
Large insalata vita $4.95
Pasta dinner $5.95
Small pizza $5.95
Creme brulee $3.75

Cafe Society:
Society Tuna Nicoise $5.95
Cuban roasted pork $6.95
L.T's Hot Tamale Plato $7.95
Deep Belgium Delight $6.50

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