Company Cafe's Growing Pains

A rapidly expanding restaurant learns good hands are hard to find.

Some plates fare better. Sweet potato fries loaded with cheddar, bacon, green onion and fresh jalapeño usher slightly less guilt than the version at Snuffers. Messick fries the spuds in a refined olive oil with a high smoke point, a treatment that takes even better to regular shoestring Idahos. They're paired with a respectable burger that turns out to be one of Company Cafe's better menu choices.

Sides are decent, too, as long as Messick's cooks don't over-do them. Broccoli rabe and string beans were oxidized and over-browned one visit and a vibrant green another; a cauliflower puree retained the finest hint of texture and an acid I never traced; potato purees were decent — even good, if you remembered you were in one of those healthy spots. But garlic was heavy in many of the sides.

Other dishes blurred into that fuzzy mediocrity that drags down dishes you'll never hate but never crave again. Risotto cakes were dry disks partnered with a lively coulis. Smoked chicken shrouded succulent, smoky poultry in a leathery, fatty skin. Cakes for dessert tasted healthy: sweet and dark with chocolate, but tough and bone-dry.

Exposed duct-work: awesome. Exposed service flaws: less awesome.
Sara Kerens
Exposed duct-work: awesome. Exposed service flaws: less awesome.

Details

Company Cafe Smoked salmon $18 Chicken-fried steak $14 Burger $12 Smoked chicken $22 Rock shrimp tacos $12

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They're the mistakes of an overextended, inexperienced chef, and they stand out more when you wait too long for your plate to be taken away. Good service can save a meal, and excellent service can shift perception. The flagship location was known for its sharp and knowledgeable staff who knew gluten from the chaff and the smoke point of refined olive oil by heart. If the waiters working the new location were as passionate about local-sustainable-organic-what's-it-called as the owners were when they thought up the place, dining here might be interesting. As it stands, you're liable to be left waiting around for something not worth waiting for.

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