Browse & Nosh
Eat at Café Danielle and you're forced to shop, or at least urged to browse. The space is divided into settings that come across like tradeshow booths. One nook is a hovel of Buddhas: heads, lotus seatings, fat jolly postures. There's a case with Faberge egg replicas and a couple of compelling WPA-era paintings. There's even a decrepit burgundy velvet family photo album, circa post-Civil War, in which the kids are cute, the men are handsome and the women are handsomer--for 99 bucks. This flurry from the past--sleds, crucifixes, stools, decaying tricycles, china cabinets that cost more than Hondas, candelabra with chipped white paint--surrounds Café Danielle, like so many invading Triffids.
Café Danielle, the handiwork of Today's Gourmet catering founder Cynthia Cathcart, is embedded in the upscale antiques market Found Antiques right across from Ace Bail Bonds. It's a simple space with long gauzy white sheers and rattan chairs surrounding white-clothed tables. Wicker stools are pushed against a long marble bar.
This lunch hutch is attempting to build a following with the "two martini lunch" consisting of thick art-decoish martini glasses with rims stained cobalt blue and filled with mashed potatoes and pecan-crusted chicken chunks topped with crisp-tender dices of asparagus. The chicken was slightly dry, but the mashed potatoes were creamy and the flavors successfully commingled the slightly sweet with the savory.
The martini is preceded by a field green salad, a tight little toss of chopped romaine, halved grapes, Granny Smith apple slivers and strawberries spattered with a ginger citrus (and oil-less) dressing flaunting a heavy OJ presence.
The flagship martini is bolstered mostly with sandwiches--delicious things (there's a cup of soup with the half-sandwich version). Cynthia's original chicken salad sandwich is loaded with tender moist chicken frothed in a creamy medium that never sops the bread.
Meatloaf sandwich with lettuce, tomato, mustard and mayo contains thick, moist slices of loaf on moist wheat bread. Sandwich plates come with hamburger pickle slices, potato chips and half a hard-boiled egg.
The cup of tortilla soup was a simple, tangy and very safe (no throat-torching spice) rendition with chicken, corn and real corn tortillas topped with scallion-flecked melted cheese.
Lunch is a meal saddled with many things: power, speed, deal-cutting, flirtations and, more often than not, awful food. But it's hard to imagine a cleaner and more formidable departure from daily grinding than this simple little dining nook notched out of a span of ruinously expensive antiques display settings--for about 10 bucks with tea. 1225 N. Industrial Blvd. (inside Found Antiques), 214-741-2244. Open 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday. $
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