Food in coffee shops is not a new thing. While muffins, croissants and the like have been café staples for decades, more often than not, new cafes are opening with kitchens and full food menus. Typically, these menus don’t stray too far from the standard coffee-shop archetype of breakfast sandwiches in the morning and paninis at lunch, but even cafes that offer more refined culinary selections often stop short of serving dinner.
What is it about the last meal of the day that makes it such a rarity in cafes? For some cafe operators, it boils down to the initial investment that goes into building out a kitchen, stocking it with equipment and managing additional kitchen staff. For others, it's an aversion to delving into the restaurant world and a desire to keep that coffee-forward identity.
XO Coffee Company — which opened earlier this year in downtown Plano — has served breakfast and lunch since opening, and this week, the cafe debuted its new dinner service.
“We always wanted to have dinner from the beginning," says David Martin, who owns the cafe along with his wife, Linda McCall. "Our concept has always been to serve outstanding food with our top-notch coffee drinks from our espresso bar, and dinner was always going to be a part of that. Most of that comes from our executive chef and manager, Tony. He exudes confidence and has always encouraged us to go for it in every aspect. He has a lot of experience in the industry, and we put a lot of trust in him.”
Chef Tony Gardizi has created a menu of simple, refined and mostly healthy modern American fare for evening patrons, and while the existing breakfast and lunch menus were thoughtful and done well, the dinner program is a step up.
For McCall, the philosophy behind the new menu is fairly simple.
“It starts with testing products as lunch specials, getting an idea of our clientele and what they like,” she says. “Also, being aware of the seasons and offering foods in tune with that and fitting all that in with our overall philosophy of offering healthy, clean, succulent creations.”
Crab-crusted halibut ($18) is one of the entrees on XO's new dinner menu.
Appetizers include Baked Brie ($8) with fluffy crust and a sweet apple chutney, and pan-fried shishito peppers ($6) topped with parmesan and basil aioli. The salads are refreshing and healthy, like the watermelon feta salad ($10) with mint, pistachio and a balsamic glaze.
The entrée section is where the cafe really sheds its coffee-shop identity and evolves into a dinner option that’s more than a choice of convenience.
"We are not looking to be ‘good food for a coffee place,’” Martin says. “We are looking to have good food, period.”
The entrees are seafood heavy and include options like ginger-dusted Ahi tuna ($18) and crab-crusted halibut ($18) with cranberry risotto. If fish isn’t your thing, there is also a pan-seared ribeye ($19) with rosemary potatoes, a rich mushroom ragout and cabernet sauce. It’s not the price point you may be used to in a coffee shop, but it’s not often you’re eating a medium-rare steak in a coffee shop, either.
Along with the new eats, a small offering of craft beers and wines will be available based on what the crew is enjoying and what items are on the menu at the time. In addition to these menu changes, the service style and general flow and feel of the café change in the afternoon as well.
“Breakfast and lunch will continue to be counter service,” Martin says. “At dinner, we will switch to full table service. It will be a different look and feel than breakfast and lunch for sure, which will match our fine cuisine.”
XO Coffee Company, 1023 E. 15th St., Plano