This elegant little cafe perched overlooking the impressive lobby of the Jepson Center for the Arts is decidedly the place to people watch. Judges, lawyers, community leaders - they all roll in for lunch and leave with smiles on their faces. The contemporary, minimalist atmosphere plays perfectly to the technicolor plates prepared by Michael Pritchard and John Deaderick, the team who brought upscale and elegant little lunches to Midtown's Starlander Cafe. This simultaneous venture carries on the tradition of fresh, made-to-order yummies like paninis, inventive salads and heart-warming soups.
My minestrone was warm, chock full of flavorful tidbits and alluring with its dusting of gently melted cheese. No need to reach for additional seasoning - this soup was dead-on delicious just as it was served. My panini, a daily special of pimento cheese, lettuce, sliced tomatoes and Dijon mustard was beautifully constructed and executed wonderfully. The mustard, of which I'm usually a big fan, really overpowered the delicate pimento cheese spread. I coveted my friend Skip's chicken salad, a big beautiful plates of assorted greens and other salad makings. This was no minor ladies' lunch salad - but a fulfilling portion that I'll order on my next visit. I was accompanied by my 14-member Thursday lunch posse and not one of these guys left complaining about portions or menu choices - and they're a tough bunch to please. Watch for the cafe to add a bright, approachable wine list in the next few weeks - and possibly expand to dinner hours.
207 W. York St. (Inside the Jepson Center for the Arts)/ 790-8833
Isaac's on Drayton
Sometimes, a restaurant just needs to focus on what it does best. During a recent lunch, my crab cake sandwich was thin and sodden. The red skin potato salad, which had been out minutes before, luckily "...just arrived on the truck," in time for my lunch. It was the strongest part of the meal. My friend and I were the only diners over a weekday lunch hour - except for one party that chose to climb steps to a rooftop deck dining area. The burgers are solid, the spinach dip extraordinarily delicious and the beer is cold. Salads are big and well constructed. Dodge the crab cakes, go for the luster.
9 Drayton St./ 231-0100