On Monday, Cafe Bar opened catty-corner from Bittersweet on Alameda Avenue and Pennsylvania Street. The premise is seasonal American cuisine with homespun items such as vegetable fritters, whiskey-cheddar meatballs, a bison burger, and country pork chop. The space is, quite frankly, a dead ringer for the Kitchen—right down to the color scheme (whites, grays, blacks), the clean lines and rustic finishes, and the chalkboard listing the local farmers, cheese makers, etc. In that sense, Cafe Bar feels comfortable, even familiar, and the experience comes together quite nicely.
Except, if you attempt to emulate a spot as revered as the Kitchen, the food must deliver. I think, eventually, it will, but chef Eric Rivera (formerly of Lala's Wine Bar + Pizzeria) has many kinks to iron out. The mushrooms on the Hazel Dell toast should be sliced smaller to reduce sponginess. The salads—particularly the Brussels sprouts and the seasonal pumpkin—both require more dressing and cheese (a creamy goat would work nicely for both) to pull them together. The meatballs require more meat than rice to improve the texture.
All of these hiccups—most of them textural rather than conceptual—are easy enough to fix. I have no doubt that once Cafe Bar settles in, it will become a neighborhood favorite because the menu selection, the affordable prices, and the space are worthy of crowds.
Tip: While the weather is nice, check out the patio.
295 S. Pennsylvania St., 303-362-0227