The $10 Challenge: North End Café

Each day, I work on being a better person.

That includes treating others the way I want to be treated, being thankful for successes and failures, and adding a few more pleases and thank yous to my conversations.

But I have yet to conquer a vice I frequently experience at restaurants: food envy.

Food envy strikes at that moment when the server brings the platter to your table with everyone’s order. You’re jazzed when you immediately pick out your meatballs and ravioli from the circle of dishes, but you notice something creamier on the platter. Aunt Sally has ordered the shrimp alfredo, and it suddenly looks much tastier than your pillows of pasta beneath two hunkin’ balls of meat.

Boom, food envy.

"Dang. That burger sure looks better than what I ordered."*

I’ve never been more susceptible to this phenomenon than I was on a recent visit to North End Café, a Frankfort Avenue restaurant that opened in 2003.

North End Café is a place that I immediately regretted not visiting sooner. The unique building is made up of two renovated shotgun houses with a porch that wraps around much of the establishment. Local artists also have their work on display inside the restaurant, which adds a cozy, I’m-in-my-living-room feel.

Though it has only been open for seven years, North End Café has earned a faithful, eclectic following that keeps the restaurant filled. I drive by the restaurant on Sundays on my way home from church, and people are often milling around outside as they wait on a table. A friend told me that making reservations for Sunday brunch is the best way to bypass the crowd, and you can do so online.

It was those brunch offerings that ignited my food envy during my visit. The restaurant offers the majority of its breakfast items all day, which results in the ultimate conundrum: do I thumb my nose at authority and order breakfast at 2 p.m., or do I stick with convention and order a sandwich?

Fortunately, price wasn’t an issue when browsing through the menu. All of the breakfast items (save the $13.99 steak and eggs) were under $10. The breakfast menu offered traditional dishes such as the basic breakfast (two eggs, home fries and a choice of bread for $5.50), biscuits and gravy ($6.45 with a vegetarian option) and pancakes (a tall stack for $5.99). But North End Café gets a little more unique with items like the tofu scramble ($6.99) and migas (eggs with tortilla chips, jalapenos and cheese for $6.99).

The sandwich menu was just as impressive and reasonably priced. The restaurant displays some lovely flavor combinations, such as the bacon apple bleu (Granny Smith apples, bacon, bleu cheese and walnut spread for $7.50), grilled salmon with pickled ginger and wasabi mayonnaise ($7.99) and smoked turkey with guacamole and bacon ($8.50). Plus, only three of the 13 sandwich choices were more than $8. Does it get any better?

With all these selections within my price range, I knew:

  • I would like whatever I ordered.
  • I would want whatever my dining companions ordered.

I was right on both fronts.

I stayed inside the lunch box and ordered the grilled chicken sandwich that comes with bacon, swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, aioli and dijon ($7.99). Sandwiches come with the choice of a side item, so I selected the potato salad.

I got the sauces on the side, because sometimes I can be picky.

And here’s the money shot:

Is that crisp bacon? Why, yes, it is.

The chicken breast was huge, but so tender and moist that I had to eat all of it (I just had to). And hidden beneath the slab of poultry was a layer of bacon, cooked crisp enough so that it crumbled with every bite. I hate limp bacon, so I was in heaven.

The potato salad was a lighter version than the mustard-based variety that I’m used to. New red potatoes were quartered and coated in a light sauce that was appropriate for such a hot day.

My lunch was delicious. But my wandering eyes made their way over to one of my lunch companion’s plates. She ordered a slice of french toast with a side of fresh fruit. The one slice of toast was thick, toasted to a savory brown and sprinkled with powdered sugar. It looked even better with a coating a fresh syrup. I immediately wanted what she was having, not in place of, but in addition to my order.

I was embarrassed to take a picture of her food (she’s a work friend who doesn’t know the extent of my geekery), so I will express my feelings of lusting over another dish:

I make this face a lot. And then take pictures of it.

Notes on North End Café:

  • The restaurant is closed on Mondays.
  • The menu offers a lot of vegetarian items.
  • North End Café has a multi-acre garden in Simpsonville, Ky.
  • Dinner selections are more expensive than other dishes, ranging from $10.25 for curry sauté to $22.50 for scallops and grits.
  • The menu includes tapas selections.

The Stats:

  • North End Café, 1722 Frankfort Avenue, Louisville, Ky.
  • Chicken breast sandwich with a side of potato salad: $7.99
  • Total (with tax and tip): $9.20

Mission: Accomplished

*Photo courtesy of coffeeeyes via Flickr

3 thoughts on “The $10 Challenge: North End Café

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