Written by R D Lang Monday, 18 February 2008 00:00
Nestled quietly on Lafayette Street, behind the Quality Inn, you'll find Brew Babies...one of Cape Coral's current word-of-mouth, hidden gem restaurants.
Brew Babies name derives from the multitude of specialty coffees they regularly feature, including Hawaiian Kona and a strong Jamaican Blue Mountain. The establishment was originally a breakfast and lunch cafe, but they began serving dinners in September of last year. In the months that have followed, Brew Babies has become a buzz-word of sorts among the Cape Coral dining crowd.
The setting is an indoor/outdoor cafe. There are two buildings connected by a courtyard. The indoor dining areas are broken into small, cozy, and eclectic rooms. The outdoor courtyard is appointed with plushly pillowed wicker furniture, garden bistro tables with umbrellas, and lush tropical greenery. The entire restaurant is reminiscent of a quaint Key West, or even Cape Cod, eatery.
Brew Babies is owned by Wayne and Valerie Elam, husband and wife restaurateurs. Valerie Elam is an accomplished jazz pianist and vocalist, and performs regularly at the restaurant with many of her musical friends. To get an idea as to the flavor of music Valerie serves up see: http://cdbaby.com/cd/valerieelam
Our lunchtime visit occurred on a beautiful February day, no clouds in the sky, perfect for an outdoor dining experience.
Parking is limited to the sides of Lafayette Street, outside the front of the buildings. Upon arrival, it took a few moments for anyone to acknowledge us...apparently it's an informal, seat-yourself arrangement, at least for lunch.
My dining partner and I chose a shaded, corner table off to the edges of the center courtyard. Business was brisk, and a diverse array of diners made up the clientele. There were elderly snowbirds, patrons of the hotel across the street, men on a business lunch, solo diners immersed in books, and a group of women celebrating a birthday.
In due time we were offered menus and a drink order was taken. My guest ordered the Kona coffee, and was directed inside to a self-service coffee bar. I ordered an iced tea, which arrived table-side quickly. According to their infrequently updated website, beer and wine are available as well...but there was no mention of either on the menus we were given.
The lunch menu is comprised of soups, salads, and sandwiches. Fresh ingredients are the cornerstone of the menu. Just about all plates are garnished with brightly colored and freshly cut fruits and berries.
I began with a bowl of tomato basil soup. It arrived quickly and at a perfect serving temperature. The soup was bright red and full of shredded fresh basil and crumbled cheese. The balance of flavors was near perfect, with fresh garden tomatoes and the minty basil balancing perfectly against each other.
The sandwiches we ordered we're delivered seconds after the empty soup bowl was taken away.
My guest ordered the Portobello Mushroom Panini. It was served on a tasteful and artsy rectangular plate with subtle curves. It was made of marinated portobello mushroom, sundried tomatoes, mozzarella, and fresh tomato pesto on crisp grilled crusty bread. The plate was garnished with watermelon slices and a strawberry. The earthiness of the mushrooms contrasted boldly against the tangy sundried tomatoes and rich cheese. This particular Portobello Panini proved pleasantly perfect.
I went with the Chicken Salad Wrap. Baked white-meat chicken, toasted walnuts, and grapes finished with fresh mixed greens and a light yogurt-mayo dressing. All served in a green spinach tortilla on a plate adorned with foreign culinary terms. A slice of watermelon, a slice of pineapple, and a picture perfect strawberry sealed the deal. Filling. Tasty. Colorful. Healthy. A solid choice.
Dessert was offered, but this was just a quick lunch, so we declined before even hearing our options...leaving ourselves a significant excuse to make a highly probable return visit.
-- writing and photography by R. D. Lang
R.D. Lang is the nom de plume of a regular joe who dines on his own dime.
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