Sunday, 7 September 2008

Cafe Bernardo

Cafe Bernardo is one of my favorite Sacramento restaurants. It's good food, it's consistent, and it's easy to find vegetarian options. The only complaint I hear from others is that it's too loud, but apparently my years of concert-going protect me here, because it's never bothered me.

The entrees sometimes change seasonally, but they generally have three vegetarian options -- a portobello sandwich, grilled polenta triangles, and a fettucine. The sandwich is among my favorites, with thin-sliced cucumber, fresh tomatoes, red onion, and greens. I wouldn't mind a heartier bun, but that always seems to be my problem -- I'm a whole-wheat junkie. It also comes with a pickle spear. If you want fries, order them on the side. They're great. Also available from the sides menu are mashed potatoes, potato salad, and sauteed spinach.

The grilled polenta triangles are my second favorite. The grilling leaves a nice crust on the outside of the triangles, which provides a nice textural contrast with the creamy polenta. The sauce is a hearty, chunky marinara, and the whole dish is sprinkled with fresh parmesan.

I don't generally have the fettucine, but I never regret it when I do, as it's always made with the freshest seasonal produce. Actually, Bernardo focuses on local, seasonal produce.

I wasn't aware of it until this evening, but their salads are also available without chicken and with tofu instead. I tried the Thai noodle salad, and was very pleased. It came with shredded zucchini and carrots, a sweet, peanutty sauce, and peanuts and tofu cubes. It was really lovely.

I love Cafe Bernardo for breakfast, too. My favorites include the Amaretto French toast, which is two fat slices of Bernardo's own crusty, fresh bread, covered in butter and sliced almonds. I'm also a sucker for the two egg breakfast, which comes with well-seasoned potatoes and more of that wonderful bread as toast. The jam on the tables is a delicious seedy berry jam (raspberry, I think). I also love the huevos rancheros, which don't really remind me at all of the huevos rancheros I've had at Mexican restaurants, but it hardly matters. The eggs are served on whole black beans with loads of a spicy, tomato-based sauce and topped with cotija cheese.

Oh, and finally, they have good desserts. I can personally speak for the ice cream, the chocolate cake, the black bottom cupcake, and the fruit cobbler. They also have delicious coffee drinks.

My meat-eating companions have either the skirt steak (gosh, I think that's right), a turkey sandwich, turkey burger or Niman ranch burger. Actually, my most regular meat-eating companion (my mom) usually has a salad or the polenta.

The service is cafe-style. You order at the counter, then they bring you your food. Even so, we almost always have attentive servers who stop by to ask how things are and whether we need anything else.

A note

I've decided to get rid of the tomatoes rating system. I suck at it. I want to be nice and give every decent place at least four tomatoes, but not be so effusive as to give them five tomatoes, which leads to Malouf's and Fresh Choice getting the same number of tomatoes. Which is clearly ridiculous. Go to Malouf's. It's way better than Fresh Choice. No more tomatoes -- just read the review and decide whether you want to go there. That is all.