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  D e s e r t   E x p o s u r e    August 2008

Lunch Break

Café at the Kumquat in Silver City offers simple fare with flair — and at a fair price.



Café at the Kumquat, the small sit-down lunch destination that opened this past February in the Curious Kumquat gourmet grocery and kitchenware store, definitely has hit its stride. Looking to offer locals dishes that range from down-home to decadent, and a decent price, the café is blessed by the Kumquat's ability to provide nearly any exotic ingredient on the planet for its creative menu. The café has the added charm of outdoor seating, something I believe is underexploited given Silver City's fine weather.

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The happening midday scene at the café is, well, the proof of the pudding. The tables out front on the grass are more often than not filled with downtown lunchers, and the place does a brisk business with called-in pick-up orders.

The process of ordering lunch at the café is easy and no-frills: pick up a menu on the table out front, check off your choices on the order card, hand it over to the cashier and pay up. Lunch is brought out to you — pretty speedily, too.

The menu is ample for lunch options: three homemade soups (cup $2.50, bowl $3.95), four entre-quality salads ($5.50-$6.50), seven sandwiches ($5.25-$6.95), a daily individual pizza made on pita bread ($6.25) and a daily lasagna (priced according to ingredients). There also are some "customer favorites," like the squash-filled burrito ($4.50, add chicken or avocado for $1), which can be made whole wheat for another buck, and a fish taco — "not fried!" — with tilapia, shredded cabbage and more, on two soft corn tortillas ($5.95). There's also a kiddies' menu, featuring grilled cheese or quesadilla ($3) and a kid's salad with dressing on the side ($3).

The dishes have fun, creative names, like The French Connection sandwich with gruyere and Black Forest ham on grilled French bread. There's The Larry aka The House salad, named for Pearson's father, a soup called Sue Peter — "soup eater," get it? — and a Greek salad cleverly named If Plato and Aristotle Had Lunch. Local humor figures in, too: The burrito is named The Twanarrito, after local ear-nose-and-throat doc Twana Sparks. And for an extra $2, a customer can take the Rob-wich sandwich, named for Kumquat co-owner Rob Connoley, and "Gary Shephard-ize it," which means doubling the ham, Swiss and bacon. I guess Shephard's a big eater.



On a recent lunch visit to the café, my dining partner breaks out of his French Connection sandwich rut and decides to try the BCGC ($6.25), a bacon, cheddar and green chile sandwich on toasted sourdough. I go with the Caprese-wich ($3.95 half sandwich, $5.95 full). Named after the traditional tomato, mozzarella and basil caprese salad, the Caprese-wich is made on a grilled pita. We choose a root beer and a sparkling lemonade from the cold case, pay up and grab a table.

Other friends in line are trying to break out of their own ruts. One who says she orders the lasagna almost every time decides to go with the Chicken Fandango salad ($6.50). But her dining partner orders her steadfast fave, the Gone Fishing taco.

Even though the place is bustling — it's high noon and in addition to the in-house customers numerous to-go orders are being picked up — our food is delivered to our table just minutes after we sit. And these are both grilled sandwiches!

The BCGC is, as advertised, "gooey, cheesy, yummy!" The green chiles are delightfully spicy and the bacon adds a subtle crunch. The Caprese-wich, with its fresh tomatoes, basil pesto and shaved parmesan cheese, is warming and mellow. Sandwiches come with a side of fresh fruit or veggies, and today's sliced green apple on the side provides a nice, crisp counterpoint to both our choices.

The price tag also makes us smile: a sit-down, dining-out lunch for two, under $15.

The Curious Kumquat's fridge is stocked daily with fresh "Gourmet to Go" offerings from the caf's kitchen, including entres like lasagna, meatloaf, quiche and mac-and-cheese, as well as soups, salads and specialty items like spring rolls, sushi and more. A diner in a big rush for lunch, or one contemplating an effortless dinner later on, can peruse and grab from the case or call ahead to have something set aside.

On our way out, our friends report they are enjoying their Chicken Fandango salad and fish taco. And though the salad eater is proud that she tried something new today, she confesses that she's going back in soon as she finishes to buy a serving of the to-go lasagna. "Dinner!" she explains with a laugh.

— Donna Clayton Lawder



Café at the Kumquat, Bullard and College St., Silver City, 313-9232. Lunch weekdays 10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.; Gourmet to Go, Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-6:30 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.-3 p.m.





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