Every so often, something happens that reminds me that it is, indeed, a very small world. When I started committing my restaurant trips to e-words, I never expected to discover that an acquaintance I had met a while back would randomly stumble upon my food blog. As fate would have it, I had been discussing restaurants with this individual for some time and had that lightbulb-over-the-head moment when I realized we had met before.
I suggested we have dinner and Alex was quick to accept the invitation. We debated on where to go and decided to check out the Coronado CafÃ©, a stalwart restaurant near 7th Street and Virginia in Phoenix. We decided to meet at 7:00 PM and check out the place. Alex and his partner David arrived first and were waiting for me in the parking lot. We entered in the wrong door, but other patrons were quick to direct us to the host station and we were seated immediately at a four-top in the main room.
We were handed menus and told that our server would arrive shortly. Sure enough, we were greeted and given water and were asked about drinks. Alex and David were big on wine, so they ordered a bottle of Feudo Arancio Grillo 2003 from Italy ($24.00), which Alex noted was incredibly well priced for a restaurant. I had a vintage Diet Coke ($2.00).
Only a few moments later, we were given a basket of dense bread with unsalted butter. The bread was delicious and slightly salty. The chewy crust was a welcome treat. The unsalted butter was a great compliment to the bread.
The menu at Coronado CafÃ© had some excellent selections and we were all having difficulty making our selections. After returning with our beverages, we gave our server our order. Both David and Alex decided to get the Bruschetta ($7.00) which included a choice of offerings. For my appetizer, I selected the Lavash with Pears, Stawberries, and Melted Brie ($7.00). We also ordered a couple of salads. I had the Gorgonzola Salad ($5.50) and David had the Field Green Salad ($5.00). Alex went with the French Onion Soup ($5.00). For the entrees, Alex wanted the Oven Roasted Alaskan Halibut ($21.00) while David went with the Andouille Sausage and Roasted Mushroom Linguini ($16.00). I couldnâ€™t pass up the Pork Tenderloin ($19.00).
As we waited for our beginning course, we noted how much we liked the interior of the place. Coronado CafÃ© is one of a handful of restaurants that has taken up residence in a converted house. The little house was charming on the outside and sleek on the inside with muted colored walls, track lighting and one of the most interesting mixes of music I have heard in a long time. What I didnâ€™t like were the chairs, which were right out of the horrors of my grade school days. They were uncomfortable and rigid and I was constantly moving in order to find a spot that I could settle in to.
After a lot of conversation and talk about food, we were beginning to have concerns that our appetizers would never see the light of day. After a good 30 minute wait, the food started arriving.
Alexâ€™s plate of Bruschetta included the Goat Cheese selection and the Gorgonzola Cheese. The Goat Cheese Bruschetta was a mixture of the cheese, roasted red pepper, pesto-infused olive oil and caramelized onion. He found this one to be a perfect paring with the white wine and found the Goat cheese to be high quality and not overpowering. He liked the Gorgonzola Cheese Bruschetta with its sundried and fresh tomatoes, pine nuts and olives, but said the Goat Cheese appetizer was much better.
Dave also had the same Bruschetta selections as Dave, but was a bit put off by the fact that the appetizer choices were limited because, as he stated, â€œnearly 60% of the appetizer list was bruschetta.â€ I agreed that was a fair observation. Dave wondered if it was because of the small kitchen, but also wondered why the greens with the bruschetta were not at least tossed with a smidge of dressing to liven up the plate. Still, he did enjoy the bruschetta and found the ingredients top notch with a good flavor.
My Lavash with Melted Brie was interesting with strips of lavosh in a circular pattern topped with chunks of pears and melted Brie and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. A few strawberries added color to the dish. All in all, it was a good presentation, but I found the lavash a bit much by the time I got to the last part of the dish. There was just too much of the bread and with that much crunch, it was starting to wear on my jaws. The pears were crisp and the Brie was very good. I thought the vinegar could have been either increased or left off. Better yet, I would have liked to have had it in a bottle on the side where I could add or not as I wished.
After finishing our appetizers, a person at the table next to us was served the Halibut that Alex had ordered. Alex immediately called the waitress over and asked to change his order because he stated the aroma of the halibut was so strong, he worried about the freshness of the fish. Our server returned and Alex changed his order to the Bing Cherry Barbecued Chicken ($17.00).
Davidâ€™s Field Green Salad arrived and he found it â€œpedestrianâ€ noting that while it was good, it was less than inspired. The greens were crisp and were combined with tomatoes, sprouts, navel orange segments and some red onion. It was dressed in a simple red wine vinaigrette. While David said the salad was decent, he thought it was a run of the mill salad.
My Gorgonzola Salad was very good with crunchy, candied walnuts, red onion, chunks of Granny Smith apple and a lovely balsamic vinaigrette dressing that I really enjoyed. The lettuce was ice cold and crisp and the entire salad was a good way to clear my palate. I think I would have enjoyed a few more walnuts and additional red onions, but overall, it was pleasing salad.
Alexâ€™s French Onion Soup was a big hit. The soup had a bold and rich flavor, but Alex noted that it wasnâ€™t exceptionally salty like many French Onion soups he has had in the past. He found that it had an excellent balance of onions, cheese and crouton. â€œIf I had to order one thing again, it would be the soup,â€ he said. I thought, from the look of the cheese, that the soup was not nearly hot enough, but Alex was enjoying every bite.
After our second course, we went back to conversation and, again, the wait for our entrees seemed extreme. We ordered another round of beverages, and Alex ordered a glass of Valdivieso Chardonnay 2003 ($6.00). Unfortunately, our drink order was overlooked and we had to remind our server of the order.
I was happy to see our entrees arrive. Alexâ€™s switch to the Bing Cherry Chicken was a wise move in his eyes. He found the chicken â€œfantasticâ€ and said the sauce was exceptional because it was sweet, savory and tangy. The chicken meat was moist and he had nothing but raves about the chicken. He did think the sauce was successful because it didn’t have an overt sweetness to it that many BBQ sauces have. He also like the mashed potatoes and the summer squash that accompanied his meal, but would have preferred the squash be cooked just a bit longer or, better yet, roasted.
Davidâ€™s Andouille Sausage with Roasted Mushroom Linguini looked and smelled very good. David was somewhat quite as he imbibed and I finally asked him his thoughts. He found the pasta was al dente and the sauce and sausage were both quite good, but overall, he thought the meal was lacking. He found the dish missing that â€œoomphâ€ that would push it into the great range. There wasnâ€™t anything bad about it, but it didnâ€™t have anything memorable.
My Pork Tenderloin was plentiful and I was anxious to try the slices of meat. While tender and flavorful, I was a bit put off by the fact that the temperature of my meal was completely and totally inconsistent. Some slices were hot and others were dipping below room temperature. Likewise for my potatoes and braised kale. What really confused me was the addition of the grilled pineapple and grilled strawberries. While pretty and an interesting idea, the execution did nothing for the dish because the strawberry didnâ€™t pair well with anything and the pineapple seemed too tart to even enhance the pork. Overall, I was disappointed with my dish strictly because the temperature was all over the place. The flavor was there, but it was hard to focus on that when I didn’t know if my next bite would have hot or cold.
After we finished our meals, we decided to try a piece of the Chocolate Cake (approx. $4.00). David and Alex debated on getting a second dessert, but stuck with just one.
When the cake arrived, the deep, dark color and the weight of the plate told me this was going to be dense and delicious. It certainly was. The cake was perfect and I am glad we only ordered on dessert. We all thought the cake was the best part of the meal because its density and rich chocolate cake justified the light hand used with the frosting. This was exceptional.
We asked for our bill and the total was $132.42 including tax and the wine. We thought it was a good bargain. David and Alex both mentioned that they thought Coronado Cafe had one of the most reasonable wine lists in the Valley with outstanding pricing and a good mix. Additionally, all but one of the wines was available by both glass and bottle.
As for the service, I wasn’t sure what to think because I couldn’t determine if the problem was our server, the kitchen or both. I tend to think it was both as I watched other patrons wait a significant amount of time for their meals as well and our server be out of touch for long stretches. It certainly doesn’t take 30 minutes to prepare lavash or bruschetta and if there was a problem in the kitchen, our server should have alerted us.
Overall, Coronado Cafe affected each of us differently. Alex seemed to enjoy his meal the most. David felt his meal was good, but not great. I was disappointed. Coronado Cafe was good, but it could have been great with a stronger sense of inspiration.
I think David summed it up best when he broke it down by saying that if he was on a blind date, his question would have been “Where’s my uninspired food?” With his partner, it was “What a great value! Let’s get more cake!”
2201 North Seventh Street
Phoenix, AZ 85006
Dress: Resort Casual
Hours: Monday – 11 AM to 2:30 PM; Tuesday through Thursdays – 11 AM to 2:30 PM and 5 PM to 9 PM; Friday and Saturday – 11 AM to 2:30 PM and 5 PM to 10 PM.
Notes: Main entrance is in the front and south side of the building. The wine list is very economical.
Alcohol: Extensive wine list.