Do you know what restaurant reviewers like? Restaurants that are clearly very good or clearly very bad. The experience is easy to convey, and everyone is happy.
When all the facets of a restaurant experience aren't on the same level, that's where the reviewing gets, shall we say, interesting.
The Dale Street Bistro Cafe presents such a conundrum. The quaint, converted Victorian house has a lot of charm. The menu has enough variety to please almost everyone. The dishes that shine are really delicious, while the dishes that don't shine aren't bad, just neglected.
The restaurant is especially charming at night, with twinkling lights outlining the eaves. The table for two in front of the gas fireplace is cozy. On a chilly Sunday at lunchtime, however, the charm fades. The restaurant was chilly, there was an abundance of crumbs on the floor, and service ran very slow.
This inconsistancy at Dale Street continued into the menu.
Take the avocado bacon cheeseburger ($5.95). It has an excellent toasted bun, a hand-formed patty of juicy beef, and someone had the forethought to melt the cheddar on top over the crisp bacon so it adhered to the patty instead of slipping around. While the avocado was plentiful, it was so under ripe that it was tough to bite through.
The Dale Street Sandwich ($6.95) was very similar, with a perfectly grilled chicken breast instead of hamburger. The inclusion of lettuce, tomato, bacon and pickle was the same as the burger, right down to the hard avocado. Not surprisingly, we got them on the same outing.
The lunch entrees are all served a la carte (alone), and you can add a salad, soup or potato chips for $1.50. The chips are unimpressive and appear to be store bought. The potato salad was delicious, with a gentle blend of onion and mustard. The French onion soup, the special that day, had a rich, beefy broth with plenty of sweet, slow-cooked onions. The house specialty, cream of artichoke, was bland. A simple sprinkle of salt and pepper helped a lot.
The open face omelets resemble mini frittatas. The Greek omelet ($7.25) was a flavor-forward disk filled with tomatoes, scallions and kalamata olives topped with crumbled feta cheese. Also served a la carte, it needed a side of soup to make it a filling meal.
The Pizza Caprese ($10.75) is a good sized pizza, the size of a dinner plate. The crust is on the thin side, chewy and crispy, but bland on its own. The pesto was plentiful, but there was no sparkle from garlic, no rich licorice notes from the basil. It was just a green sauce to support the fresh sliced tomato and mozzarella. The whole thing is topped with a beautiful spiral drizzle of balsamic vinegar, but even that sweet-tart flavor wasn't enough to make up for the lackluster pesto and crust.
Dinner followed the same uneven path. The roasted garlic appetizer ($8.50) had delicious grilled ciabatta bread and two heads of soft roasted garlic. On the side was some delicious olive tapenade and a dull blob of hummus. While smooth and creamy, the hummus tasted of garbanzo beans and nothing more.
The Wild at Heart pasta ($13.95) was an intriguing blend of flavors, although the portion was small. Artichoke hearts, mushrooms, spinach and onions are sauteed, then combined with a roasted pepper and mango chutney sauce. The sweet and savory melange is served over fettuccine and topped with toasted walnuts for a perfect hit of crunchiness.
The Chicken Piccata ($14.95) was beautifully sauteed boneless breast, golden with a deep, roasted flavor. The sauce, despite the presence of shallots and capers, was bland. It mostly tasted of butter, but the lack of an acidic note from either white wine or fresh lemon made the simple dish feel heavy. Still, the veggies on the side were perfect. The green beans, broccoli, bell pepper and baby carrots were sauteed briefly, retaining some crunch along with the simple seasoning of garlic, salt and pepper. The rice pilaf on the side doesn't bear mentioning, except to say it was there.
When you get to the dessert menu, be aware that they make the first two selections, bread pudding and creme brule, in house, and buy the others from another source. Just order the bread pudding ($4). This is the bread pudding that angels dream of, and I'm not generally a bread pudding fan. It's not fancy or particularly pretty, but it tastes like French toast died and went to heaven in your mouth. Firm but moist with a crunchy cinnamon sugar topping, this dish obviously was fussed over in the kitchen.
DALE STREET BISTRO CAFE
Restaurant character: Dale Street Bistro Cafe is a charming restaurant in a converted Victorian house. The menu has a nice variety, but inconsistant preparation. And keep the salt and pepper shaker handy, as kitchen usually errs on the under seasoned side.
Rating total: 3.75 out of 5 stars
Food: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Ambiance: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Service: 4 out of 5 stars
Address: 115 E. Dale St., 80903
Contact: 578-9898, mydalestreetcafe.com
Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday- Saturday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sundays
Credit cards: Yes
Vegetarian options: Several; Garden Burger ($5.95), Pizza Marguerite ($9), Vegetable Wellington ($14.95)
what's online As of Jan. 5:
- 80 percent of 51 voters "liked it" on Urban Spoon
- 2.5 out of 5 stars based on 17 reviews on Yelp
- On Facebook; search "Dale Street Bistro Cafe"
- Two violations were corrected during a December inspection by the El Paso County Health Department.