A number of years ago, some Philadelphians mused about adding shops and cafés to the beauty that is the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. I loved the idea that I could order a café au lait, sit outside and watch the people go by — just like I do in Paris.
Alas, this never happened. There are a few restaurants on or near the parkway such as Asia on the Parkway, Mace’s Crossing, T.G.I. Friday’s and Con Murphy’s. A little while ago while on my way home from shopping at the Reading Terminal Market, I noticed a group of pretty red umbrellas poking up from an open space on North 16th Street.
Last week, on a somewhat cooler sunny afternoon, Sandy and I walked up the parkway and decided to lunch at Capriccio at Café Cret.
The place has seating indoors as well as outside. It is cafeteria-style and opens very early in the morning so nearby office workers can grab a cup of La Colombe coffee or Mighty Leaf tea.
Sandy and I found a table inside and settled in. We sampled a number of items. None were very good. A bowl of chilled tomato soup ($4.75) had an off-putting taste. The woman at the counter obliged and gave me a bowl of gazpacho since the offending soup was the last bowl of the day. It was thin, watery and tasted like someone dumped an entire bottle of Tabasco in it. I could not detect any other flavor at all. One taste was enough for me.
Sandy’s grilled cheese sandwich ($5.25) consisted of two slices of whole grain bread, which she did not like at all, layered with a few slices of American cheese and placed on a panini press to warm it up a bit. The bread was dry and grilled without the benefit of butter. Now, I am a grilled cheese aficionado. I was brought up on them. A grilled cheese sandwich is a triumph of taste and texture. The bread has to be sufficiently buttered to add flavor. Your fingers should be a little greasy, in a good way.
“This bread is awful,” Sandy said. “I just don’t like it. It is dry and tasteless.”
My roast beef sandwich ($7.25) was built on the same bread. It tasted like dry gravel. A slice or two of slightly overcooked beef was placed on a slice of bread which was spread with a dab of whole grain mustard. Next came a little provolone, which lacked flavor, a slice of tomato and spring mix.
Huh? Who puts spring mix on a sandwich? Is this café trying to be gourmet? Bagged mesclun has no place on a sandwich. It adds nothing. A sandwich requires a bit of crunch. Iceberg or a crisp romaine leaf is so much better.
Brewed iced tea, without sugar or artificial sweetener, was needed to cleanse my taste buds.
Since Capriccio at Café Cret opens for breakfast, I decided to sample three of its muffins ($2.25 each).
The banana nut muffin was as dry as the Sinai Peninsula. It lacked any true creamy banana flavor. The blueberry muffin fared better, but I wouldn’t walk a few blocks for one. Corn muffins are among my favorites. It was OK since I brought it home and heated it up a bit.
Capriccio at Café Cret could be so much better. It is overpriced and has a portion-size, corporate-control feel to it.
At least the café serves La Colombe Torrefaction and Mighty Leaf Tea Co. — two top-quality products.
Zero tips of the toque to Capriccio at Café Cret. SPR
110 N. 16th St.
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