There are simple restaurants, and then there is A Café. The new eatery, which opened on 10th and Main last month, ushers minimalist eating to unprecedented heights.
Even its name, which will inspire all sorts of good-natured confusion, is charmingly unambitious.
At the cafe, whose name is stylized as ā café, you will encounter many hallmarks of the beleaguered “millennial culture.” The daily specials are scribbled onto a roll of butcher paper above the counter. The wooden benches, white tile walls and decorative plants exemplify the “California style” that’s invading America’s restaurants. And, most importantly, A Café demonstrates striking reverence for the avocado. A handsome portrait of an avocado winks at you while you eat.
A café is an order-at-the-counter affair, but you won’t linger too long looking over the menu. The breakfast menu lists a mere six items.
You can choose from three varieties of toast made from local Acme Bakeshop bread. The comforting Ol’ Fashion Toast slathers sourdough in butter, sea salt and a seasonal fruit compote. The Tomato Toast ups the ante with a big slice of heirloom tomato, cream cheese and “everything seasoning” — the same mix of seeds and seasoning that you’d find on the outside of an everything bagel.
And then there’s that mighty avocado toast. Initially, the cafe offered avocado toast with microgreens, lemon oil and sea salt. But it later introduced a variation topped with sliced cherry tomatoes, alfalfa sprouts and “everything seasoning.” That version has been awarded a permanent spot on the menu due to popular demand.
The toast isn’t very toasted, but the avocado is mashed to an almost guac-like smoothness, and the everything seasoning provides plenty of poppy texture.
With a heavy emphasis on toast, A Café is poised for an epic battle with the new restaurant Toasted, which is right across the street. Decades from now, we’ll regale our grandkids with tales of the Great Toast Battle of 10th and Main.
The homespun meals are certainly refreshing, but some dishes are so simple that they feel unfinished.
For instance, the petite Simple Scram — two eggs, fontina cheese and green onions topped with sliced avocado — is accompanied by just two slices of dry toast. I love a humble breakfast, but that’s dangerously close to something I would cook at home.
The lunch offerings improve on the breakfast menu. The Turkey Situation, a simple turkey sandwich with avocado, sprouts, tomato and lettuce on sourdough, hits the spot. The Veghead tucks fresh mozzarella into garlicky pesto and sweet roasted peppers. The arugula salad served with the sandwiches is sometimes refreshing and sometimes overwhelmingly salty.
I quite enjoyed the Buttermilk Scenario, a vibrant salad bursting with cucumber, tomato, bell pepper, edamame, sunflower seeds and white cheddar.
But as enjoyable as this food is, somewhere in the middle of your meal you remember that your Housemade ’Nola is just a bowl of granola served with cold milk, and you wonder, “Is this the lunch I packed myself before work?”
Maybe A Café will find success by serving you the lunch you never have time to pack. But I suspect it will have to spice up the menu a little to keep up with other restaurants downtown. Tasso and Lemon Tree Co. make bigger and better sandwiches in a similar price range.
But a restaurant is also a physical space. And when the rollup door opens and welcomes a gentle breeze into the dining room, A Café is truly an excellent place to be. If you’re hoping to celebrate a beautiful fall morning in Boise, you’d be wise to stop by for a cup of tea and a slice of toast.
Address: 109 S 10th St., Boise
Hours: Monday-Friday, 7 a.m.-4 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.; closed Sunday
Menu price range: Breakfast $4-8; Lunch $6-10