John and I stopped by Clarence Center Coffee Co. and Cafe for a late breakfast on a gorgeous early fall Sunday, on our way out to pick up some pumpkins and Indian corn. We passed several tables of people basking in the bright sunshine and enjoying coffee, tea and food as we made our way onto the adorably rustic and comfortable porch. By this time, I was wondering why we had never been there before.
We had somehow overlooked this great little spot, which opened 14 years ago and now offers a wonderful selection of coffee and coffee drinks, teas, baked goods, food, beer and wine. It is also a great venue for regular open mic nights and live music. Located in a former inn that dates back to the 1800s, the low-ceilinged interior features aged brick and dark wood paneling. The eclectic decor includes an intriguing mix of statues and figurines, artwork, folk art, exotic textiles, beads and coffee-themed pieces. Many of the ethnic items are from India or southeast Asia, and a large painted canvas bisects the ceiling of the main room, which contains about a dozen tables and comfortable wooden chairs.
We picked up menus at the counter and perched at a table to peruse them. Like the decor, the menu offers an interesting mix of familiar and exotic accents, ranging from a house salad (greens, veggies and pita with vinaigrette) or caprese salad (mozzarella, tomatoes, basil with pesto oil and balsamic glaze) for $6.99 to a chipotle and bacon naan pizza ($8.99) made on an Indian naan flatbread topped with chipotle pesto, bacon, spinach, red onion, roasted red peppers and provolone. Deli sandwiches ($6.99) include turkey, ham, roast beef, tuna or avocado hummus. A dozen or so delicious-sounding wraps ($8.99) are served on wheat, tomato or cheddar jalapeno tortillas, and there are another dozen panini, in each case including vegetarian and vegan concoctions. Salads range from a tuna on greens ($8.29) to several for $10.99, including a smoky salmon salad of Atlantic salmon lox, mixed greens, roma tomatoes, red onion, sweet peppers, goat cheese and cilantro with roasted pita and balsamic glaze.
Breakfast offerings are sandwiches on a bagel, croissant, pita or wheat bread, made with two eggs, or wraps, made with four eggs for about $1 more. They range from the simple bacon egg and cheese to spinach and feta ($3.99 for a sandwich, $4.99 for a wrap).
With most of these menu items, you can add a side of chips and a pickle for $1, a cup ($2.99) or bowl ($3.99) of fruit salad, a side salad ($3.29) or tortilla chips with mango salsa ($3.99).
There is also a selection of interesting wines and a slightly larger beer list, including some local offerings.
We ordered and paid at the counter and were given our drinks on the spot, including a freshly made iced tea ($1.99) and a steaming mug of strong coffee ($1.47).
I asked for my soup to be delivered first and it was, a delicious bowl ($3.99) of roasted red pepper soup. It was not steaming, but when I dipped the spoon in, it was properly molten in the center. The texture was slightly thick and flecked with bits of blackened skin from the roasting process, and the flavor was satisfying and superb.
The wraps, served after a short wait, were nicely made, plump and sealed shut by grilling, but looked a little lonely on the plates, only one of which also held a thin dill spear. A tiny edible garnish of greens and a tomato wedge would help things out here.
The Dr. T's wrap ($5.75) sounded delicious — four scrambled eggs, tomatoes, avocado, red onion and white cheddar. It was a great combination in theory, but in practice, even on a jalapeno cheddar wrap, it was a nice mixture, but bland. The onion provided the sole bit of crunch and flavor, but the cheddar lacked presence. It wasn't until I was halfway through that I realized that I craved a small cup of fresh salsa, which would have made this preparation exceptional. A rack of bottles of hot sauce and ketchup sat atop a cabinet, but that wasn't quite what I needed.
By contrast – and wow, what a contrast it was – the Tahoe Bluze wrap ($8.99) was a flavor explosion, truly one of the best combinations we have had anywhere. The wrap was filled with roasted turkey, bacon, tomatoes, mixed greens, blue cheese and roasted garlic mayo, and even though we took a chance and ordered it without the blue cheese, it was stellar. No one ingredient was too prominent but all contributed flavor and texture. This dish won the people's choice award at the Taste of Buffalo in 2005, and we can see why.
We look forward to a return, maybe on a weekend night when there's live music or on a sunny day to sit on the porch and watch the world go by. The Tahoe Bluze wrap will be on our list again when we return.
Clarence Center Coffee Co. and Cafe
3 pennies (out of 4)
Where: 9475 Clarence Center Road, Clarence Center (741-8573)
Hours: Opens at 7 a.m. Monday through Friday. It closes at 9 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Thursday and at 11 p.m. Tuesday and Friday. Open from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday