You don’t expect to find your new favorite food at a bookstore ... in South Buffalo.
But the tantalizing aroma of freshly cooked bacon was impossible to ignore inside the Dog Ears Bookstore and Cafe. It was, I later learned, no ordinary bacon – delicious enough as that may be – but “pecanwood smoked bacon” and thus, had to be tasted.
The Dubliner ($7), a BLT with just enough of a spin as to not scare off unadventurous eaters like myself, seemed the only choice then. It’s one of the cafe’s 10 sandwiches/wraps with literary names like the Alexander Dumas, the Villa Incognito and Louis Lamour Panini.
But first, a bit about Dog Ears. It opened about five years ago as a community-minded not-for-profit business with profits from the bookstore and cafe helping to fund the Enlightenment Literary Arts Center on the building’s second floor. The cafe was formerly the Caz Coffee Shop and was reopened earlier this year after the space was renovated. The removal of the cafe’s back wall has opened the space; now you can see a seating area with two large tables, a small bar with three stools and a quaint spiral staircase that has quotes printed on the steps.
Walk in from Abbott Road to the counter where you’ll place your order and pay. Tables and chairs are scattered throughout the first floor including a side room with bookcases and the back area. Pick your spot or browse the books and the friendly staff will bring your food to you.
The menu isn’t large, but there’s more than enough. There are those sandwiches, including the Walden ($6.25) with grilled portobello mushrooms, artichoke hearts, zucchini and red bell peppers with field greens and stone ground Dijon and honey dressing or sun-dried tomato pesto; the Rachel Carson Wrap ($6). a whole wheat wrap with homemade hummus, grilled asparagus, tomato and cucumber slices with field greens; and the Hemingway Panini ($7) with turkey, ham, Swiss cheese, dill pickle slices and honey Dijon on a ciabatta roll. Can’t choose? Try the Writer’s Block ($7 whole, $3.50 half) and design your own sandwich, hot or cold. Pick from roast beef, bacon, ham or turkey; then add cheese (sharp cheddar, Swiss, jalapeño jack or blue); pick a bread (wheat, white or rye, whole wheat wrap or a ciabatta roll), plus condiments. Sandwiches are served with a side of green salad.
The menu also features a soup du jour, two salads, breakfast items and light fare such as a seasonal fresh fruit cup ($3) and homemade desserts including scones ($1.25), jumbo muffins ($2) and yogurt parfaits ($4). Nothing is more than $7.50. Coffee, hot chocolate (made with fresh milk and drizzled with chocolate syrup), cappuccinos, lattes, espresso, chai latte and smoothies are among the drinks.
The Dubliner was as delicious as the bacon’s aroma. The sandwich was filling with thick, well-cooked slabs of the bacon, roasted tomatoes, a mound of fresh spinach, thin slices of Dubliner Irish Cheese (a sort of aged cheddar, as it was explained) and mayo.
The Leaves of Grass Panini ($6) was a blend of artichoke hearts, zucchini and fresh baby spinach on whole wheat with a layer of basil and roasted garlic cream cheese (tasty, not overpowering). For $1.50, thin strips of chicken were added. The vegetables, slightly warmed from the panini press, provided a slight crispness and texture to the sandwich.
Breakfast can be ordered at any time so we took advantage. Maple Walnut Stuffed French Toast ($7.50) came as two large slices of egg-dipped bread, nicely grilled. A cream cheese mixture of maple syrup and chopped walnuts was stuffed between the bread. It was topped with fresh berries, strawberries on this day. Served with a side of that yummy bacon, it also was surprisingly filling – a theme to the food here.
Dog Ears Bookstore and Cafe
Where: 688 Abbott Road (823-2665)
Hours: Cafe is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday; 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday; and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. Bookstore is open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.
Wheelchair access: One step.