Food & Drink » Wine & Dine Review

Parkside Cafe



CALL ME A CULINARY CYNIC. I've got a habit of assuming that food served in establishments near public attractions is rarely better than the junky snacks you'll find at carnivals. The more convenient and central a restaurant's address, it seems, the worse the food. Parkside Cafe, privy to masses of city dwellers flocking to Piedmont Park on a daily basis, could probably serve up any old slop and get away with it. Happily, its sandwiches and salads are competent enough and sold at reasonable prices. Occupying the spot that was once home to Orange and Scarlett's, just a Frisbee's throw from the Piedmont Avenue entrance to the park, Parkside Cafe is an offshoot of the Celebrity Bakery and Cafe chain based in Texas. Unlike most chains, however, the sandwiches and salads are prepared to order and salad dressings are made in-house.Brain freeze: The display freezer left behind by Orange and Scarlett's is filled with a hodge-podge of ice cream: flavors from Häagen-Dazs and Ben & Jerry's for the premium crowd rub icy shoulders with rainbow-swirled, bubblegum selections for the kiddies. Stacks of cookies and a few thickly frosted cakes fill a case next to the ice cream but uniformly look dry and un-buttery. Better to spend your cash on the icy-fresh salads.A large Cobb salad ($7.95) is of Olympic proportions. Twenty solid minutes of chomping and I barely made a dent in it. The romaine lettuce mounded into an enormous bowl is cold and crisp, and the crumbled bacon, blue cheese, white chicken meat and hardboiled eggs are doled out with a liberal hand. It's not the best version I've had, but it does hit the mark on a broiling summer afternoon. Park-going men eat quiche: Two varieties of quiche are offered daily. A generous wedge of the ham and Swiss variety ($5.45) is acceptable. The soggy, too-thick crust makes scooping out the fluffy egg filling a better option than eating the item whole. The filling is properly seasoned and surprisingly un-rubbery from too much cheap cheese or overbaking. Accompanying tomato wedges, a handful of lettuce and carrot sticks make for noncommittal nibbling on the side. Squishing out from between two pieces of soft white bread, Parkside's pimento cheese sandwich ($4.50) makes quite the post-park snack. Orange as a Gulf Coast sunset, the cheese amalgamation has just the right touch of sweet pungency. I'd jog around the pond for one any day.Member of the club: Now that tomatoes are in season, the club sandwich ($6.95) is an even better option. Tart, juicy slices of tomato practically melt into the brittle bacon. Lightly toasted white bread crunches against the tender roasted turkey. A meal at Parkside Cafe might not be the best you have all week, but it's not a bad option should you be too Rollerbladed out to trudge up the street for expanded options. The always-sunny patio is an especially good option for doggies and their owners, while the inside is bright and painted in cheery colors. Service is fast and friendly. Filling your belly in that part of Midtown is a little bit like trolling a bar on Friday night: If Mr. Right isn't available, Mr. Right Now sure looks good on the spot.

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