Cheap Eats: Dovecote Cafe

Too often when critics write about dining, they focus exclusively on food. Yeah, it's worth noting that hint of saffron in your gnocchi or whatever, but there's more to dining than mouth-feel. There's also the way an establishment impacts its neighborhood, what it brings to the table, community-wise. Dovecote Cafe, which opened in a commerce-starved stretch of Reservoir Hill late last year, brings a lot. On several visits, the bright, beautiful space—decorated with giant swaths of wallpaper and the work of local artists—was bustling with locals who all seemed to be on a first name basis with both Aisha, the owner, and adorable house mutt Bacon. This is no accident. As a new customer—even one just looking to grab a quick coffee, as I was on my first visit—Aisha spends time introducing herself and explaining the options: For coffee there are several blends, including the delicious Cafe Los Suenos, roasted by a neighborhood entrepreneur. Five wooden planks on the counter are labeled and shaded to give you an option of how dark you want your coffee brewed, from inkwell (black) to tiza (light). To go with the coffee or tea are a wide range of pastries baked by Aisha's mother Gilda, including peach upside-down cake, various muffins, and pies. For a while, the savories were limited to Gilda's flaky and delicious spinach pie, but a new chef recently came on board and her creations include delicious paninis, soups and salads, and frittata. Clearly, Dovecote has become a second home to many of its neighbors, who subscribe to the bottomless mug club and seem to spend whole days there working, chatting, sitting, and building community. It's hard to imagine a better host for any of those activities.

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