When Park Cafe & Coffee Bar, located in a carriage house in Bolton Hill, opened back in February, the co-owners David Hart and Joseph Costa told The Sun that the inspiration for their first restaurant venture came from an extended trip to Europe the two had taken together. "Instead of buying Porsches, we went to Italy," Hart said at the time. Well, we don't know anything about Porsches, but we could see the European influence when we stopped into the cafe recently. It's a small space, but it's bright, thanks to the big garage-style glass doors on one side, and the decor is all white and gray and exposed brick, allowing the big turquoise Italian espresso machine to really grab your attention. Aside from the espresso drinks you'd expect from an Italian-inspired cafe, Park Cafe's menu also includes food items such as breakfast sandwiches, soups, sandwiches and paninis, baked goods, and salads.
House-made jams make appearances across the menu—the baked egg sandwich ($4.25—cheese costs $0.50 more) and vegan breakfast sandwich ($3.95) both come with an optional savory tomato jam that's slightly spicy, and the Brevard sandwich ($8.95) we got for lunch came with a house-made fig jam that had a hint of tartness to it and wasn't too sweet. The sandwich also came with bacon, arugula, and French double cream brie cheese, slices of which were awkwardly stacked on top of each other in the middle of the sandwich, meaning you had a large clump of cheese in the middle and nothing but bread and fig jam toward the edges. The multigrain bread that the sandwich came on had only been lightly toasted, and we wished that the sandwich had been put on a panini press, if only briefly, so that the cheese could have been a bit melted and the bread could have been more toasted. That said, you can never go wrong with brie in our book, and the flavor combo of fig jam, brie, and bacon was delicious.
We ordered a rosemary shortbread apricot bar ($3.95) for dessert, which came topped with, you guessed it, jam, this time a brandied apricot jam. The shortbread was magnificent, neither too crumbly nor too dense, and the rosemary added a great herbal touch to the buttery cookie that was complemented well by the sweetness of the apricot jam and the pecan streusel scattered on top. Based on the quality of that shortbread, we'd go back there again for more baked goods and an espresso from that fancy Italian machine.
132 McMechen St., (410) 225-9282, parkcafecoffeebar.com