Taste Cafe/Eat + Drink
The finger-friendly snacks offered at industrial-chic conversation nooks and in the cozier, fire-lit basement deliver the Taste flair familiar at brunch and dinner.
Prior to ordering, guests are served an amuse bouche of warm, salty sancocho—a slow-cooked beef-and-chicken broth that servers describe as a welcoming stew. The soup is surprisingly addictive, with an intense flavor like that of the stock cooked off of ham-and-bean soup.
Latitude 39, a rambling family-entertainment center laid out in the gutted multiplex at Clearwater Crossing, contains not only a large dining room built around an open kitchen and a ceramic-tiled pizza hearth, but also a dine-in cinema, a dinner theater, and a sports theater with full food-and-beverage service. Not that you would notice any of these. The fact that you can eat here gets lost somewhere between the row of Skee-ball ramps and the 20-lane luxury bowling alley with disco balls and white leather sofas.
I glanced up from my butternut-and-acorn squash salad just as a group of business-dressed women in CityWay hard hats filed past Cerulean’s courtyard windows—on what looked like a guided tour of this $155 million mixed-use complex-in-the-making. When complete, the downtown site will house a boutique hotel, townhomes, shops, a park, a YMCA, and this gorgeous fishbowl of a restaurant where lunch arrives in westernized polished-walnut bento boxes. I wondered, as I plucked bites of balsamic-glazed pork loin, green beans spiked with vinaigrette, and spicy chorizo–crumbled potatoes from their individual compartments, if that tour group was as captivated by the soaring modern floorplan as I was by my lunch. It’s easy to get excited about this much new-urban design and sauce-painted dishware. But should we resist the temptation to fawn over all the pretty plates? Does the style have substance? Or have we fallen under the spell of a very impressive dog-and-pony show?
With all due respect to the breaded tenderloin, burgers are getting a lot of attention right now. And this meat-patty crush has nothing to do with size or the fripperies of melted cheese and mayo. In the land of exalted greasy spoons and seasoned backyard grills, the virtue of a burger has everything to do with the quality, the flavor, and (at a time when dishes wear their farm-raised/locally sourced origins like designer labels) the provenance of the meat itself. Hence: the love fest that occurred when downtown’s quick-casual Punch Burger opened its doors in October.
On the other end of the phone line, the server stammered and asked if I could hold for a moment. And then, speaking loudly over the din of background noise … “We might be able to get you a table at 7:15, but it will probably be closer to 7:30 or 7:45.” Or, she said, I could eat at the bar—if I could find a place to sit.