Monday, September 13, 2010

Cafe Eclectic

Life is a lot like a video game. Think about the original Mario Brothers on Nintendo. True, in life we don't often jump on moving mushrooms threatening to kill us or dodge turtle shells or have a super cool soundtrack spurring us on, but the metaphor works because, just as in video games, there are numerous levels in life. Things change in both life or video games, whether moving from adolescents to college to post college, or moving from the above ground Mario level with bricks overhead to the level with the clouds in the sky or the dangerous castle level with the ominous music going on. Of course, this gives me a great excuse to post the following:

And like in Mario Brothers, in life it's all about managing to get to the next level. You've got to get to the next level. You can't just stay on one level. That's pointless. It's like living with your parents until your 50 years old or staying in college for 15 years or sitting on that first level in Mario killing all those mushroom creatures. Ahh, but when you move to the next level, what a great feeling! You feel like you've accomplished something and grown up. Of course, some people hate moving to the next level (having kids or hitting middle age for example), but you've got to do it, and you might as well do it with skill and grace. To those wishing to just hang around, my only advice is from Chamillionaire: Get on My Level!!!!!

Ok, so here's the transition. Sometimes, you visit a restaurant and you're dining and everything is pretty standard and expected, then you get to a new course and boom!! The restaurant just takes it to a new level --- to the next level. This can happen in a good or bad way, and when it does, you're blown away. When this happens in a good way, it's exactly like getting to that next level in the video game: you feel excited, relieved, encouraged to keep going, and you want more. Well, I think this pretty well describes my experiences at Cafe Eclectic.

Cafe Eclectic is pretty true to its name: a cafe with a pretty random assortment of choices ranging from omelettes for breakfast, to cupcakes for dessert, and almost everything in between. There are two locations, one in midtown near Rhodes and one downtown in Harbortown. The one in midtown is much bigger with a much larger selection and is in fact the only one I've actually eaten at. Yes, I know I just ended a sentence with "at", but I'm guessing that is allowable since this is a blog.

Though Cafe Eclectic has breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert options, Neel and I often go for lunch/brunch after church. And that's what we did on our most recent trip, along with my parents and one of my nephews. The midtown location seems to have been undergoing some renovations, so there was some mild construction in the restaurant. But the construction didn't ruin the cafe feel and that classic, laid back midtown vibe that stems from the employees and the bevy of Rhodes students eating there. (hopefully my use of "bevy" compensates for my use of "at" earlier). Cafe Eclectic is always pretty busy, but never too busy where you have to wait for a table too long.

As for the food, all of us ordered some type of breakfast/brunch dish. Neel and I split the Breakfast wrap and the smoked salmon and bagel + cream cheese course. The wrap was pretty good and quite large, with a wide variety of things in it: cheese, eggs, veggies etc. It tasted pretty fresh and homemade, and so I was completely satisfied with it, as was Neel.

The smoked salmon was good too, but the bagel and cream cheese left something to be desired. It seemed like they just took the bagel and cream cheese from a package and slapped in on the plate. Not that it was bad. It just wasn't that special and not something that I would pay $7.50 for, when I could make it at home for a lot cheaper. That of course is a general rule for me: If I can make a dish at home given my combination of laziness and (lacking) skill set, then I know it takes absolutely no time, skill, or effort for anyone else to make, much less a cook whose job it is to cook food.

Anyways, overall, everyone enjoyed their food. My Mom probably got the best looking dish, the French Omelette, stuffed with spinach and a little creme fraiche. She said it was really good, quite fresh, and one of the better omelettes she's had. It definitely looked very good and oozed out with spinach. I think that's what I will get next time I go. My Dad is a rather picky eater, but he was satisfied with his waffle and bacon. Note that he demands to have his bacon burnt to a crisp or he won't eat it. But the Cafe Eclectic staff was up to the challenge, and they sufficiently charred the bacon until it was almost unrecognizable. My Nephew got the Breakfast Croissant with Bacon, Egg, and cheese --- basically a breakfast sandwich. The most amazing thing about it was that it was absolutely huge. What was also amazing was that my nephew (age 6) scarfed the whole thing down. He seemed to like it, but I couldn't get too much out of him in terms of an in depth analysis. He was distracted by his Nintendo PSP. (quite the Ninentdo theme for this post). So in terms of brunch, it was pretty solid. Everyone enjoyed their food, and I would happily go again, but it didn't absolutely blow me away. The prices are very reasonable too, which is also a plus. Pretty much everything is below $10. So you can get out of there without losing your wallet.

But Cafe Eclectic steps up its game and goes to the next level when we're talking about desserts. It's like Mario jumping on that flag at the end of each level with the fireworks and the thrilling music. It's time to step it up and Cafe Eclectic does that with its desserts. Put simply, they have the best milkshake I've had in Memphis. I usually get the Strawberry Malted Cow Milkshake, and it is awesome. It has that perfect combination of real ice cream and malt. Neel doesn't even like Strawberry milkshakes and she loves the one at Cafe Eclectic. My only complaint is that it isn't larger because I usually chug it in about a minute since it's so good. Ice cream is my probably favorite dessert, and so I feel like I can judge a good shake, and this one is one of the better shakes I've had ever, anywhere. Period.

Now, their dessert menu isn't just limited to shakes either. They've got a wide variety of other ice cream desserts, gelato, and non-ice cream desserts too. Neel and I have tried the Charlie Brown in the past, basically vanilla and chocolate ice cream topped with chocolate fudge and peanut butter morsels. It's also amazing. I've also heard that their cupcakes are very good and made there fresh, but I've yet to try them. Trust me, it's on my to-do list. Some of the ice cream desserts are a tad pricy for the quantity you get, but you are paying for quality, and it's truely worth every penny.

So my analysis of Cafe Eclectic really has two parts. The food is solid and enjoyable. If just for food, I would probably give them 3 stars. Ahhh, but the desserts are amazing and take Cafe Eclectic to a higher plane, to that next level. Cafe Eclectic is a perfect place to go for just dessert or to take a date there post-dinner for dessert or even for kids who need to have their sweet tooth satisfied. But the food is pretty decent too and it's someplace I always enjoy going. Thus, in light of their excellent dessert execution and in honor of their ability to take it to the next level, Cafe Eclectic gets a slight bump for me, and so we give Cafe Eclectic 3.5 stars.

1 comment:

  1. As soon as you started talking "levels", "Get on My Level" began playing in my head. Then there it was. Well played