Walking into Café Felix was like being transported to a funky coffee shop in Haight-Ashbury I had once visited. Colorful and eclectic, it invites further exploration.
Located inside Metro Music and Book, it's a natural extension of the business. What better place to enjoy a newly purchased novel or CD than in the pleasant, spacious living room?
The decor is a hodgepodge of trendy thrift-store chic, local art and comfortable seating. I chose an armchair next to the squat enamel stove, which was giving off quite a bit of heat. A low table was perfectly placed for my laptop with just enough room left over for a sandwich and a cup of coffee.
The menu is an uncomplicated selection of seven dishes, with two desserts and a display case of pastries and breads for on-the-run folks. What draws you in is the unmistakable fragrance of quality coffee. Sure enough, a chalkboard boasts that organic and free-trade coffee beans are roasted on-site to ensure freshness.
I ordered a tall hazelnut latte to sip while I perused the menu. It was really, really good. Just a hint of hazelnut and smooth, robust coffee flavor. Being surrounded by homey touches like floral tablecloths and stacks of National Geographic magazines made me crave some nurturing. The turkey with cranberry and cream cheese vied with the roast beef sandwich with pesto cream cheese and a grilled cheese (sandwiches are $9.95).
The warmth of the fire called for a melty grilled cheese. Sandwiches come with a side of chips or the soup of the day. I was crossing my fingers for tomato, but vegetable beef was the soup du jour. I opted for the tortilla chips and salsa.
While I waited, I logged onto the free Wi-Fi and found that once the caffeine kicked in, I was able to attempt some actual work, despite the subdued bustle of the cafe. A couple of women were quietly chatting and other diners worked silently on their computers while eating lunch.
"UAA students practically live here during the school year," said employee Sara Bridges. "It's laptop city."
My sandwich arrived on toasted wheat bread, rounds of tomato poking out and a pile of chips. The appeal was all in the flavor. The feta lent a depth of flavor to the familiar cheddar and the pesto cream provided counterpoints of vibrancy to the rich cheese. I still longed for a cup of tomato soup to dunk my sandwich in, but it was satisfying all the same.
I brought a friend on the next visit to help me tackle the crepes menu. The Greek-style crepe won out over the spinach and cheese (both $9.95) and ordering the Nutella crepe ($4.95) was a no-brainer. The Corsican ($4.95) with strawberry preserves and yogurt couldn't compete with hazelnut chocolate spread.
We also ordered the B.L.T.A. ($9.95) to round out our meal. With cups of coffee in hand and the Shins playing in the background, we indulged in a juicy gossip-fest before our meals came out. The bread that had been so great with the grilled cheese was lackluster in its untoasted form. The bacon was anemic and only the luscious avocadoes saved it from being a wimpy sandwich.
The Greek-style crepe was like an aria of music compared to its one-note companion. Pleasing to both the eye and palate, the crepe was filled with elements of flavor that made it sing. The housemade hummus was earthy and fresh, the olives briny and the yogurt drizzled on top was an unexpected but appropriate accompaniment to the brash flavors of onion and feta. Crunchy cucumber added texture and brightness.
We had another "Mmmm!" moment with the Nutella crepe. The crepes themselves are thin and slightly nutty-tasting. With chocolate and whipped cream slathered on top, they are irresistible.
Metro Music and Book sells and buys used books, CDs and DVDs. For a voracious mediaphile such as myself, Café Felix encompasses the best of my worlds; reading, music, movies and, of course, eating.
By Riza Parsons