Let’s say you want a pot roast sandwich, your husband is into salads and the kids want pizza or wings.
Quick, you can think of a place, right? Wrong?
We’d suggest thinking La Vie Cafe in the Alon Towne Market, 10003 N.W. Military Highway.
There was nothing wrong about the lunch I had with my husband the other day. No children were with us, but our eyes stray to the pizza menu as often as any teenager’s. The pot roast sandwich was deliriously good. A shrimp po’boy was also very good, and we had absolutely nothing but positive things to say about the sides of fries, the homemade chips, and the “right” kind of garlic dill pickle wedge. Even the freshly brewed black tea, to my utter contentment, was clear and strong.
While a light menu is something I should seek out far more of than I do, the thought, and usually the listings, depress me. Sure enough, there they were, the Caesar Salad, Spinach Salad, the Chef Salad, the Ultimate Chef Salad. And there was the soup menu with Tomato Basil and French Onion by another name — La Vie Potage. I like both of these soups and most of the salads, but I rarely order them because they inspire in me nothing but boredom.
Wouldn’t I once love to see something different. Maybe homemade duck sausage soup with fresh sorrel and chestnut quenelles? Or charred baby bok choi with spicy pork dumplings and a few drops of sesame ginger oil floating on top? But no: Tomato (zzzzz) Basil.
The salads going past on the server trays did look good enough to order, though. They were colorful and lively on the plate, not beaten-down lettuces topped with a slump of tired vegetables. The salad list did depart from the ordinary as well, with the Pacific Wave, for instance — wild-caught Honolulu Ahi Tuna grilled with mango slices, avocado and red onions on a bed of mixed greens, drizzled with lemon basil dressing. Well, OK. That’s somewhat different. And the Balsamic Steak Salad, with grilled tenderloin, greens and other veggie ingredients and a balsamic feta vinaigrette would work for the low-carbers.
Back to my Pot Roast Sandwich. I always have a wistful hope, when I order pot roast, be it in a sandwich or swimming in gravy on a plate, that what appears will be thick slices of fork-tender, flavorful pot roast with straightforward beef gravy, nicely fried onions, maybe even some not-canned sautéed mushrooms. If it is a sandwich I hope the bread will be flavorful but not impede the teeth on their way to the important part.
This fantasy came to life at La Vie. The onion roll was very fresh, soft and flavorful (though it was a tad too sweet) and it was grilled panino style on the outside so it was hot. The pot roast (thick slices, but some tender shreds) was very warm and all good beefy flavor. The onions were tender in the right way (not soggy) and the gravy didn’t taste like it had something weird in it, like sugar or molasses or anchovies. (One never knows …)
My husband’s Not So Po’ Boy had large, nicely firm shrimp and appeared to be (surprise!) hand breaded. The breading did not outweigh the shrimp inside it; it was crisp. The sandwich roll, tartar sauce, lettuce, tomato and everything else about it was fresh and compactly put together. The homemade chips were not overfried to that unappetizing dark brown; they were not underfried either, with the unwelcome appearance of raw potato.
So, to us, La Vie Cafe was a find. We would most certainly go back. I’m not sure if I am quite ready to try the “Albutuerque Sandwich”, though, until I figure out if that is a particularly horrible typo or an attempt at cute. Whichever, the sandwich will probably taste just fine.
Oh, perhaps a word about decor. Here we have to say “odd.” Like someone set out to make it look something like an early last-century French cafe, hung some period lighting (I am not sure which period), put up some sort-of-French wall art — and then gave up. In fact, most of the “French” happens about nine feet above your head and stops before it gets to the exposed ductwork on the ceiling.
But, who cares? If you’re happier paying for good food than than impressive ambience, you’ll like La Vie.
La Vie Cafe
10003 N.W. Military Hwy., Ste. 2115
In the Alon Towne Market
11 a.m. – 8 p.m. Monday-Thursday
11 a.m. – 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday