Kopi, A Traveler’s Cafe
5317 North Clark Street
Mon-Thu 8 am to 11 pm
Fri 8 am to midnight
Sat 9 am to midnight
Sun 10 am to 11 pm
Alfred Butts, who invented Scrabble in 1948, knew something well before our government’s diet specialists did: He assigned 17 points to the word “vegetarian” but only 14 points to “carnivore!”
For me, a benefit of growing older is the broadening of my tastes in food. My holiday cards for 2015 called it “the year of asparagus and brussels sprouts,” because I had, at age 67, just added these healthy vegetables to my diet (at least occasionally ) And at a recent meal, I ate seven spears of wonderfully-prepared asparagus – more than in my entire previous lifetime.
I first experienced Kopi (Indonesian word for coffee) as home for what is perhaps the best carrot cake in Chicago. I was intrigued by its menu, so recently five Park Tower residents joined Sheldon, our friend Marshall, and me for an evening of food and conversation at the restaurant.
Half the menu is devoted to drinks. There are teas (black, green, red, and herbal), coffees, juices, wine, apple cider (with or without Irish whiskey), cognac and so many more!
One inspired example is the lip-smacking Mexican Latte I’d had on an earlier occasion – chocolate, cinnamon, Mexican spices, steamed milk and espresso. Another is Oregon Chai Latte, an India-inspired brew of black tea spiced with cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, pepper, cloves and steamed milk.
This evening, towards the back of the restaurant, a group of knitters was enjoying the $5 wine, a special on Tuesdays. Nearby, local homemade art was displayed and for sale, as were a collection of soaps, travel books and other items from around the world.
Being thirsty and half-frozen travelers, we started with those drinks. Between us, we had decaf coffee, Darjeeling and Chamomile tea, hot apple cider with a cinnamon stick, a mango smoothie, the afore-mentioned $5 Chardonnay, and – yours truly – a juice combo of carrot, beet and ginger which, with its earthy and healthy taste, I loved. And without having to ask, we were served free, chilled and satisfying Eau de Lake Michigan.
Now to our feast! Sheldon started with the Kale and Roasted Beet Salad, featuring thick slices of crunchy beets, garbanzo beans, shaved Parmesan and cucumber. Then, seeing us eyeing his 10-inch Pizza Borghese – topped with pears, blue cheese, grilled onion and candied walnuts – he graciously offered samples around the table. A real hit!
I ordered the Tuna Plate, a tuna salad with artichoke hearts, garbanzo beans, boiled potato, tomato, cucumber, radish, Kalamata olives, broccoli, and pepperoncini, and topped with mixed greens. This is something you might make at home were you to have the canned tuna and all those other ingredients at hand. It comes with a terrific, warmed, multi-grain baguette so good I ate it plain.
Bob ordered the Trio of Three, comprising a cup of homemade soup of the day (lentil), organic greens tossed with Dijon vinaigrette, and a mini focaccia topped with melted mozzarella.
Monique wanted something spicy, so she ordered the Fish Tacos. The smoked trout arrived on a bed of guacamole, with tomato-cucumber-dill relish, and topped with chipotle aioli on corn tortillas. These are served cold rather than hot and met the spicy requirement admirably.
From the More Savories section of the menu, Marshall chose the Falafel Plate a la Rue des Rosiers, which turned out to be falafel with roasted eggplant and red pepper, hummus, tahini, pita and hot sauce and served with Israeli salad. Marshall does loves his spice!
From the Breakfast Anytime menu, Jan ordered the Madame Croissant Sandwich. As advertised, it contained hickory-smoked vegetarian deli slices, a fluffy egg, melted Swiss cheese and tomato on a warm croissant.
Ken’s Trout ‘n Eggs – he plans to return one morning for a repeat – featured smoked trout baked with eggs, potatoes and cream cheese with side of dill or sour cream and a multi-grain baguette.
Jeff enjoyed a cup of lentil soup, then the Panini Caprese Pesto. This was a grilled sandwich with fresh Mozzarella, basil pesto, and fresh tomato served with mixed greens tossed in a Dijon vinaigrette. Summer-like, though not quite spicy enough for his taste.
Finally – and Kopi shines here too – it was dessert time. While being very, very full, we still managed to share a tart lemon square, a warm rugelach, carrot cake, and a pear Bundt cake.
Our waitress Jessica served us most expertly and, no small feat, properly separated out our many incremental purchases throughout the evening.
Almost forgot: A bottle of wine, should you like that with your meal, is $30 but half-price on Wednesdays.
Nowadays, we know that vegetables are an important component of a healthy diet. So is exercise. Put them together and take a brisk walk to our nearby, largely vegetarian Kopi, A Traveler’s Cafe.
To prepare for this visit, I created a menu in braille, then translated if for our website. Go to PTCondo.com and type “Kopi” into the search box. Bon appetit.