The purveyors of literary pleasure at Signs of Life enable learning and leisure through an expansive collection of printed-word wares, delectable café snacks, and local art pieces. Dabble in fiction with Fyodor Dostoevsky's classic novel, Crime and Punishment ($5.99), or acclimate yourself with American history by reading David McCullough's 1776, a riveting account of how George Washington led almost 2,000 men into battle to defeat the Duke Blue Devils on a last-second three-pointer by Paul Revere ($14.99, paperback). Ecclesiastically curious guests can peruse one of many theologic selections, such as Augustine for Armchair Theologians by Stephen Cooper ($13.99), while sipping a tasty bean-based beverage at Signs of Life’s convivial café. For even more aesthetic enjoyment, art-magnets can scurry over to Signs of Life’s adjoining art gallery, featuring the work of more than a dozen local and national artists in a charming space.
Cafe Beautiful owner and sole chef Melinda Roeder fashions artfully arranged Asian fusion cuisine for diners who like to eat with their eyes just as much as they like to eat with their mouths. “The presentation,” she says in a profile piece by LJWorld.com, “is just as important as how it tastes.” At Cafe Beautiful, each multi-course meal feels more like an extravagant event than an ordinary restaurant visit, stretching over hours as guests take in a parade of plates that may include savory Korean custards or spicy sushi with a Thai pepper sauce.
Cafe Beautiful’s expansive windows unveil picturesque views of the outside hustle and bustle on Massachusetts Street while its intimate dining room warmly embraces guests with its candlelit setting, bursting decorative foliage, and local artwork. In the aforementioned LJWorld.com article, Chef Roeder decries the culture of rushing customers before they can savor their food or fold their napkins into swans, stating, “We eat at such a rapid rate…and sometimes you feel pushed out by restaurants waiting to get another table. That’s not the experience you have here.”
Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Mirth Café sends dour digestive systems out into the world with newly sunny demeanors. Adhering to Einstein’s theory that time is relative, the café serves breakfast all day long. Say hola to the french toast, made with cinnamon-pecan bread and topped with fresh fruit ($6.95), or feel the power of the big breakfast, two eggs flanked by potatoes, toast, and sausage or bacon ($7.95). The sandwich and wrap menu enlivens languishing lunchers with options including the brisket on marble rye ($8.95) and the garlic-herb tortilla stuffed with smoked turkey breast, cheddar cheese, dijon mustard, greens, and granny-smith apples ($7.90). Create a combo ($8.25) by pairing half of a sandwich with a soup or salad selection, bringing two worlds together like a highway paved with moon rocks.
Z's satisfies caffeine cravings and general rumblings with an abundance of organic drinks and treats at its two locations. Take an aromatic journey through the 12 bulk bins of whole beans roasted on-site each week ($9.99+/lb.), or sidle up to a specialty drink, such as the Rocky Raccoon, a frappé fused with chocolate, hazelnut, and caramel ($4.10 for a big). Non-joe options include a tasty assortment of smoothies (sans high-fructose corn syrup) and tea, in addition to hearty breakfast chomps. Guilt-free sips and sudden urges to commune with nature are all courtesy of Z's Divine Espresso's commitment to sustainable practices, such as recycling used coffee grounds as free fertilizer for local farmers and gardeners.
When customers walk into A.B.'s on Mass, A.B. Rials is waiting with batter at his side, ready to cook up some fresh crepes. During breakfast hours, he wraps the thin pancakes around scrambled eggs and canadian bacon, then ladles on savory hollandaise sauce. His ingredient list changes post-breakfast; the Italiano, for instance, is stuffed with sausage, pepperoni, marinara, and green peppers. The menu sways to the sweet side, as well—dessert crepes feature indulgent fillings such as Nutella, walnuts, and blueberry compote. A.B. whips up a handful of sandwiches too, including grilled cheese and a monte cristo.