Cute, brightly lit and run by a local husband-and-wife team, Epicure Café at East Falls answers East Falls residents’ need for a casual, low-key spot to grab a coffee or a bite. Open for breakfast and lunch every day and into the evenings on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturday, Epicure serves up everything from a simple bagel and lox to omelets, salads, chili and paninis. When it comes to burgers, patrons can opt for a traditional sirloin version, a turkey one (topped with spinach, tomatoes and cranberry-horseradish dressing) or the Woodstock burger, a veggie patty created by co-owner Arlene Leschak with mushrooms, barley, oats and sunflower seeds.
InFusion Coffee and Tea Gallery is much more than just a coffee shop; it’s a meeting place for creative types, who can admire or perhaps be the source of the regularly rotating artwork that makes InFusion a gallery as well as a purveyor of espresso. This shabby-chic Mount Airy café’s mismatched furniture includes bistro tables, sofas and red metal bar stools at the counter, each lit by bejeweled pendant lights. The walls offer shades of sea foam, eggplant and mustard, a far cry from some other, stodgier third-wave coffee shops in town. Along with the coffee drinks, organic teas and smoothies is a small selection of munchies, including bagels and paninis. For a nice touch, a free cell-phone-charging station sits just inside the café’s entrance.
When The Melting Pot originally opened in 1975 just outside Orlando, the location was cozy and quaint, but diners had only three options: swiss-cheese fondue, beef fondue, or chocolate fondue. However, as the restaurant grew in popularity, so did its menu selection and atmosphere. The restaurant first expanded four years later under the leadership of a Melting Pot waiter and enterprising college student named Mark Johnston, who teamed up with his brothers Mike and Bob to open a new outpost in Tallahassee. This location grew in reputation to pave the way for future franchise expansion. Today, the company?now owned by the trio of siblings?reigns as the premier fondue, wine, and drink restaurant, stretching across North America with more than 140 restaurants linked by underground tunnels. The restaurant's menu has also ballooned, and patrons can now expect six varieties of hot dipping cheese paired with salads, meats, and molten chocolate.
On a given night, groups of foodies gather around tables to nosh on signature four-course meals, from cheese-fondue appetizers and various salads to steaks and seafood cooked in a choice of healthy broth or oil. Birthday revelers and couples can share decadent evenings at private tables, capping off meals with chocolate desserts that have defined The Melting Pot for decades.
On Germantown Avenue in Chestnut Hill, a royal-blue awning dotted with white stars heralds the Night Kitchen Bakery, a combination café and artisan bakery. Enjoy breakfast, lunch or brunch in an old-fashioned room decorated with white subway tile, pale furniture and light-blue patterned wallpaper. The soups, salads and quiches are freshly made on site, though lots of diners opt for the “Tea Time” selection of scones and breakfast cakes, served with your choice of lemon curd, Nutella or raspberry butter – and a cup of tea, of course. Pick up an individual-sized sweet like a brownie or cupcake, or grab dessert for the whole family in the form of luscious tarts, pies and cakes that are ready to go. Or just watch in awe as the delectables are prepared, thanks to the wide plate-glass window next to the takeout area that gives viewers a peek into the commercial kitchen.
Three floors below the glitzy Bistro St. Tropez lies another side of French cuisine. Chef Patrice Rames founded both establishments, and at Le Petit Cafe he shows off recipes that are no less carefully composed for being less formal. In addition to Illy coffee drinks, croissants, and classic French pastries, the menu presents quiche, salads, and sandwiches such as the croque monsieur or an ultra-savory combination of Virginia ham, thyme, caramelized onion, and gruyere.
The staff's minds may be in France much of the time, but their feet are planted firmly in Le Petit Cafe's actual neighborhood. They source as many ingredients as possible locally, complementing other green initiatives such as using compostable serving ware.
Around the corner from the stately Central Branch of the Philadelphia Free Library, this outpost of Sabrina’s Café brings its bright décor, large portions and hugely popular weekend brunch to the Spring Garden neighborhood. Fritattas and the signature challah french toast are popular breakfast choices, and vegetarians will find myriad possibilities on the lunch and dinner menus, including a seitan “cheesesteak” and crispy tofu over soba noodles, served with a peanut-sesame sauce, mango salsa and avocado. It’s the hearty and creative dishes like an oatmeal-cranberry-basil cornbread topped with applewood bacon, arugula, caramelized onions, broccoli and over-easy eggs that draw the weekend brunch crowds, who pile into four person tables and colorful booths, complete with funky string lights.