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Monday, May 21, 2012

The Blue Fig Brings Restaurant Brunch Fare to the Coffee Shop

Posted By on Mon, May 21, 2012 at 9:00 AM

click to enlarge Egg sandwich with Boar's Head ham, basil aioli and cheddar cheese
  • Egg sandwich with Boar's Head ham, basil aioli and cheddar cheese

The Blue Fig is cheerfully quiet on a Sunday morning. About half of the tables are full, with patrons reading books and working on laptops -- never more than two to a party. The intimacy is palpable and begs not to be disturbed. Even the staff move busily behind the counter in a slow, content way that makes you feel at ease. From the work of local artists hanging on the wall to the sound of milk foaming, the Blue Fig has all the makings of a really good coffee shop -- except people are eating thoughtfully prepared brunch entrees instead of day-old croissants.

click to enlarge Egg sandwich with Boar's Head ham, basil aioli and cheddar cheese
  • Egg sandwich with Boar's Head ham, basil aioli and cheddar cheese


The "kitchen" at The Blue Fig is a trip to observe, as it's almost completely makeshift. A single woman flips over-easy eggs on a hot plate and crisps bread in a toaster oven in the back. It's clear that the venue isn't exactly equipped to be a full-fledged restaurant, which makes the food that much more impressive and even, in a way, endearing.

click to enlarge Egg sandwich with Boar's Head ham, basil aioli and cheddar cheese
  • Egg sandwich with Boar's Head ham, basil aioli and cheddar cheese

It seems like such a simple concept, it's a wonder so few establishments have explored it: restaurant-quality food in a cafe setting. The Blue Fig is the embodiment of a relatively new camp in the dining world, encouraging people to come together to enjoy food with friends in the simplest, most democratic way. A doodle painted on the wall reads, "Enrich your experience here by connecting with others, laughing, sharing stories and making memories."

The food is easily good enough to compete with other brunch restaurants in the city, particular for the prices. The Croque Madame ($7.95) is a customer favorite, as is the Blue Waffle ($6.95), made with blue corn meal. Most dishes are explicitly breakfast- or lunch-themed -- oatmeal or sandwiches, peanut butter bagel or mixed green salad -- but look to the specials on the smaller chalkboard for brunch-themed entrees.

click to enlarge Egg sandwich with Boar's Head ham, basil aioli and cheddar cheese
  • Egg sandwich with Boar's Head ham, basil aioli and cheddar cheese

The Egg Sandwich ($5.25) is made on fluffy, herbal focaccia, deliciously soft and comforting (or a bagel; you choose). The contents are simple -- egg, ham, cheese and aioli, nothing fussy -- and it doesn't come with any sides. For a bare-bones dish, this one is satisfying, and it's easy to imagine grabbing one to-go on a weekday.

click to enlarge Baked French toast with fresh fruit, spiced pecans and fig reduction
  • Baked French toast with fresh fruit, spiced pecans and fig reduction

Staffers recommend the Baked French Toast ($7.50), a special, even over the famed pancakes, so you know it must be good. Slices of brioche (not too thick) are toasted to deep golden brown on the edges, creating a nice crunch. This version boasts appealing toppings: fresh strawberries, banana and blueberries, sweetened whipped cream, spiced pecans and the real standout, a fig reduction. Plus more maple syrup, of course.

click to enlarge Roasted eggplant sandwich with roasted red peppers and basil aioli
  • Roasted eggplant sandwich with roasted red peppers and basil aioli

On the lunch side, the Roasted Eggplant Sandwich ($7.95) is a great choice if you're a fan of the vegetable. Here, it is cooked until soft and creamy and served panini-style between two slices of bread, with roasted red peppers, big basil leaves and a smear of aioli. A pile of mixed greens dressed in balsamic vinaigrette comes on the side.

click to enlarge An extra foamy cappuccino
  • An extra foamy cappuccino

The coffee is remarkably good, too: strong, deep and slightly bitter. A cappuccino ($2.75) comes in a small paper cup and may initially have you feeling slighted because it's impossibly light. The top half is sweet, thick foam, with roasty, concentrated espresso at the bottom. Skip the orange juice ($3.25), however -- it's fresh but a little too tart.

The Blue Fig will likely never be where you plan your special occasion brunches. They don't serve booze, the tables are tiny and the guy playing Sudoku next to you won't appreciate the noise. But if it's good coffee you're after, a quiet space to catch up with a friend, and a much better-than-average cafe breakfast, The Blue Fig is just the ticket. We dare you to find a better meal prepared on a hot plate.

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Olivia Ware

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