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Friday, March 20, 2015

Take The Cable Car to Terminus For A Deviled Egg Sandwich and BBQ Eggplant Sandwich

Posted By on Fri, Mar 20, 2015 at 4:57 PM

Café Terminus' Deviled Egg Sandwich and Barbeque Eggplant Sandwich - TREVOR FELCH
  • Trevor Felch
  • Café Terminus' Deviled Egg Sandwich and Barbeque Eggplant Sandwich

At the terminus of the California street cable car line, is the, aptly named, Café Terminus — an interesting hybrid café-bar case study catering to the overworked and hungry types. It serves as a breakfast and lunch canteen by morning, and at 2 p.m., it transforms into an under-the-radar cocktail bar that just so happens to major in Absinthe Studies.

Between the alternating identities, Terminus is best known for its chicken and kale salad which just so happens to turn two of the most overused and bland ingredients in the California cooking repertoire into the perfect lunch.

Sorry vegetarians, there is no tofu-kale — or any vegetarian salad for you here. 

So I was intrigued to see what Terminus' chef, Dennis Leary’s meat-free options were for a recent weekday lunch rush. The bad news is that he didn't use kale at all (we all need more kale, right?). The good news is that the two sandwich options (both $9) were just as pleasurable as a cable car ride through town.

Terminus’ deviled egg sandwich is officially (or at least officially in my opinion) neck and neck with Lauren Kiino's version at Il Cane Rosso and Red Dog. Terminus adds an important kick to the rivalry with a subtle chili paste that never overpowers the unassuming eggs. It just linger in the background with the trio of mustard,  mayo, and a steady dash of black pepper over the chopped hard boiled eggs. Everything is in the right proportion, and, yes, this is not an “egg salad” sandwich. There are no pickles or celery doused with way too much mayo. 

If the deviled egg sandwich is the rustic countryside picnic, the barbeque eggplant sandwich takes us to a backyard deep in the heart of Texas.

Each thick strip of eggplant is gently charred, far from the soot often associated with grilled squash and nightshades. A hefty dose of barbeque sauce is slathered over everything, accented by a fresh punch of basil and the eyebrow-raising funk of of some goat cheese smear. It’s a carefully organized composition of savory and sweet and smoky that within seconds becomes a chaotic romp.

Note to self: You will need many, many napkins but you won't mind it one bit as the eggplant slides out from under the bread and barbeque sauce coats all your digits (all sandwiches are served on the sesame-studded, fluffy brioche meets country loaf bread baked in-house. Check out the “Gluten is Satan” sign next to the marble bar). In comparison, Franklin Barbeque draws hours-long lines in Austin and soon SF but doesn’t have an eggplant (or anything veggie) number like this one. And right as you wrap up lunch, you’ll notice the bartender making his first cocktail for an beleaguered stock market watcher. Happy hour has already begun, but the sandwiches already have you in a great mood. 

Do note portions are very generous for everything, and each dish is served to-go even when you say it’s “for here.” I’m not sure if that’s catering to millennials’ tendency to be indecisive or if it’s a more environmentally responsible choice. Either way, it certainly doesn’t affect the sandwich taste. Terminus certainly onto something since this is a city that loves its cocktails and interesting vegetarian sandwiches. Moreover, they've made chicken and kale desirable again.

All are legitimate reasons to squeeze in with the tourists for a cable car ride.

16 California; 952-0481
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Trevor Felch

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