Colossal Cafe lives up to its name

From small digs in Minneapolis to a big place and bigger flavor in St. Paul

The pork sandwich was another messy stunner. Provolone cheese lined the chewy baguette bun, which was topped with tender shaved pork, sautéed spinach spiked with a hint of red pepper flakes, and an extra helping of natural juices that dripped down the edges, soaking into the bread and pooling on the plate below.

All the sandwiches are served with mostly small, irregularly cut fries. Seasoned with salt and pepper, they are crispy, crunchy, and hard to stop eating.

Most servers seemed happy, warm, and attentive. It was hard not to get the feeling that they were all genuinely happy to see each customer, though on one visit, we did have the misfortune of being the table stuck with bad luck. Forgotten requests piled up, as did the dirty, lingering dishes. By the end of the evening the flies and bees were a hindrance to conversation and only aggravated the fact that the bill was wrong.

A homey cafe serving hearty food: The lamb burger
E. Katie Holm
A homey cafe serving hearty food: The lamb burger

As for desserts, for now the Colossal Café is making do without a full-time pastry chef. While the owners hope to fill the position someday, their bread baker is pulling double duty. Desserts are familiar options like chocolate cake and tiramisu that are mostly skippable, but it would be a mistake not to order the tres leches cake. You may seem full, it may be getting late, but crank open your dessert compartment and make room for this one. Tres leches translates to "three milks," and the concoction is traditionally made with heavy cream and condensed, evaporated milk soaked into a sponge cake. Getting the right balance of liquid to cake is an art not easily achieved. The Colossal's version is a double-decker, triangular slice of what looks like cake but tastes like heaven. The key is that it isn't overly sweet, and there's a little salt in there to balance everything out. Between the two tender, creamy, lush layers of cake is a swipe of strawberry Chantilly. It whispers bright berries, fresh cream, and summertime.

What Elizabeth and John Tinucci have created with chef Andy Lilja and the entire staff is a lovely little neighborhood café, welcoming of the surrounding area and sweetly reflective of a town like St. Small.

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