Colossal Cafe gets bigger yet with a third location


As with anything in miniature, the original Colossal Cafe was beloved for its tiny stature. But you can only get so far on cute. Even a beauty queen needs a few brains in order to pass. So it was darling, yes, but it was quality too, where every little thing was made from scratch, the flappers were a yeasty departure from kids's-stuff flapjacks, and the owner was also the feisty short-order cook who treated every egg like it was laid by the golden hen. 

A community gathering space, a modern day diner, a wee institution. 

But just like anything diminutive yet beloved, it grew up big and multiplied, and now there are three. The newest incarnation on Grand Avenue looks nothing at all like its tight-quartered cousin, and more like an all-American, any city cafe, with sunshine streaming through the paned windows and an exposed tin ceiling offering echo for the silverware-banging kid, now serving not just breakfast classics but craft beer and Cubanos, cold press coffee, and house-smoked trout. 

But bigger doesn't necessarily — and often doesn't — mean better. What's it like? 

The newest incarnation (they also have a beloved second outpost in the St. Anthony Park neighborhood) occupies a space in the bustling neighborhood that needs a place just like it. Where dusty guys in construction gear can stop off for a meatloaf sandwich and a cold one, where old-timers can get the all important 11 a.m. half sandwich and soup, where the side on every plate is a wedge of orange and a tangle of gnarly grapes and that's just the way it is and no one would dream of expecting any other thing. 

The flappers (the house specialty yeasty pancake) weren't quite as precisely cooked as we remember them from the original CC, when Bess Giannakakis ran the original space, and the stoves, on East 42nd. (Giannakakis sold to John and Elizabeth Tinucci in 2010.) But still, they make an intriguing, almost continental breakfast sandwich wrapper that's a refreshing modification from English Muffin or dry toast. But that's where any modernity stops. The rest is a slightly overcooked scrambler, some bits of bacon, melty cheddar, and the reliable fruit.  And you know? It ain't bad, nor was the salad, more crouton than lettuce, bringing to mind the side salad you get as almost an afterthought with your steak and potato. This is a meal to have over the business lunch, the dinner to have quickly before the movie, the  place to bring the kids because the silverware banging doesn't bother anyone.  You remember the phrase "Don't live to eat but eat to live"? Yeah, well, that's out. But in that spirit, this is a cafe more about you than it is about itself. Where you go to talk about the film, about how summer's almost over, about the business files, and not about the rye bread or the hand-whipped butter or the house-made chorizo. It's just a cafe, where the servers are quick and efficient and it's their real day job. A pretty good cafe. Not colossal either in reality or even in spirit anymore, but just as big a part of Americana as anything. And who can argue with that?  Colossal Cafe Grand Avenue, now open Three locations