June 11, 2007

Avanti Cafe [Costa Mesa]

Q: How do you drag a carnivore to Avanti Cafe for lunch?
A: Don't tell them it's vegetarian.

Fifteen minutes before I'm supposed to get picked up, I get a call from AH asking me whether or not the restaurant was vegetarian.

Me: No you're looking at the wrong menu. I said the Avanti Cafe in Newport Beach and that place is a total hole-in-the-wall and it isn't online.
AH: Oh, okay. Are you sure?
Me: Positive.

We pull up into Costa Mesa twenty minutes later and a light bulb goes off in AH's head after looking at the menu. Hey, I've seen this before... I giggle with the glee of my trickery and proceed to order for the both of us.

The selections in the deli case looked pretty good and though I considered ordering a sampler, we settled on the eat-in, cooked-to-order items instead.

The Avanti Magic Bruschetta ($6.75) wasn't a whole lot to look at and didn't resemble bruschetta in any way, but would've been a solid choice for brunch at any cafe. It came with sweet potatoes and yams, which were the the flavor highlights of the otherwise bland dish. It was light and refreshing, though I would've added a little salt, were there salt shakers on our table. It was served with thin slices of a dense bread loaded with nuts and cranberries.

I made the mistake of not asking enough questions and was kind of disappointed when our pizza came out looking exactly like the bruschetta, but on pizza crust instead of with eggs. The Shitake Artichoke Pesto ($8.75) was almost an exact clone of the yam, spinach, pine nuts, and olive combination that was sitting just across the table from me. However, it did managed to offset the blandness of bruschetta by being a tad too salty. I'm not sure that pesto works particularly well with the yam, but as separate entities, they worked on they pizza. The crust was both doughy and bubbly, but didn't carry much substance flavor-wise.

There are a few tables where you can sit down and enjoy your lunch, though the strip mall location doesnt lend itself well to a leisurely long lunch. They do offer a wide selection of teas and some interesting coffee and juice blends as well. I head they do a mean pizza and beer night on Sundays, where local artisan brews are featured.

I like that Avanti doesnt try too hard to be something its not. It is simple, healthy, natural, and a good way to eat out when you've spent the last five meals in restaurants.

Avanti Cafe
259 E. 17th Street
Costa Mesa, CA 92627
(949) 548-2224

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