Tuesday, January 31, 2012

University Library Cafe: Come for the nachos, sate your Java Monster Energy hangover with breakfast.

Recently Full Court Press – the partners who’ve helped to revitalize Court Ave., Market St., and S.E. First with their vibrant establishments – took over ownership of the University Library Cafe – a long-time fixture on the corner of 35th & University – and introduced a weekend breakfast. Excited about a new spot for morning fare I took an opportunity to visit this past Sunday.

The breakfast casserole is a towering, substantial, filling brick. My offering sported only diced ham for meat – as opposed to what's listed on the menu – but was told up front that it was a work in progress. A light, tangy Monterey Jack cheese sauce is ladled over the top, similar to what adorns the meatloaf casserole at Mullets, another Full Court Press property [see blog post].

Next I tried the solid, hearty breakfast burrito. Diced browned potato and tasty breakfast sausage lends a lot of flavor and satisfying texture. Diced bacon was an unexpected bonus! A little more green chile would be welcome. The burrito comes with sides of pico de gallo and red sauce. The pico de gallo is first rate, with the unbeatable crunch of finely diced onion and jalapeño. Cilantro is represented well. The red sauce is thick, zesty and makes a good topper.

Desirous for a cocktail to finish the meal, I balked at the long list of Java Monster Energy coffee-flavored energy drink based cocktails and ordered up the first thing on the menu without it, the Drake Bulldog. With house vodka, Carolans, Kahlúa, milk and Coca-Coca, the Bulldog’s bite is smooth and easy, with a refreshing fizz countering the richness of the milk and Irish cream.

About a decade ago I had tried the much lauded nachos and found them rather unremarkable. The addition of mushrooms had thrown me for a loop, but the stray toothpick that had dug into the roof of my mouth pretty much soured me for a return. Now with new management and an enjoyable breakfast fresh on my memory, I was ready to give them another try.

The next afternoon, though feeling poorly with a sore throat, I returned to try the Cheese Burger Nachos, consisting of the Library Cafe’s standard build with the addition of a freshly grilled cheeseburger chopped up and thrown in the mix.

Fried flour tortilla strips were delightfully crisp. The now familiar Jack cheese sauce is far superior in flavor and creaminess to the usual garish yellow-orange nacho cheese sauce so prevalent elsewhere. I can almost taste the stale, salty bagged tortilla chips usually paired with it.

The diced cheeseburger adds a comforting flavor profile that marries perfectly with the nachos. Banana peppers add a nice vinegary bite to counter all the richness, but contribute only a little heat. That said, try these nachos once. If you still desire some more heat, then reach for the Tabasco.

Whole pinto beans add flavor and texture without being gloppy and heavy like refried beans. The tortilla strips do get a little soggy on the bottom, but the cheesy mess is worth every three-tined forkful you can scrape up.

University Library Cafe on Urbanspoon

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