Tablespoon is the cafe offshoot of the catering company, Spoon, next door. Featuring locally sourced and made ingredients where possible—organic where available—and baking their breads and desserts on the premises each day, they have built a steady following of Flatiron office-workers during the week, and of neighbors for brunch on the weekends. The space could be described as homey, with cute wallpaper and penny-tile floors, but breakfast is mostly for a crowd on the run, so the ambiance is quieter and a bit austere in the morning. Most seem to come for the full-service espresso bar, where Stumptown beans are the base.
We went straight to the bakery case: Fresh Baked Petit Muffins ($1.25). The flavors of the day were cranberry and espresso. Unfortunately, both were underwhelming. The cranberry was dry, and in spite of a hefty serving of dried cranberries, pretty bland. The espresso could have been stronger. As it was, it reminded me a little too much of sweetened or flavored coffee (i.e., not my cup of joe). But at least it scores points for being unique.
The Lemon Poppy Seed Scone ($1.25)—also a rotating flavor—was again nothing special. There was raw sugar caramelized on its edges, but being so crumbly and dry, it would really benefit from being served warm, or at least with a side of hot coffee or some clotted cream.
The hot dish, a Zucchini Frittata ($3), was a big step-up. It tasted of ample zucchini with a bit of mild egg and cheese. A nice custard-like texture made it reminiscent of the filling of a quiche. Verdict: quite tasty, if a bit anemic looking at first.
In what became a game of hit or miss, however, the next was again a hit: the Croissants ($2.25) were truly impressive--particularly the chocolate and almond varieties ($2.75 each). The almond stood-out as one of the better I've tasted in the city: plenty of almond paste and a fluffy, multi-layered dough with just enough crisp on the buttery outsides. The chocolate was equally enjoyable, if a little slight on chocolate.
There's a Mini-bagel with Creamed Cheese ($1.25) that comes pre-schmeared and wrapped in plastic. It actually seemed like a quality plain bagel, with a nice chewy texture, but I'm not sure why it's pre-schmeared. It begs the question as to why you'd buy this bagel when there are so many outstanding options in the city.
McCann's Irish Oatmeal ($4/5 for sm/lrg) is available from a hot-pot that sits warm on the counter. It retained the nuttiness of steel cut, but took on a bit of the gummier-creamy texture of rolled oats by sitting out. It was a great cup of oatmeal--and would be a satisfying start to the day--but it's not typical of steel-cut. You can add berries, brown sugar, or raisins.
A tray of savory options sits beside the coffee cakes, brownies, and muffins: small, palm-sized egg and cheese burritos. When we stopped by, the options were bacon, egg, and cheese; egg and cheese; ham, egg, and cheese; or bell pepper, onion, egg, and cheese (all $2.75). Each comes wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla which, while sometimes displaying grill marks, is overly soft and steamed from sitting pre-warmed in an aluminum foil wrapper.
The ham actually added the most flavor to the egg and cheese combo--it was salty and contrasted perfectly with the cheddar. The bacon didn't stand out: there was no smoke or cured flavor to remark on. It reminded me a bit more of prosicutto cotto than bacon.
I took some of each home and toasted the leftovers in my oven; the result was (no surprise) much more satisfying. The burritos are all tasty and good for a bite on the run—and I would order one again—but they really would be vastly improved with a few minutes on a sandwich press or in the oven to crisp the exterior.
The to-go refrigerated case held small cups of fresh-squeezed orange juice, tangerine juice, and beautiful, pink grapefruit juice (all $2 for small), alongside yogurt parfait and a line of their house-made lemon curd and jams.
The Yogurt Parfait ($4)—organic yogurt topped with some honey, house-made granola, and sprinkled with some blueberries—was one of my favorite items. It's on the sweet side: the yogurt has strong notes of vanilla, and the granola itself has been sweetened. In fact, the granola, which can be purchased separately to go, is a decadent mix of caramelized pecans, walnuts, and almonds, with lots of sesame seeds and crisped rolled oats. The cup was rich and creamy and felt like a special treat.
There's a price to be paid for having everything so ready for grab-and-go service, but they do have a busy morning take-out crowd and they keep things moving quickly. You can grab a seat at the counter in the window or ask if you can sit a while at one of the tables used at brunch and lunch, but the best would be to get your food to-go and crisp it up at the office—if you're lucky enough to have a toaster oven.
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