Lee & Marie's Cakery Company -- a hybrid bakery, restaurant and coffee shop -- opened up a few weeks ago with a perfectly crafted concept. It serves Panther Coffee, sources fresh ingredients from local farmers, and even benefits a great cause. The eatery proudly supports adults with autism spectrum disorder.
It's not surprising, then, that the launch of the bakery was met with an abundance of fanfare.
I visited the café for lunch this week. When I ordered an off-the-menu iced coffee, I received a tall glass adorned with a dainty red and white stripe carton straw. The eager-to-please waitress also brought out a set of syrups to sweeten the cool beverage. Patrons at the bakery/restaurant have a choice when it comes to liquid sweeteners, either granulated or brown sugar-based.
The endearing décor pairs rustic armoires with mismatched cake stands and modest floral arrangements. The wooden tables feature linen-like paper napkins, which are carefully rolled up and sealed with a L&M round sticker.
If it all sounds too charming, it's because that's exactly what Lee & Marie's is. At this new South Pointe café, lunch is all about the carefully orchestrated details -- like special straws, or signature accents.
The menu features an array of baked goods and pastries, which can function as breakfast. Croissants, muffins, and scones are available, as are cinnamon rolls and sticky buns. These are priced within the $3 - $4 range.
Sandwiches are on the larger side and feature an "All American" ($10.75), La Quercia prosciutto, salami, arugula, goat cheese and vidalia onion mayo, BLT & A ($11.50), country bread, roasted pork belly, kimchi aioli and avocado, and an Alton Steak Panini ($9.75), prime rib roast, trugole, and caramelized onions. I sampled the latter, which features thin cuts of meat contrasted with fresh kicks of peppery arugula.
The sandwiches are all served with uninspired bags of Terra chips, although you can substitute for couscous at an additional cost of a dollar. A more innovative offering for the standard side dish would be an even greater lure.
Salads include a black kale and caesar ($8.25), with romaine lettuce, black kale, parmiggiano and brioche croutons. Dressed in a balsamic reduction, the arugula salad ($8.50) pairs greens and edible flowers with sweet roasted beets and candied pecans. Tart goat cheese -- sourced locally from Hani's Mediterranean Organics -- and salty, crisp prosciutto balance the flavors nicely. A bit more goat cheese would have been even better though.
Sweets are obviously a strong point at Lee & Marie's, particularly the Panther Coffee pudding ($6) and the tender passion fruit marshmallows ($3.50). The bite-sized marshmallows are less chewy than traditional renditions. In this version, bright citric flavors pair vibrantly with a pillowy, melt-in-your-mouth texture.
The brownies are slightly greasy; however, an extra sprinkle of sugar atop the batter adds a delicate crunch to the smooth, thick consistency. Lee & Marie's red velvet cake includes thin layers of scarlet-colored tender cake, frosted with the traditional ivory cream cheese icing.
During lunch, I spotted owner, Andy Travaglia, walk into the café. She quickly engaged in a conversation with the cakery's employees and left the joint just a few minutes later.
After our meal, a block or two away from the eatery, I ran into her again on the street. We don't know each other, but Travaglia immediately recognized me as the customer who had just enjoyed lunch at her new brand locale.
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"Thank you for your business!" she exclaimed, walking back towards Lee & Marie's. Travaglia was genuinely thankful. After finding a new farm-fresh lunch spot for under $15, I was thankful too.
Follow Emily on Twitter @EmilyCodik.