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May 28, 2013

Alice Eats: Bluebird Coffee Stop at the Innovation Center

IMG_5660128 Lakeside Avenue, Burlington, no phone (yet)

A workday lunch that regularly attracts two food critics is something to celebrate. If only the Seven Days offices were in the high-tech, LEED-certified Innovation Center.

But luckily, Corin and I don't have to go far to get a taste of one of Burlington's best new lunch options.

And despite the name, coffee is never the main attraction for us.

IMG_5667There are nine sandwich options, not including daily specials. I'm slowly eating my way through the menu. Very slowly, in fact, because it's hard not to order the house-smoked ham. It's too damn perfect.

More sweet than smoky, the thinly sliced pig is lean but piled high enough to be toothsome. Spears of house pickles contribute acid, while creamy cheddar adds a sharpened edge of comfort on the chewy baguette.

At $9.50, I thought I was getting a pricy sandwich the first time I ordered it. I was wrong. Each half is a filling meal in itself.

IMG_5664I added a half salad, too. It's not on the menu, but just ask and you shall receive, for half the price of a regular one.

At right is the field green salad, composed of pine nuts and grapes piled on top of way more chèvre than anyone reasonably needs (but may well want) and a mound of mesclun.

The salads are fresh and made to order. A barista tosses it with your dressing of choice. I just wish there were an option that were less creamy than buttermilk ranch. I ordered the lemon aioli on the salad at right because it was the lightest option. Oof.

IMG_5476Part of the excitement of every visit is seeing what the special is. The first time I visited the Coffee Stop, it was the deconstructed chicken Cordon Bleu at right, served with that hulking helping of greens.

The chicken breast, loaded with ham, cheese and bread crumbs, was served over caramelized onions in cream sauce. It was a serious lunch — or two.

The last time I visited, the special was once again a Cordon Bleu, now in panini form. You can see in the photo with the ham sandwich that it was far smaller. Still, the buttery $7 sammie was filled with the same ham and cheese, but instead of a chicken breast, chunks of dark meat lent more flavor and a fun texture.

But what about those chocolate chip cookies that owner Sue Bette told me were good enough to fill the void left by the South End’s Fresh Market?

They're good, with a nutty taste of brown butter and a thick, cakey texture that recalls the Fresh Market miracles. If only there were more, or bigger chocolate chips, the whole Seven Days crew might be making more Coffee Stop pilgrimages.

Alice Eats is a weekly blog feature devoted to reviewing restaurants where diners can get a meal for two for less than $35. Got a restaurant you'd love to see featured? Send it to [email protected]

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