Cafe Ro

2908 Fruth, 480-9562
Mon-Fri 8am-midnight;
Sat & Sun, 9am-midnight

Too close to campus and the bustle of the drag for most families to buy, several of the grand old houses just east of Guadalupe around 30th Street have for years languished in stately disrepair. Ripe, in other words, for the establishment of small cafes. Enter Cafe Ro.

The cafe's charm begins its effect as you approach it from the street. A pretty sign announcing your destination hangs from an antique street lamp in plain view; a staircase leads up a lawn flanked on either side by gardens brimming with flowers and fragrant herbs. A partially shaded porch wraps around the front and side of the house -- there are also tables in the ample but unshaded side lawn. The relaxed, picturesque atmosphere extends into the interior, which features four distinct rooms and a motley assortment of comfy furniture. The effect is a bit like sipping coffee at the home of an eccentric great aunt.

The coffee and food at Cafe Ro are good, if somewhat inconsistent. The house-blend drip coffee delivers the mild acidity of fresh-roasted Central American beans; on one visit it was brewed too thin, but on another it was full-bodied and satisfying. The espresso however, lacks the complexity and body of a great brew. As for the food, the Sheik ($4.95) is a mistake: tabbouleh, a wheat-based salad, does not work well stuffed into a whole-wheat pita, and the handful of sprouts accompanying it only makes matters worse. Also of little help was the tiny and too-bitter dish of baba ghanouj (eggplant spread) on the side. However, the Pasta Pesto Salad ($2.75 a la carte), bowtie noodles dressed in basil pesto and then spruced up with additional basil leaves, whole pine nuts, and red pepper strips, provided just the kind of light lunch one craves in a cafe. Also of note are the desserts, particularly the fruit tart, its sweet custard topped with strawberries and blueberries. -- Tom Philpott

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