“We’ll be back!” I told them.
Jane and I met last week for lunch at Rebecca’s and I was impressed immediately with the airy lightness of the cafe and its high white walls and big windows. A sculptural metal lighting grid hung in the middle of the big room, and artist Kirby Scudder’s giant papier-mache cow’s head gazed mildly from a far wall, adding whimsy and reference.
“They worked on this place for a year,” said Jane.
“I think it’s beautifully designed. And the afternoon sun makes the patio a perfect place to have a glass of wine.” We placed our orders with a friendly staff person, beginning with Masala Chai (regular, $3.75) and the day’s soup, Potato Leek (cup, $4.50). Jane was in morning mode and ordered a Breakfast Burrito ($5.25); I chose Rebecca’s Signature Tri-Tip Sandwich ($7.50). We added the special Arugula-Gorgonzola Salad ($7.50) and a Lemon-Poppy Seed Muffin ($3) from Rebecca’s sweet stable of baked goodies.
Settling at a comfortable banquette table in the corner, Jane and I talked about the transformation of the old tannery into work/living spaces, art studios and now a casually chic cafe. We agreed that Rebecca’s has captured the Tannery’s sense of creative energy and humor, while maintaining original elements such as the high wooden rafters.
The soup surprised us both. Rather than a cream base, the light broth was thin yet flavorful and filled with soft, waxy-skinned potato pieces and plenty of sliced leeks. And Jane’s panini-pressed breakfast burrito wasn’t the usual pound of high-calorie ingredients; instead, the crisp-edged flour tortilla enclosed a moderate amount of lightly scrambled eggs, bacon, spinach and cheese. Although the burrito needed salt, it was scrumptiously satisfying, especially with the addition of housemade salsa fresca, spicy-hot and garlicky.
Owner Rebecca Campbell delivered the tri-tip sandwich with a grin, saying, “One bite and nothing else will matter.”
True words: the hot, panini-style sandwich was heavenly. Thin slices of Golden Sheaf potato roll embraced tender, juicy strips of marinated steak, sweetly caramelized onions, baby spinach leaves and Swiss cheese, all united by excellent housemade roasted tomato-onion jam and horseradish cream.
Our arugula salad brought us right back to earth. Although I generally prefer arugula combined with other greens, the peppery sharpness of the bright, super-fresh arugula was soothed by a generous scattering of salty Gorgonzola, tangy dried cranberries and rich, crunchy pecan bits. Housemade herbal vinaigrette complemented the salad’s multilayered flavors. One of our few criticisms: both the salad and soup were accompanied by pieces of grilled potato bread that were overly chewy rather than crisp.
Last but not least, the lemon poppy seed muffin. I developed a serious addiction to Rebecca’s Mighty Muffins back in the ’80s, seeking my fix among the tempting wares in the Front Street store. I was glad to see that Rebecca hasn’t lost her touch: This modern muffin was moist and crumbly, with an inside secret of custardy lemon filling. The cafe also offered two vegan muffins sweetened with agave syrup but I craved the full-octane version.
Don’t be intimidated by the location of Rebecca’s at the Tannery: it’s not that hard to find. From River Street, take the second entrance to the Tannery, park for free and meander toward the center of the complex. We are all artists beneath the spoon.
Ann Parker welcomes comments, feedback and suggestions about reviews for area restaurants. Contact her at email@example.com.
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