Food with Flair at John's Cafe

An inviting space and thoughtful menu delight diners.

Don't be fooled by the understated house-like exterior of . Once inside, you'll taste a menu that's far from ordinary.

This warm and inviting cafe has a dozen or so tables covered with crisp white linens. The yellow-washed walls, dark wood trim and dim lighting add to the romantic yet comfortable ambiance.

From the bread basket to the last bite of dessert, dinner here satisfies all types of eaters. The restaurant has a variety of menu options, including seafood, fish, poultry, beef and pork.

On the night we visited, starters included a sauteed lump crab cake with celery root remoulade ($14); roasted beet salad with goat cheese, pancetta and red wine vinaigrette ($12) and the house-made clam chowder with bacon ($8).

Entrees on the menu included ravioli filled with ricotta and roasted pork with chervil and Grana Padano cream sauce ($21); Black Angus steak with scalloped potatoes, roasted shallots and a bourbon peppercorn sauce ($21); and prosciutto-wrapped shrimp with butternut squash, almonds and pomegranate vinaigrette on arugula ($20).

For lighter fare and a vegetarian option, try the gourmet pizzas with toppings such as caramelized onions, goat cheese and Kalamata olives. The side of shoestring French fries with white truffle oil and Parmigiano cheese look tempting as well.

My husband has tried just about every clam chowder around and adored this one. He noted the clams were fresh and tender, with the bacon adding a pleasant salty flavor to the creamy soup.

We ordered our entrees off of the special menu and enjoyed them both. I ordered the red snapper with saffron rice, shrimp and chorizo ($28), while my husband chose the N.Y. strip with Yukon gold mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts and Gorgonzola onions ($28).

The snapper was pan-fried, with delightful crispy edges and served atop the rice with a bright saffron broth. The plump shrimp were delicately cooked and offered a contrast to the flavorful bites of chorizo scattered throughout the rice.

The medium-cooked steak was incredible, particularly paired with the woody flavor of the sprouts and the tang of those delicious sauteed onions doused with creamy Gorgonzola.

Then there was dessert. I'm not a huge fan of maple flavor, preferring the real syrup to artificial imitations, so I was reluctant to try the vanilla ice cream profiteroles with maple walnut sauce ($8). But when I gave in and ordered this dessert to split, I was dueling with my husband for the last scrape of maple sauce. The pastries were light and airy, filled with creamy vanilla ice cream and finished with a generous puddle of the most delectable real-maple sauce I've tasted.

Another feature worth noting is that John's strives to use local and organic ingredients when possible. The cafe also has an extensive wine list for customers to peruse.

John's Cafe is located at 693 Main Street South and is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday, Sunday for dinner only. Call 203-263-0188 for a reservation.


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