It's probably been several months since my last formal restaurant review so it's a little ironic that I come back on the scene with one on a place with the generic name "The Cafe". I thought for sure when I first saw its name in the Juice that it had to be short for something. Maybe The Cafe was just a nickname for it to help separate it from the more famous Cafe Beaudelaire which is also in Ames? Nope. That was this spot's actual name. Apparently the owners figured that bland was better.
I had never heard of this place but that didn't come as a big surprise. Ames has changed so much since the time that I graduated years ago that few people from my era would recognize it. Case in point was the location of The Cafe. I thought my GPS on my phone had to be wrong. It was north of University Village? There was nothing up there but farmland. That couldn't be right, could it? Yes it could. That entire area is now a replica of the West Glenn area in West Des Moines. It's evidently Ames attempt to cater to the upscale Ames element.
The first thing that I quickly noticed upon entering The Cafe (besides the point that they don't have a clear definition of which is the correct entrance to get to the hostess) was its quaint little ambiance. It wasn't like your typical little niche cafe which would usually provide a more open setting. The seating involved more booths than normal tables. Each booth was secluded with its own type of isolation coupled with dimly lighting to provide the perfect date night atmosphere. Probably would have been even better if the music they were pumping in wasn't so loud.
If you're looking for a variety in your menu, The Cafe is NOT the spot for you. Their menu was a whopping four pages long and that's including the drink portion. They weren't even four filled pages. The print was large on each page. If I had took the time to count, I would venture to say they probably had a little over a a dozen entree items to choose from in total. Not that it bothered me too much though. All I wanted was that Cafe Burger I saw them talking about in Juice Magazine.
Something told me when I saw they had strawberry lemonade that it would be a wise choice. Cafe type places tend to have excellent lemonade that tastes freshly squeezed as opposed to canned. Well it was indeed pretty dang good. Not to sweet, not too sour. Probably the best strawberry lemonade I have had second only to Biaggi's. Except Biaggi's has free refills. I was slightly appalled to learn that The Cafe charged for refills for not only their lemonades but also their pop. They do know what the economy is like, right?
As for the sammich, I will admit that it was VERY tasty. I'm not usually a kaiser fan but the kaiser bun they had it on complemented the rest of the sammich perfectly. It seemed that with every bite into the well done burger the rest of the ingredients helped form the perfect crescendo of deliciousness in my mouth. Maybe the kaiser bun was the catalyst? No clue but I went in expecting nothing different than any other normal burger I had ever had and walked out having one of the best burgers I can recall in recent history. The homemade chips that came with them though? Could have done without those. They tasted like nothing more than burnt kettle chips.
Now you all know I don't tip right? No sense in rehashing that all over again. However, every now and then I will break tradition if the service I received truly was exemplary. Just out of the kindness of my heard I will actually tip in that case.
This was not one of those instances.
It had nothing to do with the service though. The lady was nice enough. It was because it was so pricey in the first place. I should have picked up on that immediately when she brought my straw on a separate plate and it rested on a decorative napkin. It was cemented by the fact they wanted to charge for refills on drinks. I figured that along with the costs like $9.50 for a burger was enough for them to make their ends meet. The sammich was good but it wasn't THAT good. I would be just fine with a Sonic burger for half the price and a watermelon cream slush that would put their strawberry lemonade to shame.