A couple months ago, I reported on the then upcoming Restaurant Week event and my sheer joy at having experienced the food of new Middletown star Cafe 56. I've gone back to Cafe 56 at least half a dozen times since then. Cafe 56 is officially my new favorite place. I hope it will become yours too. If it's not already, then maybe you haven't tried it. Please do.
As the chef-owner of Cafe 56 rang up my lunch tab at the counter she asked me how the food was. I opened my mouth and found myself searching my vocabulary and not finding the right words to express how delicious it was. The food is so fresh, so tasty, and so well prepared that it is in a class above any other restaurant in town that I can think of. They make everything fresh, from breads for the sandwiches to the potato chips next to them to every pool of sauce and dollop of condiment on the plate. The chilera sauce blends the grassy heat of jalapenos in absolute proportion with the rich creamy dressing. The pimento mojo sauce is so perfectly balanced between tangy and sweet it makes you want to taste more and more of it. The salsa hits all the right notes.
The sandwiches at Cafe 56 are nothing at all like the conventional quick and easy, make leftovers palatable, don't have to cook anything, utilitarian variety. The chicken in the Mexicano sandwich is moist and well seasoned. It is clear that the flavorful dark meat of the chicken was prepared just to be the main highlight here. The shrimp in the Baja sandwich is plentiful and melts in your mouth, while the salsa is bright and the slaw is crunchy as can be, offsetting the richness of the shrimp and the avocado that dresses the sandwich too. The bread has a flaky crust and holds up to the moistness of the fillings without being too thick or chewy.
Don't even get me started on breakfast. All I can say is that you should avoid Cafe 56 if you have any problem with perfectly cooked eggs, tall fluffy biscuits, smooth creamy sauce, or oatmeal that is not gluey or bland and actually tastes like oats.
Did I mention the quiche, soup, puffed pancakes, or homemade pastries? No I did not, because I haven't yet had the chance to try these, but I am eagerly awaiting future dining visits. Did I mention the savory empanadas or interestingly vibrant salads? No I did not, because I don't have any more superlatives left. Did I mention that I recommend this place to anyone looking for a relaxed and flavorful meal?
The space is small in a pleasant and cozy way, with brick walls and soft lighting, a few tables, two window booths, and a sleek counter with stools. The staff is friendly and the service is fast. The prices are reasonable; it usually costs about $20 to $25 for me and my spouse to eat a meal and also get some extra takeaway treat. The staff easily answer any questions about ingredients. Their quick answers exude their pride in their food and show it's clear that they have 100% control and knowledge of everything they put on your plate. The location is easy to get in and out; I had no trouble finding close parking at any time. They are open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. It is located on Court Street between Main Street and the river (across from the court house).
Cafe 56 has mastered the art of providing variety while remaining consistent. They have mastered the art of having a small menu while providing a seeming plethora of choices. They have mastered the art of shutting me up, rendering me speechless and without complaint. Now that is quite an accomplishment.