As a young culinary student, one of my first courses was a sort of "Intro to, and history of, the food industry." It was led by a young chef who talked a lot about the business, what was coming up in the next ten years, what we were going to learn for the next 2 ? years in school, and a bunch of other stuff that I felt we would figure out on our own eventually anyway. He must have been somebody's brother--in--law. I, along with all my other newbie co-students, would have much rather been honing our knife-handling skills, or watching some of the advanced students do a chocolate carving, or something other than watch this little guy pace around in front of the class and blow a lot of hot air.
But he did spout out one or two useful tidbits of information. One of which was the inside scoop on how successful places do their feasibility study before they decided where to put their next restaurant. HIS philosophy was, find a successful restaurant and open your restaurant right across the street, or even next door. Their name will draw people to the area, and even if all you get is their overflow, it's enough to survive on. I guess that must be what Wolfgang Puck was thinking when he decided to build his Bistro right next door to this edgy, sexy, sophisticated, little place called Cosmo Café.
Shame on me! I have driven by it a hundred times, and always assumed it was a club or night spot, and consequently never even inquired about it since I did all my drinking in my former life. On a recent Sunday night, we were looking for something close to home, quick and easy, and in the way back of my mind I remembered a quip I had seen somewhere about shareable desserts right down on Peoria. It goes, "A dessert shared, is a problem solved." Perfect! More on that later.
After deliberating between a number of creative appetizers, offerings like Italian Nachos, a plate of chips topped with marinara and alfredo sauces, cheddar, mozzarella and basil, Middle Eastern Bruschetta, Greek Bruscetta, Lemon Pepper Edemame, a great Hummus, and one I had never tried before this night -- Labneh. The menu described it as Middle Eastern cream cheese, but way tastier and lower in calories. It was mixed with garlic and fresh mint, and was really good. (A bit too zippy for Ms. Macaroni Mouth, but I loved it!)
Many of the appetizers come in a small and large version, $4/$6, and the rest price out between $5 and $9. They encourage you to make a meal of two appetizers, something a lot of places discourage. At any rate, we settled on a Mezze Platter off the main menu as a shared appetizer for a good cross section of items. It was nicely presented on a large serving board, and came with dishes of Baba Ganoush -- traditionally a grilled or roasted eggplant puree with lemon and seasonings. Theirs sports an Indian flavor - pretty sure it was toasted fenugreek, a popular Indian seed used to flavor many dishes from that region. Somehow they have managed to avoid the bitterness that can often accompany this dish, and I applaud their technique. Second was hummus -- A very nice version, lemony and well seasoned, and a dish of the aforementioned Labneh, my favorite of the three.
It came with za'atar seasoned pita crisps, and slices of a very nice baguette.
It is very easy to mix and match, and sort of build your own meal. The menu is very friendly and easy in that way, which makes the possibilities almost endless. I chose a honey ham, and Brie sandwich on fresh baguette with a cup of Nava's Kurdish Soup, a fabulous sweet and sour tomato and Swiss chard soup with tons of vegetables and lots of good vegetable flavor. Advertised as completely vegan, it did also offer the option of "un-veganizing" it with cheddar or sour cream, but it really didn't need it. The sandwich was very good, but lacked the zip that a spread of some sort could add. Maybe a pesto or even a mild nut spread would have complimented it well. My meal came in at around $11. Good price.
Katie decided on the Cuban Goulash and it was fabulous! It featured great caraway and smoked paprika flavors, undertones of red wine and served on a bed of perfectly cooked noodles. When braising meat, a lot of cooks just put it on and forget it, thinking that there is no maintenance to it once it is going. NOTHING could be further from the truth. You need to constantly check the protein, and when it first becomes tender, get it off the fire. Allow it to cool in its braising liqueur so all the great flavor and moisture can be reabsorbed, and you have the ultimate braised dish. The chef at Cosmo Cafe knows how to braise. Really delightful, and at just under $10 including a side salad, it's a real deal since she had enough for lunch the next day too.
The servers are cool young hipsters, relaxed and efficient. Our waiter had a bunch of tables and they were spread out all over the room and he still made it look effortless. His recommendations and advice were spot on, and his service was excellent. His back-story was that he had been a customer of the original Cosmo during the 5 years it was on Memorial and around 68th and things just fell into place when it moved to Brookside about a year ago.
The décor is comfortable, stylishly casual, and like the web site says, sexy and sophisticated. There is a bar area separated from the dining room by a low privacy wall, great music playing, and a wonderful comfy feel. Customers enjoy a brick wall, European décor, really cool lighting both up above and on the walls, and a savoir-faire that feels like you might be in LA.
I don't often mention a place's web site, but theirs is very well done, and very cool. They even have a web cam in the bar with a 5-second refresh rate, so you can check on-line to see if your friends have arrived yet, if your spouse is somewhere he or she isn't supposed to be, or whether your favorite seat is occupied or sitting vacant, just waiting for you to come in and try one of the 20 Cosmopolitans available from the drink menu. Katie's Apple Cosmo was great. Do yourself a favor and check out their Cosmo Menu on-line. It's great and features some very creative names.
Our dessert of choice was the one our waiter said was his favorite, and I can see why. We had the Hershey's Cobbler and it was awesome! Are you kidding me!? It's a big hunk of molten chocolate goodness in the center of a chocolate drizzled plate, and surrounded by ice cream and whipped crème. Holy Cow! Off the charts! We paid a mere $5.99, and can you believe this!? They offered a "slightly smaller version" for $4.99. Puleeeze! Nobody who's going to order a Hershey's Cobbler, is going to order a smaller version! Just take that right off the menu! Probably never sold one anyway!
Anyway, the dessert page is exactly that, a page, with some very creative and delicious dessert options. So take a friend, share a dessert, and solve a problem!
A huge menu offers a plethora of unusual salads, soups, sandwiches, pizzas, cocktails, and desserts, designed to make even the pickiest diner feel "ever so cosmo."
Cosmo Cafe 33rd and Peoria (918) 993-4848
Hours: Daily 11 am - "After Midnight"
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