The last thing I expect to find when I go for takeout is good pie, let alone excellent pie. And yet here was a pumpkin pie with looks worthy of a food magazine cover and taste worthy of Grandma: subtly spiced, with a velvety texture and not too sweet.
Community Canteen started serving fresh pies last summer after sizing up the competition. The cafe, which opened in Reston Town Center last year, makes two pies per day, usually a pumpkin and a three-apple crumble in the fall. Slices ($3.25 each) sell out in anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes, says managing partner Willie Neal.
I could happily have a slice as lunch with a cup of coffee. But if you are disciplined enough to eat more sensibly, there are plenty of other tempting options. The place turns out a fine breakfast, including a fruit-and-yogurt bar, and weekend brunch plus top-notch soups, salads, sandwiches and desserts. Shoppers and office workers often get food to go, but there are cafe tables with bistro chairs and, weather permitting, patio seating.
Community Canteen shares a kitchen with French bistro chain Mon Ami Gabi; both are owned by Lettuce Entertain You, a national hospitality chain.
The kitchen has a way with squash, and not only when it is turned into pie. Our tasters swooned over the butternut squash soup ($3.95 for 12 ounces; $1.95 for six ounces), a special that was rich and satisfying. The salad bar offers a range of toppings; as many as you like are included in the $5.95 base price, allowing for delicious combinations such as egg, string beans, blue cheese and walnuts. (For proteins, including chicken, turkey, salmon, ahi tuna and steak, add $1.95 or $2.95.)
We were particularly impressed with the hot sandwiches, including the Train Station ($5.95), ham and havarti on a baguette that tasted like it came straight from Paris, and the Spicy Lamb Pita ($7.95), served with goat cheese and a thick tzatziki to tame the chili peppers mixed into the ground meat. Breads are from Uptown Bakers of Hyattsville.
If pie isn't your passion, you'll be satisfied with any of the cafe's array of cookies ($1.65 each) and cupcakes ($1.50); the vanilla comes with tart cream cheese frosting. But if it is, arrive early. Or order now for the holidays: a nine-inch pie is $21.95. Available flavors are pumpkin, three-apple crumble, chocolate pecan pudding and eggnog custard.
-- Jane Black (Good to Go, Nov. 4, 2009)