Regular customers of the Bean Counter in Georgetown may not be aware that the tiny cafe recently changed hands. It's still a cozy neighborhood hangout with terra cotta and golden walls, outfitted with a couple of European-style cafe tables and a lounge area upstairs.
Fortunately for diehard fans of the eatery's Cuban sandwich, they won't have to find a new place to get their fix. Manager Joseph Guler, the Bean Counter's new owner, wouldn't dream of messing with a good thing, and customers are glad to hear it.
"The sandwich was as good as ever -- the best sandwich in Georgetown," reports longtime customer Peter Smathers Carter, 24. "Their Cuban is the best authentic Cuban sandwich I have ever had."
The sandwich ($7-8) was the standout on the menu, with the sweetness of the ham and house-roasted pork mixing harmoniously with gooey, buttery Swiss cheese and the tartness of pickles and mustard. The bread adds to the texture and flavor, its thin and greaseless grilled crust veiling the tenderness inside.
The daily soups ($5.50) are also outstanding, including a yogurt barley soup that the new cook, Cigdem Karagoz, makes from silky homemade organic yogurt, chewy barley, olive oil and mint. The cold soup is flavorful and refreshing with a pleasing texture. Karagoz was trained as a pastry chef in Istanbul and has come up with her own version of the not-too-sweet chocolate chip brownies ($2), using olive oil as the previous owners did.
As you would expect from a coffeehouse, there are several English muffin sandwiches available -- the usual egg, cheese and bacon ($4.40), as well as an irresistible peanut butter and Nutella concoction ($3.50). Fresh muffins ($2) stand ready to be washed down by organic fair-trade coffees.
While customer favorites will remain on the menu, additions are being considered. An Istanbul sandwich will feature sausage, mozzarella cheese, tomatoes and a traditional Turkish sauce called cemen , made with walnuts, hot peppers and tomato paste.
--Rina Rapuano (May 24, 2006)