Walk into Windows Cafe & Market on one of the sunny, less-humid days we've been having, and a notion might occur to you: picnic.
A welcoming corner store with purple awnings, Windows Cafe is in Washington's Bloomingdale neighborhood and offers a menu
of sandwiches and wraps as well as provisions to pack for alfresco dining, including wine and craft beers.
When Ethiopian-born Hunegnaw Abeje bought the store a decade ago, goods were sold from behind Plexiglass; customers did not
come in and browse. But he wanted to give the neighborhood something different, so he eventually dismantled the barrier and
added the deli component.
"I had a dream for a nice coffee shop pleasing customers," Abeje says.
Now, lunch is his busiest time of day. Panini built on ciabatta bread from Uptown Bakers in Hyattsville have Washington-themed
names, such as the President, with smoked ham and salami ($6.29). Each is packed with a long, crisp pickle instead of the
corrugated coins many places toss on sandwiches. Abeje says his most popular panino is the South West DC, with grilled chicken
breast, pepper Jack cheese, sliced avocado and chipotle sauce ($6.79).
The breakfast sandwiches are inexpensive and decent but not sensational. I recommend the U Street Canadian ($3.99), with Canadian
bacon, two omelet-style eggs and melted Swiss cheese on a choice of a plain, wheat or everything bagel.
Also worth a try is the chicken salad croissant ($5.99). The Italian seasoning blend mixed into the finely shredded meat-and-mayo
mix is pronounced, but I liked it.
Less successful was my carryout turkey BLT on ciabatta, which was over-slathered with mayo and missing its bacon.
The market sells fresh mangoes, almond-stuffed olives, lemon curd and potato chips fried in avocado oil. A particularly addictive
item: green bean chips from Creative Snacks Co. (eight ounces, $6.25), which seem to be not chips at all but crisped beans
with an odd but satisfying sweetness.
The wine selection includes varieties from Chile, South Africa and Argentina ($7.99 to $39.99). Craft beers include Lagunitas
and the Great Lakes Brewing Co. ($9.99 to $16.99).
The Fourth of July is around the corner. Picnic, anyone?
-Timothy R. Smith (good to go, Wednesday June 22, 2011)