Atmosphere: Melange of neighborhood tavern and artists' cafe. Price Range: Sandwiches from $2.50 to $3; appetizers and salads from $1.75 to $3.95. Special Facilities: Wheelchairs can be accommodated. Credit Cards: Not accepted.
Not too long ago, the Cafe d'Or (then the Cafedon) was a neighborhood bar with a clientele of very serious drinkers - not the kind of place where one would take friends' children for an evening out. It is a measure of the changes occurring in Adams-Morgan that a recent visit to the New Cafe d'Or with Melissa, 8, and her sister Hilary, 5 1/2, proved to be a very pleasant experience.
The most obvious change about the Cafe d'Or is the tables with bright Cinzano umbrellas that have appeared on the sidewalk outside.
Business apparently has been so good that the tables have spread along the sidewalk in front of a defunct dry cleaner next door, so that while drinking their aperitifs customers can inhale the fumes from Columbia Road and read the former cleaner's handwritten sign pleading: "Please pick up your clothing. Not responsible for cleaning or laundry left behind."
But most amusing is watching the assortment of Adams-Morgan residents strolling by: teen-agers with portable radios blaring disco music; working mothers with toddlers clutching day care center art work; young men and women in the latest fashions getting off the buses from downtown. The Cafe d'Or's outside tables are occupied mainly by young people, some speaking Spanish, some English and all enjoying cool drinks and imaginative snacks like the guacomole anc corn chips plate ($2.25).
Inside, some of the old atmosphere lingers - the stuffed deer heads and alligator on the walls, the well-stocked bar and the serious drinkers. But even here there are differences. A wind chime hangs from one stag's antler, the booths with individual juke boxes are gone and the television set is silent.
Melissa and Hilary found the menu with its California-inspired salads and sandwiches a bit confusing and settled on cheeseburgers, at $2.90. They were concerned about the garnishes listed on the menu - lettuc, tomatoes, pickles and corn chips - but the patient waiter explained that those items are served on the side and the girls could choose which they want to eat. I ordered the Green salad made with alfalfa sprouts, olives, greens, hardboiled egg and feta cheese with a vinaigrette dressing, $3.95.
The specials - listed on slates hanging on the walls - were vichyssoise for $1.25, chutney turkey salad with fruit salad for $3.95 and chicken, broccoli and rice for $2.95. Other menu items sounded equally tempting, such as the "cafe salad" of greens, sprouts, carrots, red onion, sunflower seeds and olives, $1.50, and the salami and cheese sandwich with pickles, corn chips and vegetable garnish, $2.90.
The waiter recommended natural Honey Pure sodas for the children. They chose root beer, instead, which turned out to be a light yellow in color but reportedly tasted good. According to the label, it was made with natural oils, filtered water and unpasteurized honey.
Melissa said her cheeseburger looked like a "banquet" when it appeared displayed open face and surrounded by onion slices, romaine lettuce and ripe tomato slices. Hilary said hers was much tastier than those at her preferred fast food outlet, a high compliment.
The Greek salad was ordinary except for the fresh alfalfa sprouts and nicely seasoned dressing.
Four desserts were available - mango mousse, carrot cake and cannoli, each $1.25, and cheesecake, $1.50. A diner at the next table showed us his mango mousse, which appeared to be a white pudding with slices of the exotic fruit, but the girls were not tempted.
Although she had never heard of it, Hilary was persuaded to try the cannoli and Melissa had the carrot cake. Melissa's choice turned out to be the winner of the meal, a moist and chewy cake with a fascinating sauce of cream cheese, sour cream and a touch of Amretto.
We were told that everything but the cannoli is made in the Cafe d'Ors small kitchen.
The entire meal, including two glasses of Perrier and lime for me, came to $17.12 plus tip.