The food is solid, but service languid at Centraal
Café Centraal, 2306 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., the Diablos Rojos restaurant group's fourth and newest venue, has been open just shy of a month and a half now, and the restaurant's popularity seems to continue to grow as the days pass.
With a menu overlapped with items from Downer Avenue's Café Hollander and Downtown's Fat Abbey Bier Café (under the same ownership) food here is already solid and consistent, and the restaurant's cool vibe meets Bay View's demand for another nightspot, as well as a venue for lunches and weekend brunches. But diners should be aware, that either due to new growing pains or training issues, the service at Café Centraal is rough.
Frites (thin, crispy and delicious French fries; $4.95 for a cone with mayo) and Belgian beers are the stars at Café Centraal, which also features sandwiches, salads, and entrées, all with the homespun feel that has made Diablos Rojos establishments so popular. Centraal also focuses on mussels by the pound ($11.95 for one, $16.95 for two) and they proffer sweet potato fries which are crisp, sweet and salty all at once for pure enjoyment.
The mussels need a tiny bit of work, as ours were ever so slightly overcooked in a curry cream sauce that just wasn't quite thick enough. That aside, however, all the other items we sampled on three separate visits to Centraal were above average and good enough to make us want to come back for more.
Bitterballen ($7.95) quickly became a favorite appetizer with fried, crisp on the outside, tender on the inside beef meatballs served with a spicy curried ketchup.
And if you're a ham and split pea soup lover, Centraal is the place to go. At $3.95 a cup or $5.95 a bowl, the soup is thick and rich with ham that makes this another quick favorite; I could do without the croutons, but they definitely give the soup a different flavor and not unpleasant crunch.
A curry chicken pita ($8.95) also earns high marks, with sweet and spicy curried salad with a little crunch tucked into warm flatbread. Benelux meatloaf ($11.95) is tender and flavorful, and is even more delicious as a sandwich ($9.95) with swiss cheese.
Brunch at Centraal, too, is worth a visit, and offers everything from pancakes and waffles to steak and eggs, or a combination of all of the above. Look for fun options like a Mr. Hollander ($8.95) that merges a waffle with a ham, white cheddar and fried egg sandwich, or basics like eggs benedict ($8.95), all of which come with roasted rosemary potatoes.
The service waits at Centraal for drinks and other inquiries are lengthy, and if you want items to be paced, you best ask up front, or you'll receive your appetizers at the same time as your soup and your entrées. But if you aren't in a hurry and you're looking for solid, homestyle comfort food, this new place will definitely fit your bill, and your stomach.
When a friend and I went to Centraal a few weeks ago, we definitely thought it was some of the worst service we have ever had. But then to top it off, we both woke up the next day with food poisoning. I had been very excited about Centraal coming to the neighborhood, but definitely disappointed with my first (and quite possibly last) experience.
we must remember, generalizations about people from Bay View (and everywhere else) are __always__ right.
TO JOESRIBS: Yes, I have. In fact, I worked at Trocadero for a year, and have been at Cafe Hollander for almost 2. I now also work at Centraal (which is a TOUGH restaurant to get around in because of its size and shape.) I know Trocadero is known for its terrible service, and even I experience the same (sorry, guys) but I promise you, if you come in to Hollander or Centraal and ask for Chelsea, I'll probably be able to change your mind. P.S. To whomever has a grudge against underpaid 20-somethings, I NEVER come into work hung-over and think that's a ridiculously biased statement.
All waitstaff that live in Bay View are the same - inattentive and disinterested. It's the same at Lulu, Hectors, Palomino, and Tenuta's.
We've been to Cafe Centraal at least four times now, and have never had a grumble it. In fact I have a story about outstanding service from the restaurant. I had placed a very large take-out order for a presidential debate-watching party, and the service I got with that was absolutely outstanding. Every one of my party-goers loved the food, and found that everything was accurately prepared. The service was very friendly and personal. That this was less than a month after the restaurant had opened won them huge marks in my book.
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