For all you readers who love funky little restaurants, this one's for you. All others, stop here.
Actually Java Blues can hardly be called a restaurant. It's a coffeehouse par excellence, with loads of atmosphere, espresso and cappuccino, sweets and great breads. (But then as faithful readers know, I'm extremely partial to the Stone Mill Bakery, Java Blues' source for breads and rolls.)
Owners Ed and Vini Meyers do offer lunch, early supper and carryout food -- a wacky menu that changes from day to day. The first time I went for lunch it was a little after 1 p.m. and there was no more quiche and no more shrimp and vegetable salad left. So one of us had a little plate of a fine pasta pesto salad ($2) with salty sun-dried tomatoes. The other lunched on a baby greens salad ($3.75), dressed heavily with a good but garlicky vinaigrette. That was it. All that was left. We supplemented the salads with several desserts made by the Meyerses: a tart, sugary lemon square ($1.50) on a shortbread crust -- it was too tart and too sugary for my taste -- and a wonderful giant ginger cookie ($1), plus an apple-raisin brioche ($2.25) from Stone Mill that shouldn't be missed.
Obviously this called for a return visit, so the next day we arrived a little before noon and could choose from tarragon chicken salad, artichoke/carrot/black olive quiche, pizza bagels, and a green bean and pear salad with pine nuts and chevre.
It's like a game of Which Item Doesn't Belong Here. What is that pizza bagel ($3) doing there between the quiche and the chevre? But the pizza bagel was actually our most satisfying lunch, with homemade tomato sauce on a wonderfully chewy bagel topped thickly with grated mozzarella. The quiche ($2.75) would be better warm, but it was an interesting combination in a fine, flaky crust. Interesting is the operative word for the green bean salad ($2) too: the combination of flavors worked, but it didn't look particularly appetizing.
The raison d'etre for Java Blues is the coffee, of course. This is coffee for coffee fanatics, incredibly strong and rich. Too strong for me, actually; I prefer the selection of excellent teas on hand. The specialties are cappuccino ($2.75) and mochaccino ($3) -- coffee and frothy milk with chocolate. They're so authentic the person behind the counter will ask if you want cinnamon on top. (Purists, I suppose, will say no.)
Java Blues has gotten lots of press up to now that may have led you to think it's more of a sit-down place than it really is. It's like a toy restaurant. Painted blue and gold, the tiny dining room is cute as a button, with four miniature tables and small folding chairs. You eat off charmingly mismatched china with mismatched flatware. And check out the miniature toaster behind the counter. It's just so cute. There's no other word for it.
Java Blues opens at 8:30 a.m. for continental breakfasts, and that's where it shines. You can get fresh orange juice, all sorts of rolls and breads, brioche, plump bagels and, of course, coffee.
Where: 243 W. Read St.
Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays, closed Sundays.
Credit cards accepted: No.
Features: Coffees, pastries, light fare.
Non-smoking section? No.
Call: (410) 728-JAVA.