45 Oak Street, Roswell; 770-594-1300
Mon., 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; Tues.-Sat., 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5:30-9 p.m.; Sun., 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
At first, with the deep burgundy color scheme and heavy furnishings, Oak Street Café seemed too elegant for a casual family meal. However, my 12-year-old daughter and her friend were entranced by the dark, mysterious European ambience, and the wonderful aroma of Italian-influenced cooking was instantly welcoming to the whole family.
What’s on the menu: I sampled the whole-grain salad ($9) and a bowl of chunky gazpacho ($5.50). Both dishes were refreshing and healthy, if a little tame for my taste. The grain salad featured toasted Israeli couscous, farro, cured olives, cherry tomatoes, roasted red peppers, Vidalia onions, feta crumbles, crisp arugula, and toasted pistachios, drizzled with a tangy vinaigrette.
My husband, a meat-and-potatoes kind of man, ordered the polpettone ($15), an Italian mainstay, prepared with a closely guarded family recipe of ground beef and pork. He was surprised that it was actually a medium-sized meatball rather than the squared-off chunk of meat he had expected. He found it very tasty, particularly paired with the garlicky “olive oil-crushed potatoes.” I have to admit, I kept sneaking tastes of those potatoes.
The thick and hearty sandwiches, made with bread from Artisan Foods and Buckhead Bread Co., were the kids’ favorites. For dinner, there were three sandwich options: chicken ($9), crab cake ($12) and hamburger ($10), dressed any way you like. Sides included delicious fries, soup, two salads, and macaroni and cheese.
Oak Street Café is also open for lunch. For dinner, be aware that it’s not a quick-service restaurant. We frequently looked at our watches, because we had an engagement later in the evening. There was almost no time for dessert, but we opted for homemade ice cream, which was relatively quick.
Why parents will like it: The café is small, with a neighborhood feel. Parking is a breeze. You may want to bring a book or a quiet gadget to keep small children occupied. We had the sense that the chef would not rush any dish. When we explained at the outset that we were in a bit of a hurry, our waiter kindly advised us how long each entrée would take to prepare.
Why kids will like it: The kids enjoyed the chance to dine in relative elegance for a family-friendly restaurant; it made them feel grown up. My daughter appreciated the opportunity to customize the Lafayette, a grilled all-natural chicken sandwich, substituting provolone for the unfamiliar Emmenthaler cheese. Both kids raved about the crispy, well-seasoned, hand-cut french fries. While service was a little slower than they were used to, they enjoyed commenting on the displayed artwork. The lollipops available to departing customers were a big hit, much more fun than the usual mints.
– Beth Balga