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Feb. 25, 2008

1894 adds up to success

by Kiera Zitelman, Online Editor-in-Chief
Kensington's Cafe 1894 does not have a lot to compete with in the small downtown area that otherwise consists of a casual sandwich and bagel shop. It recently opened for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and its limited menu does have a few gems. While it might not be a weekly destination, Cafe 1894 is a pleasant spot offering some imaginative food.

At around $15 per entre, Cafe 1894 offers good food for an affordable price, though it lacks in choices. There are just seven entres to choose from, which includes only one soup and salad. Owner Duane Rollins is planning to change his menu, but not to make it bigger. "We'll do a special dish every month," he said. "Not expand the number of dishes but change it up a little. We're never going to have a big menu." Rollins also plans to add more vegetarian entres in the coming weeks.
Cafe 1894's picture window looks out onto Armory Avenue in downtown Kensington. Kiera Zitelman
Cafe 1894's picture window looks out onto Armory Avenue in downtown Kensington.

Though limited, what the little Cafe 1894 does offer is satisfying. An imaginative entre salad features a brilliant medley of tastes including woody walnuts, tangy strawberries, flavorful chicken strips and sweet raisins that turn a salad into a meal.

The mashed potatoes, served as a side on multiple entres, are not to be missed for their texture and creative blend of flavors. On the other hand, Cafe 1894's brownie sundae dessert is not particularly memorable, even though it's hard to dislike a combination of brownie and ice cream. In the face of its limited menu however, Cafe 1894 manages to put together appropriate sides, sauces and vegetables for each main course - and a well-prepared salmon dish provided enough food for two semi-hungry diners.

Cafe 1894's present site used to be the home of Cafe Monet, a Kensington-favorite offering breakfast and lunch. Now with a much-needed dinner place in the small town, Kensingtonians are flocking to Cafe 1894. On a weekend night, all the tables are full and those who arrive late are left waiting at the bar.
Cafe 1894's breakfast and lunch front dining area is a popular morning hangout. Kiera Zitelman
Cafe 1894's breakfast and lunch front dining area is a popular morning hangout.

Rollins is planning several changes to the restaurant. By next fall, for instance, he wants to add outdoor heaters to extend the period in which diners can sit outside.

The cafe is modern and stylish, but one can tell it was just opened. One of the tables is Rollins's old desk, and the walls are bare compared to Cafe Monet's constant stream of local artwork. There are two rooms to the cafe: a smaller section in the front, with a bar and breakfast service, and the larger back room, offering dinner.

If Cafe 1894 lacks decor, it more than makes up in the service department. Rollins walks around to various tables to meet his clientele, and he comes across as caring and inquisitive to each group. The wait staff is willing to give suggestions and answer questions, and the service is fast. Be warned, though: on a weekend, be prepared for a long wait, as Cafe 1894 does not accept reservations.

Diners can count on Cafe 1894 for a good experience the first few visits. And with time and improvements, Cafe 1894 could become a praised Kensington hangout.

Cafe 1894 is located at 10417 Armory Avenue. It is open for breakfast and lunch Tuesday through Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and for cocktails and dinner Friday and Saturday from 6 to 10 p.m.



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  • Mark (View Email) on April 17, 2008 at 3:04 PM
    This place is great! Their chicken salad rocks the house as does their "beef on a weck" sandwich for lunch. Dinner entrees are robust and satisfying: the meatloaf is thick cut and sparse on filler and the pasta in vodka sauce with sausage is killer. They've recently started doing dinners on Thursday nights as well, so that makes three dinner nights now instead of just two. Kensington really needed a nice place to eat with outdoor seating, especially now since the Country Cupboard Tea Room around the corner of Fawcett Street has been bought by a couple of idiots who are trying their hardest to run that local favorite into the ground and out of business!
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