COLUMBIA, 4/24/12 (Review) --
A friend and I stopped into International Cafe
's new location at 26 S 9th St
after the lunch crowd rush. I hadn't eaten at International Cafe for a few years -- since it was at the old location on Hitt Street. I used to eat there a lot in college when hummus and falafel and gyros were new to me.
The special on the board was Choice of Lentil or Mediterranean Chicken Soup with Falafel or Gyro Sandwich or Greek Salad for $6.95.
We went for the Gyro Sandwich (we substituted hummus for the tzatziki) and the Mediterannean Chicken Soup. Since neither lentil soup or Mediterranean chicken soup sounded very good to me, I asked if you could substitute the soup for a small salad, but no dice.
The interior is like a clean city deli: linoelum and generic tables and chairs. It's warm, with an already-lived-in- feel, and the owners are friendly. (You order at the counter and they give you a number and bring you your food.)
The spanikopita (spinach pie for $4.95) was the standout. Phyllo dough about 5" x 3" stuffed with spinach and feta cheese, it was substantial and tasty.
The soup: Dark red with large herbs like parsley floating in it -- pretty except for the sheen of oil on top. It was also very sweet! The flavor was interesting, but the oil and the sweetness were not. I never found a chunk of chicken, but I only had a few bites, trying to turn my spoon to the side to drop off some of the oil. It didn't work.
The gyro: Your standard fare gyro: thin slices of gyro meat and a helping of hummus. It was topped with a huge heap of chopped iceberg lettuce and rather sharp onions. The meat was good, but the layering wasn't, so you didn't get a nice bit of everything when you got a forkful. And the tomato was one of those freezer specials that you don't even try to eat if you have ever had a tomato in summer in Missouri.
Unfortunately, the sharp onion flavor stayed on in my mouth all afternoon. I left feeling rather unsatisified since I was only going to eat the soup, but my companion (who ate most of the spanikopita) was full.
Since this definitely wasn't it, the search for the best gyro in town is on!
People-watching on 9th Street might be the best thing about eating at International Cafe. We sat outside at one of the wrought iron tables in the little front patio and enjoyed the downtown scene.
Our mystery reviewer for the International Cafe is a well-known artist and arts promoter in Columbia.