Pepper, sage, rosemary and thyme. That's the rub that gives the star of Creation Café's popular pulled pork nachos ($7.75) a bit of alluring bite. At least, that's the word my very smooth waiter, Derrick, brought back from the kitchen.
Like a cochinita pibil that's cooked underground and emerges a succulent suckling pig, this slow-roasted pork is nestled under tortilla chips that were likely twice-fried, then smothered in yellow cheese, keeping it warm and juicy. Don't bother with the bland guacamole on the side or the salsa they may offer. Especially if you've already been munching on the very garlicky croutons provided on every table.
If you make it through these nachos and are still hungry, you probably split them with someone else. A good thing, since there are plenty of savory sandwiches at the Buggs Temple building's casual eatery.
Forget about Buggs Temple's false start upstairs. It will reemerge as "Euphoria" very soon, still helmed by Chef Brad Gates, but with a completely different front-of-house staff, new wine list and menu, and a room makeover to include high-backed leopard print chairs that will make the high-ceilinged area seem less, well, dwarfed.
In the meantime, the building's mid-level Creation Café is bringing lots of downtown workers into its cheery, colorful space with a built-in coffeehouse, the requisite loitering furniture and free Wi-Fi.
My in-the-know dining companion divulges Euphoria's re-opening details on one trip to Creation. She's also telling me about some complaints she heard about the front-of-house staff here. She tests our waitress' temperance.
"What's good?" she asks innocently. The friendly waitress mentions a sandwich or two. She also recommends the Cuban sandwich ($8.50) to me, which I order. I like the sandwich of pulled pork, ham, Swiss cheese, mustard and housemade pickles in crisp, mayo-slathered ciabatta bread. It will prove to rank highly on my still-tasting-it-two-hours-later scale - most important for lovers of garlic, onion, curry and cumin.
I'm less hands-down in love with my Brussels sprout bisque ($5.50). People go crazy for bisques when the weather turns cold - menus do, anyway - and this venue proves no exception.
What should be fried onion strings atop the thick green soup are more like tough shoelaces than silvery slivers, and the cardboard-tinged bread boule clangs and clashes with the savory smoothness of the bisque. Hmph.
My friend's soup is a thick, slightly sweet four-cheese bisque that I couldn't have finished myself, and I don't believe she did, either. It's tasty. I don't quite remember her ham and cheese on very round, very brown bread.
Another trip on my lonesome reveals more winners and a few losers. My "Fiendish Fish Sandwich" ($9.25) of breaded tilapia is juicy on the inside, very browned on the outside, with the bite of ginger, perhaps. It definitely tastes of Asian tempura, and it's good. A side of pungent, lemon-limey tartar sauce suits my salt-loving taste buds well. But the overall logistics are difficult: The catch spills over the sides of the narrow, high bun. I'd like it better on an improvised hot dog bun, East Coast fish roll style.
I do not care for the chips. They're sliced see-through thin, and they're crisp. Maybe it's just this batch, but they taste like grease through and through.
By the time this meal has come to an end, my particularly helpful, particularly handsome Derrick (though he pronounced it more like "D-Rock") rattles off a couple of gelato selections, sourced from Carmel's Gelato Da Vinci.
He finally proposes wedding cake gelato ($3). And I'm so glad he did. This Cake Spectacular was. And I do. Like Creation Café.
337 W. 11th St.
Coffee Bar: open Monday-Saturday at 7 a.m.
Kitchen: Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Closed on Sundays
Food: Three and a half stars
Atmosphere: Five stars
Service: Four stars