Left Bank Cafe is a winner

The Dilled Spinach and Artichoke Crepe ($8.49). Photo by Mark Lee

FOOD: 4 stars

ATMOSPHERE: 4 stars

SERVICE: 3 stars

At first we had a little

trouble finding the Left Bank Caf�'©. The new eatery lists its address as 310 W.

Michigan St., which is actually the site of the rebuilt Cosmopolitan apartment

building. But this listing is just a way of signaling that you're in the right

neighborhood. This is the place to park your car and take the stairs down to

the Canal Walk.

The fact is we don't seem to

have a readymade system for identifying locations along downtown's Canal Walk.

That's because this delightful pedestrian thoroughfare has inexplicably managed

to remain the city's biggest open secret.

For years the Canal Walk has

been a kind of marvelous getaway, a ribbon of water making its way through the

heart of downtown, offering easy connections to Military and White River parks,

IUPUI, Victory Field and the Eiteljorg.

And for years those of us

who have used and enjoyed this special corridor have thought it a natural

setting for a caf�'© scene that, confoundingly, has never materialized. I guess

it's been a case of no one wanting to be the first to take a chance.

Voila: the Left Bank Caf�'©.

In this case, the left bank

is actually the east bank of the Canal, just north of the Indiana Landmarks

building. The fact that there's a new caf�'© on the Canal Walk is encouraging.

But having a place that's this good is cause for celebration.

As its name suggests, the

Left Bank CafÃ�'© offers a French-inflected menu – yet another pleasant

surprise, given this city's lack of Gallic options.

We started with an order of

vegetarian Stuffed Mushrooms (also available with andouille sausage filling,

$6.95). Out came an assortment of fresh mushroom caps featuring a toasty bread

crumb topping over a soft, salty center of melted cheese, presented on a bed of

baby greens. Although the stuffing was hot at the center, the outer surface of

the caps remained cool, creating a pleasant sensory call-and-respond effect. A little

more garlic in the mix would have made the veggie version of this dish

outstanding.

In addition to French Onion

or Soup du Jour ($5.25), Left Bank Caf�'© offers a variety of salads with

homemade dressings; Flatbreads; Paninis; and Crepes, in both Savory and Sweet

varieties. We sampled the Andouille Sausage Panini ($8.95) and the Dilled

Spinach and Artichoke Crepe ($8.49).

The Andouille Sausage Panini

consisted of angle-cut bites of high quality, spicy sausage served on a grilled

ciabatta roll, treated with a delicious dressing made with sweet red peppers,

red onions, melted Provolone cheese and plenty of Dijon mustard. Simply put,

this was a great sandwich; every ingredient was given its chance to shine,

thanks to Left Bank Caf�'©'s attention to flavor combinations and its apparent

determination to use only the freshest makings.

This was certainly the case

with the Dilled Spinach and Artichoke Crepe. Cooked spinach and artichoke bits

were rolled with red onions, garlic and rosemary, then topped with a lemon egg

sauce. Dill struck the prominent note with this dish, which was enhanced by the

way the steely flavor of the pan itself informed and amplified the flavors of

the other ingredients. The crepe was served with a seasonal salad of fresh

fruit that not only made for an appealing presentation, but proved to be a

nicely conceived complement to the dish overall. Duly noted, by the way, was

how the sauce never seemed to make the crepe feel too heavy.

Desserts and breakfast

choices are also on offer – good news for folks in the neighborhood,

since Left Bank opens every day at 7 a.m. And for those of us who, for all

these years, have used the Canal Walk as a way to or from other downtown

destinations, there is finally a new place to sit, reflect and have a tasty

bite. Left Bank is open until 9 p.m. most evenings; 10 p.m. on weekends.

Left Bank Caf�'© is a great way

to start a caf�'© scene on downtown's Canal Walk. More, please.

Left Bank Caf�'©

Canal Walk Level

Near 310-340 W. Michigan St.

Ph: 642-3305

HOURS:

Monday-Thursday: 7 a.m.-9

p.m.

Friday-Sunday: 7 a.m.-10 p.m.

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