No frills Coffee Gallery brings back the melt

Categories: Restaurants

Coffee Gallery (1011 Washington Ave. South) is not much to look at. Housed on the first floor of Open Book, the center that also hosts the Loft Literary Center, Milkweed Editions, Minnesota Center for Book Arts, and the Rosalux Gallery, you may think of it as just a place to stop off for a cup of coffee or tea as you head to a viewing, meeting or class. You would be wrong.

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Sandwiches are served with an orange slice and a generous handful of circular tortilla chips.

Coffee Gallery makes its own sandwiches and soups on site. The sandwiches (all around 5 or 6 bucks), many of which are melts, are wrapped in paper and stacked up on top one another in tubs in the display case. When you place your order for a melt, a staffer will head to a grilling machine, that presses and toasts your meal. It's not exactly mouthwatering when you see the tubs behind the glass, but when you bite into your sandwich it's delicious. The turkey melt is a simple sandwich of sliced turkey and swiss cheese on sourdough, the grilled cheese has sharp cheddar on buttered sourdough, and the Brently, is a melt that includes avocado, sundried tomato, mozzarella and cheddar cheeses on multigrain bread.

The Coffee Gallery always offers some interesting vegetarian options. They have two homemade soups offered daily, which always seem to include at least one vegetarian option. Recent soups have included the Texas Two-Bean, Creamy Herb Potato, Cuban Black Bean Soup, and Chicken Tortilla Soup -- a hearty, flavorful blend of chicken, cilantro and vegetables like tomato, carrot, celery. Often their sandwiches take classics and add a slight twist in their ingredients. Their Garden Sandwich includes alfalfa sprouts, cream cheese, avocado, red onion and mustard. Other sandwiches and wraps included an Italian sandwich and a Reuben with corned beef and sauerkraut on caraway bread. The smoked turkey wrap, in addition to turkey, includes raw almonds, seedless grapes, fresh spinach, sour cream, and cumin.

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The staff is quick and practical at Coffee Gallery, deftly pouring coffee and heating melts.

The coffee gallery can seem a bit cluttered -- in addition to the pastries, sandwiches and salads available in the display case, there are always a few things for sale that appear near the register. On my last visit, there were Ghiradelli triple chocolate brownies ($2) as well as peanut butter cookies and chocolate chip cookies for sale. Pastries on display come from area bakeries. On a recent visit, French Meadow's peanut butter bars and rhubarb bars were for sale along with a few scones and chocolate croissants. There are also fruit cups and parfaits made with Kemp's vanilla yogurt, oats, and fresh berries.

If you are looking for a place that just is what it is -- no special lighting or trendy menus -- the Coffee Gallery may be the spot for you. It also helps that what it is, is often pretty good.

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