The Garage Café, which opened this spring, offers a new “fresh” take to dining in the Portsmouth, Ohio area, both in its approach to food and decor. Located in the historic Boneyfiddle district in downtown Portsmouth, Garage Café sells fresh, fast, and healthier food alternatives in an urban/industrial décor. The restaurant is situated on the same block where the Ye Old Lantern used to sit, and only a few blocks from Shawnee State University and the recently renovated Holiday Inn Portsmouth.
Perhaps what is most unique about Garage Café is the restaurant’s design. The restaurant’s modern look provides an interesting contrast to the historic facades of the buildings in the Boneyfiddle area.
Patrons are greeted by several “robots” which are present throughout the restaurant: as statues mounted to the walls; as wall paintings; and as “helper” robots present at the condiment station, the order station, and as a gumball machine near the restaurant entrance. Keeping consistent with the urban/industrial theme, patrons will quickly notice a ceiling that resembles a refurbished garage or warehouse, a wall with a rough brick facade, and a metallic food bar and tables. Above the register are three flat screen monitors showing flashes of the restaurant logo and menu. Another flat screen playing a steady rotation of ‘80s and ‘90s background music, is mounted to the corner of the restaurant, opposite the register.
The dress attire is very casual, and the mix of patrons range from young hipsters who attend Shawnee State to locals who have lived in the Portsmouth and Boneyfiddle area their entire lives. Restaurant seating is limited, so it may be difficult to seat large groups during lunch hour.
Another unique aspect to Garage Café is its method of service. When patrons walk in they will find bins filled with ink pens and order cards detailing the restaurant’s menu items. The cards are to be filled out and submitted to the person behind the food bar.
The menu list contains an assortment of sandwiches, soups, salads, and burritos. Patrons can choose which vegetables and condiments they desire on their sandwich or burrito before submitting their order to the person attending the food bar. The sandwich selection consists of Mediterranean, grilled portobello, chicken Gouda, and turkey bacon avocado. The sandwich selection also includes your choice of chips (spicy barbecue, salt and vinegar, or sour cream and onion) and a drink (choice of Coke® products, juice, Vitaminwater®, Smartwater® and Epic® and Naked® juices). Burritos come with a selection of tortilla chips and salsa instead of potato chips.
The Mediterranean features a red pepper hummus, feta cheese and caramelized onions with diced cucumbers, tomatoes, and cilantro on tomato basil bread. The hummus was both smooth and spicy, a treat for one who enjoys spicy food. The cucumbers were fresh and crisp, and the tomatoes were firm and juicy. The spicy barbecue chips were tangier than I expected, which was another pleasant surprise. The chips had a texture more like potato crisps as opposed to chips, but tasted much better than regular chips and were much crunchier. The barbecue flavor also provides a zesty “kick” that titillates the taste buds.
Patrons can choose to dine on a fresh stuffed burrito in a tortilla shell or a fresh burrito bowl. Both feature a choice of cilantro rice, black beans, cheese, lettuce, salsa, guacamole or sour cream, sautéed peppers and caramelized onions, or shredded chipotle chicken. The burrito was not as spicy as the Mediterranean, but was still tasty. The salsa was sweet and tangy and was very enjoyable to taste.
For those who enjoy soup, Garage offers minestrone soup from vegetable stock, chicken noodle soup with white meat chicken, southwest corn chowder with a light cream, and turkey chili with beans.
Garage also offers some great salad options including a rainbow salad with assorted fruits, feta cheese and chopped romaine lettuce in strawberry vinaigrette. And, let’s not forget breakfast. The Garage’s breakfast menu has several morning favorites among them are soufflés, omelettes, muffins and bagels. Meanwhile, the dessert menu includes chocolate obsession or oatmeal raisin cookies, chocolate pudding, or the Garage Café Parfait – vanilla yogurt topped with strawberries, bananas, blackberries and pecans.
The food is reasonably priced. Both my burrito and Mediterranean sandwich with chips and a drink were $8, plus tax. Soufflés and omelettes are $4, muffins $2.50 and bagels $3.50. Soup with a drink is $6, but you can add a bread bowl and half sandwich for an additional $2. Soup refills are $4.
Garage Café is open seven days a week from 7 a.m. – 8 p.m. with breakfast served from 7-10 a.m. It is located at 609 Second Street in Portsmouth. To learn more, visit www.garagecafeoh.com.
Photos by Ashley Gallaher Quinn