Grinding It Out at Café Europa
Charlottesville, Virginia

By Patricia B. Mitchell, 2004.

Cafe Europa

Café Europa offers coffees and Greek/Mediterranean/trendy/healthful food at sensible prices. UVA students and shopkeepers at the Corner in Charlottesville, Virginia seem to find this eatery a reliable choice.

The customer goes through a line at a deli-style counter. Some foods are there, in the glass cases, on display.

On our visit, daughter Sarah selected Cheese Tortellini Salad with squash, zucchini, and herbs, which the waitstaff person handed to her right away. Sarah also ordered a Portabello Mushroom Sandwich which was subsequently brought to our table. The sandwich consisted of strips of marinated portabello mushrooms, onion, tomato, sprouts, and mayonnaise on a baguette. Sarah thought that the salad was very good; the sandwich so-so, because the flavor of the marinade and mayo overpowered the mushrooms and veggies.

However, there are many tempting “Combination Specialty Sandwiches” on the menu. Perhaps other choices would be tastier. Typical deli meat sandiwches are also offered, as well as salads, soups, desserts, and breakfast items. Various coffees and teas are available.

On this particular occasion husband Henry and I both ordered the lettuce-less (!) Greek Salad, which was O.K., but not memorable. We also chose moussaka. A good moussaka is hard to find. We didn't find it on the Café Europa “continent.” Their casserole had potatoes in it (along with the proper and traditional eggplant) and was oddly seasoned.

If we go back, we might try the tomato soup (if available) and the souvlaki, both of which looked good.

The restaurant gets very crowded and busy at normal mealtimes. (They are open for a late-ish breakfast, lunch, and until late at night. — Coffee, anyone?) The decor is utilitarian and rather cold — no cosy atmosphere here. Disposable bowls, plates, “silverware,” etc., also give this place a strictly functional feel. If the name “Café Europa” suggests to you a leisurely streetside repast along a sensual, sun-dappled Continental boulevard, you will be disappointed. Nevertheless, the regular customers recognize this establishment's strong points and patronize it.