Food & Drink » Restaurant Review

Spork Cafe

Thornton Park café leaves diners with a sense of cheer and well-being



As a welcoming collaborative workspace, Urban ReThink provides an inspirational gathering ground where the city's creative class can fashion ideas and see them to fruition. Certainly the modern office furnishings and meeting facilities help to further the noble aim of establishing the organization as a legitimate economic force, but even the most ardent acolyte of Richard Florida needs sustenance to drive the economic engine. Enter: Spork Café. Occupying a tiny corner inside Urban ReThink, the self-proclaimed "Happy Food Café" is the culmination of the hard work and effort of sisters Tisse and Joyce Mallon.

Tisse's work as a "happiness coach" has clearly affected the dishes coming out of this diminutive kitchen. The always fresh, made-to-order, organic-when-possible, unprocessed fare not only supplies the alimentary essentials, but really does leave you with a sense of cheer and well-being, and not out of some act of cultish or coercive persuasion, either. The food, like the sisters, is genuine – the real deal – and it's precisely what makes Spork such a thriving street-level draw.

The corn chowder ($4), for example, was eye-openingly good. I was convinced the stock was made from a cream/meat base before we learned the soup was vegan and comprised a blend of two types of corn, tomatoes, garlic, cilantro, water, salt and pepper. As we sat at one of the outdoor tables, we noticed the soup catching the eyes of passers-by; then came even more prolonged stares upon delivery of the "Dippin' Muffin Tin" ($7.50) – a muffin tray we chose to load with six fillers: stimulating guacamole, hummus, peanut butter (from Freshfields Farms), tortilla chips, warm pita and organic carrots. Apart from the heavy-handed use of curry in the hummus, the tin made another delightful starter, though it could easily serve as a proper lunch. Even though it was past the juicing hour of 1 p.m., Joyce was kind enough to accommodate my request for a "Morning Merlot" ($3.50 small; $5.50 large) consisting of carrots, beets, apples and celery. Other notable potables include bracing mint water (think liquid Altoids), fresh-brewed iced teas like Earl Grey and wildberry ($2), served in mason jars, and a handful of craft beers and wines.

Sandwiches and wraps are the forte here, and even though they were all out of ciabatta, the roast beef ($7.50), provolone, tomato, onion and Dijon mustard sandwiched in a croissant proved commendable. My wife couldn't help but sing the praises of the whole-wheat cap wrap ($7.50), a vegetarian option that's meaty to its core with a warm portobello-avocado mélange, sprouts, spinach and Parmesan. We also sampled the Greek salad ($7.25), served in a mixing bowl with unpitted olives (yes!), plenty of crumbly feta, cucumber, onions, spinach and tomato. The sole ingredient lacking: peperoncini.

It should be noted that the only spork-friendly items on the menu seemed to be the fruit bowl ($4) and yogurt parfait ($5), neither of which we sampled. Instead, we indulged in an ultra-soft waffle ($5) spread with Nutella and sweet strawberries, then went a step further and overindulged with a trio of rich homemade truffles ($5).

That gratifying closure ensured we left the way Joyce and Tisse intended – two shiny happy people, holding hands.

Spork Café

625 E. Central Blvd.

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