Bourbon chicken, turnip greens, squash casserole and peach cobbler. Photo by Laura Poythress.
Located along Highway 119, between Starbucks and Buck’s Pizza, stands the small cafeteria-style restaurant City Cafe.
When we first walked in, a hostess walked up, seated us and took our drink order. Never having been there before and unfamiliar with the method, we sat at our table for a moment before realizing that we ought to be in the line that forms to the left of the entrance. Everyone was in line to be served as if at Montevallo’s very own caf.
City Cafe is southern in its style, almost like a fancy “Mom and Pop” food establishment located inside a suite that is decorated with a combination of ultra modern and 80s style. The gray paint and white plastic deer and moose heads on the walls seem to clash styles with the silk flowers on the tables.
The restaurant has a seating capacity of about 100 guests, and a line for food forms starting at the back of the building where food is served. When we got in line, there were about 12 people ahead of us. The staff seemed limited, with only one person at a time serving plates, along an extensive line of food options. This made the wait take about seven minutes until our turn to choose a dish.
On the serving line, guests are expected to choose a main course and two side dishes. The price marked on the main course item is the cost of that item plus two side dishes. The day we went, the main course options were hamburger steak, bourbon chicken, pot roast, fish almondine and baked chicken, each served with either rice, dressing or potatoes.
After choosing an entree, guests select two side dishes to accompany it. There are many side dish options including cabbage, turnip greens, creamed corn, candied yams, green beans and butter beans. Each dish comes with a roll or corn muffin. At the end of the hot line, there is a dessert option.
We tried the two following combinations: Bourbon chicken on a bed of rice, turnip greens, squash casserole, roll and peach cobbler, as well as pot roast on a bed of rice, macaroni and cheese and candied yams.
The bourbon chicken was sweet and tender. Although it did not appear appetizing, it was actually tasty. The turnips were perfectly seasoned with a hint of jalapeno and cooked as full-leaves. The squash casserole left much to be desired as it was a creamy and cheesy dish with very little squash flavor to it at all. The peach cobbler was unappetizing, as is typical for a cobbler cooked for the masses. It was sweet but lacked any variation in texture, leaving the diner with a gooey, viscous texture in their mouth.
The pot roast was another perfectly seasoned dish with all the components and flavors expected of a pot roast. The macaroni and cheese was also cheesy and flavorful. The candied yams were perfectly sweet and met flavor expectations.
In all, City Cafe reminds me of a Morrison’s or Piccadilly cafeteria but on a much smaller scale. The staff was running around, refilling drinks, clearing tables, cashing customers out, refilling hot-line dishes and making sure customers were having a good experience. While the food was alright, it was not outstanding. City Cafe is not on my list of places to go when trying to get away from the caf.