By Keith Hadad
Right in the center of the Commons lies Brotchen (pronounced BRERT-khen), a unique little cafe that offers German and Austrian award-winning soups, salads, sandwiches, coffee and various desserts. Brotchen’s unique cuisine fits in amongst the collection of other ethnic restaurants that Ithaca is blessed to have.
Once you step inside, you are confronted by jars of psychedelically bright European candy on the very long display counter, all of which is for sale, as well as various kinds of chocolates and luscious giant cakes. The look of the cafe is certainly of a middle European influence, as it is decked out with darkly colored hutches that display canned and jarred edibles that would be very hard to find in this country. A street cart and wooden trellises hang on the walls and ceiling. Another aspect to this cafe that I highly enjoyed was the fact that they have a table or two outside. During the current nice spring weather, eating outside in the Commons is very welcome.
I highly recommend not getting just a drink or just a bite to eat, but instead having both together. For instance, having the Viennese coffee with a plate of raspberry and cream cheese crepe is simply fantastic.
The Viennese coffee is a drink I’m sure most coffee fans aren’t used to but would quickly become admirers of. It has a mix of bitter and sweet flavors and a thick, foamy, almost granular texture to it. The flavor is not at all unlike a bar of bittersweet chocolate, only with a dash of cinnamon adding spice to it. So if you can imagine drinking a thick, liquefied, bittersweet chocolate bar with a hint of coffee and cinnamon, then you know exactly how good this drink is.
Another new favorite drink of mine was the Turkish coffee. This coffee, served simply in a mug, possesses flavors that I have never encountered before. It is a fairly strong brew, and, being a black coffee lover, I was considerably happy with this. There was a deep bitterness that was also somehow sweet at the same time. The only way I could describe it with words is a nutty cashew-like flavor mixed with a slight warm, metallic flavor. That may not sound appetizing to even the experienced coffee lover, but trust me when I say this cup is something you do not want to miss.
Brotchen has a very intriguing menu, featuring items for breakfast and lunch that all sound amazing, so it is difficult to decide on just one thing to order. I was recommended to get their half a sandwich and bowl of soup combo. Of the many delicious sounding options, I had to decide on their roast beef sandwich and roasted red pepper and basil soup.
The soup came in a surprisingly satisfying portion, and the soup itself wasn’t something to cough at either. The soup was a watery sort of broth, as it should be since it brings the acidity of the tomato out, which is usually muted in creamy tomato soups. Here the tomato retains its identity, and its flavor is very alive and complemented by the basil instead of hidden by its distinctive taste. The roasted red pepper slices and chunks give you a burst of smoky vegetable flavor and play against and with the basil and tomato well. Served alongside the soup was a small slice of thick, chewy, dark brown bread. It was a variant of pumpernickel, which always has a hearty, molasses-like flavor. However, when dipped into the soup, it takes on a whole new flavor that is unlike both the bread and the soup independently. I had wished that I could have more bread to dip into the soup because I was so ecstatic about how great it tasted.
The roast beef sandwich half that came with the soup was also delectably satisfying. It consisted of a thick, fresh chunk of bread, a mass of wonderfully garlic-infused magenta colored meat, a few thin leafy salad greens and a fine slathering of a smooth creamy cheese. All of the ingredients in the sandwich had a refreshing combination of harmonizing flavors. They used a Hungarian cheese, Liptauer, seasoned with garlic, paprika and capers and applied like a spread. The cheese tastes like it was specifically made for meats, and it certainly improves the already impeccable deli meat. This would make a great leisurely lunch on a weekend or even between classes or work shifts during the week.
Brotchen has a quiet atmosphere that is welcoming to anyone who wants to relax and enjoy a good drink or a bite to eat. The prices are all agreeable, especially when you factor in the high quality of the ingredients plus the culinary expertise of the traditional Austrian and German cuisine that goes into each dish. This cafe would be perfect for a casual hang out or brunch with friends or your parents, or even a plate and a cup to yourself.
Brotchen is located at 128 E. State St.
Keith Hadad is a sophomore cinema and photography major who gives Brotchen zwei thumbs up. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.