Dishes worth discussing


Few and far apart are coffee shops that live up to the 1960s ideal. While today's cafes can be lauded for their impeccably brewed coffee, toothsome pastries and comfy armchairs, not many serve as arenas for political debate and community goings-on.

Before you even enter, Groundswell Cafe & Gallery lets you know that it is a proud example of the latter, its mission clearly spelled out in a forthright manifesto posted in one of the large front windows.

Inside you'll find a Washington D.C., phone number one can call to protest the looming war with Iraq scrawled on the chalkboard, right underneath a quotation cautioning against the ills of consumerism. Articles on leftist topics pepper the community bulletin board, copies of The Nation and Utne magazine litter tabletops, and a small library contains volumes on activism and voluntary simplicity.

Though these resources are at the ready for those planning protest rallies or forming a local environmental group, they're not foisted upon patrons who simply desire peace and quiet to go along with a piece of yummy streusel coffeecake.

Cool art hangs on the walls, and shabby yet attractive furniture beckons you to sit down with your newspaper and stay awhile. And best of all, delicious little sandwiches and sweets await, making Groundswell worth a visit even if you don't have any truck with the direction that the government is headed.

Being a coffee shop and gallery, Groundswell doesn't have an extensive menu, but everything that it does serve is reliably tasty. The coffee is from Stumptown Roasters and the breads from Pearl Bakery, and most menu items contain ingredients that are organic, local or both. Prices are as easy to stomach as the spongy bread pudding. Day-old sandwiches titled Starving Artist Dot-Com are even offered at reduced cost.

Breakfast and lunch are equally satisfying at Groundswell. There are no big eggs-bacon-and-potatoes entrees, but the smaller, refined choices such as thick slices of Pearl Bakery brioche, toasted and slathered with almond butter and apricot jam or butter and cinnamon-sugar, more than compensate. The fried egg sandwich is masterful simplicity embodied: one perfect egg combined with fresh basil, melted provolone, roasted red pepper and, if you wish, prosciutto.

It may not require culinary genius to assemble a winning muesli parfait; still, Groundswell's marriage of honey yogurt, muesli and fresh, organic fruit is particularly pleasant. A lime-tinged tofu-potato wrap and daily pastry selections such as moist coffeecake and generous slices of banana bread or applesauce loaf provide further breakfast options.

Lunch strives to satisfy appetites small and large, dishing up a variety of little panini and half and whole portions of heartier sandwiches. Panini Ñ available chilled or grilled Ñ include prosciutto with Oregon sharp cheddar on a Kaiser roll, brie and sliced apples on a rosemary pecan bun and sheep's-milk cheese with black peppercorns sandwiched between a fig-anise roll. Owing to the quality ingredients, all are delicious.

Like its name suggests, Groundswell Cafe is an environment that could inspire a gathering of force Ñ but most of the time it just plays host to spontaneous gatherings. The philosophy here could very well be that if you're planning for the revolution, you might as well eat good food along the way.

Contact Christina Melander at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..