Cafe Metro’s $1 off Pasta Fridays is still Cafe Metro Pasta
An intrepid ML reader tipped us off about Cafe Metro on 36th and Broadway doing $1 off pasta on Fridays. It’s easy to turn up one’s nose at generic delis so high it achieves escape velocity, but who knows if it’s a must-do? Hell, the tipster noted it was amazing quantity for what you pay. Five toppings for $7.70? Maybe we’re missing something. Maybe it’s worth checking out. And I was feeling extra confident after Chris H’s positive review of the new Taste of Asia sandwiches. Worst comes to worst, it’ll just end up being a public service to confirm that it’s still Cafe Metro.
The worst part of this review was walking into Cafe Metro knowing that Comme Ci Comme Ca and their Street Meet Palooza-winning, Vendy-nominated chow was catty corner across Broadway. Not to plug them but if you’re going to walk a ways to this area, you should be walking towards Comme Ci Comme Ca, Domo Taco, or Taco Bite if they’re in the area.
The conventional pasta offerings vs. the create-your-own are carefully ingredient-structured so some ingredients can’t be CYOed. Good ol’ corporate management of food selections – profit margins at work.
After being asked to not take pictures I really wanted to dive in and get some detail. The pesto looked like a dark green pool of suspicious fluid that many people unjustly ascribe to coming from Jersey.
Everything else looked like it could have been “fresh” – as in canned. The artichoke hearts looked wilted, the mushrooms pre-cooked, and the olives too uniform in size. I know we shouldn’t expect single-source kalamata olives and porcini mushrooms, but still, it all looked so disheartening.
Penne with “fresh basil pesto,” sundried tomatoes, olives, and fresh garlic getting cooked up. Gotta love the garlic not being sauteed first – it goes in raw and gets cooked with the other ingredients for about 47.23 seconds before the pasta gets tossed in. A heating-through, an offering of fresh parmesan (accept it, you’re gonna need it, more on this later) and it gets priced/packaged out. Total after the $1 discount: $7.61. For those keeping score: $5.99 for the pasta, and two 50-cent toppings, totaling $6.99 before tax and tip. Um… kay. The whole reason for this evaluation became moot. “So that’s after the dollar off for Pasta Fridays, right?” I asked. “Yes, it is,” the cashier said with a straight face. No scene was made by me or anyone, and I walked out peaceably, but if you’re a bargain hunter, you may want to flip a table and raise hell over that dollar. There’s no money saved here, that’s for sure.
So here’s the $7.61 worth of pasta and a free square of “bread.” I use quotes because they gave me a less dense, brown, rounded-corner-square hockey puck. Its crust flaked not a flicker, it required really using some strength to tear apart, and while it had a nice dusting of rosemary on top, it is merely a pretender to the focaccia throne. It was too dense and dry, dry, DRY. I didn’t even finish it, not even to soak up the sauce.
Let’s talk about Cafe Metro’s pesto. By all means, get this if you want low quality extra virgin olive oil that’s heavy and greasy, leaving your mouth feeling really icky afterwards and making you wish you had a toothbrush in your office thereafter. Get it if you like that heavy olive oil “flavored” with dried basil that was mixed in and contributes nothing. Pine nuts? If you have a nut allergy this pesto is perfectly safe for you since there’s none to be found. No parmesan either. It needed salt, which sadly I didn’t have with me at the office, but caveat emptor if you go for this stuff – get some from the front before you leave.
The olives contributed bites of saltiness and there were enough to contribute some saving grace, thankfully. But the garlic, which was severely undercooked, had somehow lost all its garlickyness in the process. It wasn’t the garlic in oil crap that you see elsewhere, this was definitely minced garlic. Yet somehow, it didn’t have the hot bite of raw garlic nor the mellowness of sauteed garlic. It was a white chunk of nothingness that maybe gave it a little bit of aroma, but if you’re eating something with extra garlic, your cube neighbors should be complaining (if they’re not food people) or drooling over the smell. The sundried tomatoes were rubbery but did have enough sundried tomato flavor.
The remaining sauce was soaked with the above hockey puck bread and nothing happened. Nothing at all from this cloudy collusion of “pesto,” garlic, bits of olive, and tomato. At least after the regret wore off I was full.
I try very hard to find the good and the bad in some form of balance. To be fair, at least Cafe Metro didn’t overcook the pasta. Yes, it’s pre-cooked, but it still had a bit of bite to its texture. Moreover, it was quick. I could see myself doing this if I had some kind of pasta craving and didn’t want to rely on pizzeria-quality pasta, which can often really suck. Plus, I’m pretty sure all Cafe Metro locations do pasta, so it’s plentiful… but there’s no chance of getting any better.
The + (What people who call it pasta fazool would say):
- In and out with plenty of options – give me my pesto with scallions, dammit!
- Thank you for not overdoing the pasta and erring on the side of al dente.
- At least the olives aren’t the unflavored kind.
The – (What the smart folks in line at Comme Ci Comme Ca would say):
- Not only is it overpriced, they forgot to do their own discount!
- This isn’t pesto, this is over-infused oil with crap quality basil.
- How can you take away flavor from garlic with such high effectiveness?
Cafe Metro, multiple locations