Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Soma Inn Cafe

I've been having fun lately playing with LevelUp and GoPago, using my free credits all over the city to finally check out places I've been meaning to go for ages, but somehow still hadn't managed to.  This past month, in addition to the normal credits on LevelUp, I had additional credits to spend at SOMA establishments.

One place I'd heard about was Soma Inn Cafe, a pretty nondescript cafe at 7th & Folsom - not exactly the nicest of neighborhoods or somewhere I'd naturally wind up, but not too far of a trek.  Their brunch menu sounded pretty good, and I've been in such a brunchy mood lately that I decided to check it out.  Their dessert menu also sounded fantastic, so I made a return trek just for dessert later in the week.

Soma Inn cafe is pretty basic and more like a diner than a cafe.  1-2 waitresses on staff at a time, along with a short order cook.  There is a long counter will bar stools facing the open cooking area, a few tables on the sides.  It wasn't busy.  It seemed like a number of people came in just to get coffee drinks to go.

I had a major gripe with the menu options, and lack of flexibility to change anything.  I wanted french toast, but not a ton of it.  The menu listed the french toast, 5 pieces, for $7.  The next item was the pancakes, a full stack, also 5 pieces, for $7, or a short stack of 3 for $5.50.  There was also a fancy french toast with berry sauce, bananas, and whipped cream for $9 and a fancy pancakes with the same toppings also for $9.  It looked like pancakes and french toast were equivalent value.  So I asked if I could get a short stack of french toast instead.  No.

Ok, granted, that was a little bit of a strange request.  So I continue browsing the menu.  There is a breakfast combo meal: 2 eggs, hashbrowns or homefries, toast or 2 pancakes for $6.50.  That sounded like a great mix of stuff, except that I wanted french toast, not pancakes, but since they seemed equivalent price, I asked if I could get that combo, with french toast instead of pancakes.  No.

Ok, so still, I guess I was being difficult.  I see another breakfast combo, this one is: 2 eggs, 2 bacon or 2 sausage, and 2 pancakes or 2 french toast, for $8.  Aha!  I can get a combo with my french toast.  Except, I didn't want bacon or sausage.  But clearly, since this combo is more expensive than the one that had the hashbrowns in place of the breakfast meats, I could order this one, and downgrade to hashbrowns, right?  No.  I even said I was happy to pay the $8 price and get less value.  Still no.  I pointed out that as side items, the hashbrowns were $3 and the sausage/bacon $4.50, so this was clearly me getting something worth less, but paying more.  She still said no.  She said I could add on a side of hashbrowns for $3 and that she could just not bring me the bacon or sausage.  Seriously?

I really just don't understand.  From every indication on the menu, pancakes and french toast were equivalent value, so why couldn't I just sub one out for the other?  Or if that was too crazy, why couldn't I sub cheaper hashbrowns for more expensive sausage or bacon?  I understand not wanting tons of substitutions, but this seemed a little ridiculous.

Please Soma Inn Cafe, consider making it possible to get toast or pancakes or french toast in the first combo.  Or make pancakes/french toast available a la carte.  Or french toast short stacks.  Or at least, let me get cheaper things and charge me more!

Ok, done my rant about the menu.  I guess it wasn't the waitress's fault that she couldn't substitute anything.  What was her fault however, was my french toast, sitting up on the counter, waiting for her to deliver it, for about 5 minutes.  The cook yelled "pick up" about 5 times.  She wasn't really busy, was off busing tables and re-setting them, while my french toast sat there getting cold, not under a heat lamp or anything.  Maybe intentional since I was such a pain in the butt?

Grumble.  The whole experience left me very grumpy.  Yet, I still went back later in the week to get dessert, to use the rest of SOMA credits, since I'd seen bread pudding on the menu when I was there before, and I love bread pudding.

My plan was to pick up the bread pudding to have with my dinner. But, it was a hot day, and I saw ice cream on the menu.  So I asked what flavors of ice cream they had.  The server just looked at me and shrugged.  She asked her manager, who told me just vanilla.  I went back to my original plan of the bread pudding.  I asked how it was served.  She again told me she didn't know.  After a few minutes, she asked her manager, who told me that it was served warm, with 4 berry sauce, and for $1 more, it could be a la mode, which she recommended.  I explained that I was getting it for later, so I didn't want it a la mode.  I also said I didn't need it heated up, since I wouldn't be eating it right away.  She said they'd heat it up anyway.  I again expressed that I wasn't planning to eat it until later in the evening, and that I really didn't need, nor want, it heated up.  She told me she was sorry, but it had to come that way.

Uh what?  Again, no flexibility at this place at all!  It made me wonder if perhaps it was frozen?  I asked if I could get the sauce on the side, so it wouldn't make it soggy, and she gladly agreed to do that.  So strange.

Anyway, the food wasn't very good, the service pretty clueless, and I won't be going back.
French Toast: Lightly dipped in egg batter & cinnamon, grilled golden brown,  dusted with powdered sugar & maple syrup.  $7.
The french toast was very basic.  It was sliced nice and thick, but the bread was just generic white bread.  It wasn't particularly eggy or interesting.  I didn't detect much cinnamon flavor at all, and the powdered sugar was minimal and lost.

It was served with a side of "maple syrup".  It was clearly not real maple syrup.  It didn't even have a hint of maple flavor.

They were nice and generous with the butter.

I ended up bringing some of it home, and reheated it in the toaster oven wrapped in aluminum foil.  It worked far better than I ever imagined.  It didn't dry out at all, and was even more moist than when I originally received it, but it wasn't soggy or anything either.  I was a little shocked, it was much better re-heated.  Of course, I topped it with real maple syrup, which made all the difference.  The french toast just became a conduit for delicious syrup.  I also added some fresh strawberries from the farmer's market.  Mmmm!  And, to make it even more decadent, some fresh apricot whipped cream cheese.  Delicious!

But, the actual version served in the restaurant, just wasn't great.  IHOP was better.  I would not get this again.  I had read good things about the version of the french toast that they cover in whip cream, bananas, and berry sauce, perhaps that would be been more interesting?
Cinnamon Bread Pudding.  $6.50.
This was the strangest bread pudding I've ever seen.  I tried a few bites right when I received it, to best be able to evaluate it.  It was not made up of chunks of bread, but rather it was just a solid mass.

My favorite thing about bread pudding is a crispy top and a moist interior.   This had neither.  It was all just soggy and the same dense consistency.  It weighed far more than it looked like it should.  This again lead me to believe that it came out of a freezer or something.

There was a slight cinnamon flavor, but besides that, it was entirely flavorless.  It did have some raisins in it.

So basically, this was just a flavorless blob.  I tried the 4 berry sauce, made up of blackberry, raspberry, blueberry, and strawberry.  It reminded me of the nasty fruit stuff that comes in most yogurts with fruit on the bottom.  Cloyingly sweet, totally fake tasting.  I'm now glad I did not order the french toast with it, it would have totally ruined it.

The single fresh strawberry on the side was actually really good.  But, besides that, there was absolutely  nothing good about this, it was really quite gross.  I brought it home and tried it cold, I tried heating it in the toaster oven, I tried it with whipped cream, I tried it with ice cream ... there was just no saving it.  It was truly awful, and very not worth $6.50.
Soma Inn Cafe on Urbanspoon


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