Salad in cones

Get your lunch in the cone zone at Neighborhood Café


Some say the ancient Romans loved ice cream, but that was really just Alpine snow, literally run down from the Alps to serve in the Caesars’ courts. Ice cream as we know it came about in Europe around the time of the American revolution, and Thomas Jefferson reportedly served it with delight at Monticello.

The invention of ice cream led almost immediately to the idea of a cone to eat it from, turning a dinner-table dish into a walking-around treat. Initially paper cones were used, or fancy silver service. But one bright day in the early 19th century, a forgotten American inventor came up with a brilliant idea: Make an edible cone, and you’ve got a sweet snack that leaves nothing behind except perhaps your napkin.

The ice cream cone’s time had come, and it has remained a beloved American treat for going on 200 years.

Don’t you think it’s time for something new?

Enter The Neighborhood Café, a friendly new spot in St. Matthews that brightly fills retail space once occupied by a dry-cleaner.

Declaring it “Home of the Savory Cone,” the creative folks at The Neighborhood Café have converted the edible cone from a sweet treat to a crunchy, crackly, salty goodie – and who doesn’t love salty-crunchy snacks?

These cones look a lot like the waffle cones that you’ll find at Comfy Cow or Graeter’s or Homemade, but they’re, well, savory, made in three flavors: fresh herb, gently spicy Southwestern, or just-plain “Classic.” For the record, they are also, quote, “airy-free, gluten-free and suitable for vegetarians and vegans.” If all that sounds too, well, good to be good, consider this: The samples set out for snacking were so addictive that Mary had to whap my hand to keep me from going back for fourths.

The venue renovation was nicely done, making efficient use of the space to divide it into several comfortable quarters: A comfy living room with soft furniture up front; a bright dining room decked out in appetizing colors of cantaloupe, honeydew melon and purple grape, with tables for families and a fun corner for the little ones to play. (And don’t you know youngsters are going to go big for the idea of fun food in a cone.) A quieter room off to the side where grown-ups can do a business lunch, with ample work space and free wi-fi.

The menu offers a full dozen meals-in-cones, ranging in price from $4.95 (for a breakfast herb cone filled with fruit and vanilla yogurt) to $8.95 (for a feta berry salad cone with chicken, strawberries, feta cheese and almonds). Want a more substantial breakfast? Try the Hatch of the Day ($5.50), an egg casserole with meat, cheese or veggies with hash browns in a cone. Homemade scones, muffins and pastries look outstanding, and there’s a good selection of coffees and espresso drinks.

The Mediterranean “Nay-egg” salad cone ($5.25) was first-rate, a feisty mix of textures and flavors: Bite-size tofu cubes tossed in a Mediterranean mix of black olive slices, red bell pepper and sweet red onion dice and fresh basil chiffonade, tossed in a gently garlicky vegan dressing and tightly packed into a subtly flavored herb cone.

The Chicki Vicki ($7.25), a mix of boneless chicken dice with golden raisins, cashews and celery loaded in a regular cone, was a bit bland. Mary praised the vegetarian soup of the day, though, on this day a hearty, warming mix of mushrooms with tender barley.

Still, with its friendly staff and interesting concept, The Neighborhood Café makes a friendly and affordable place to stop for breakfast or lunch.

The Neighborhood Café
119 St. Matthews Ave.