While I cringe a little at the state of uber-gentrified East 11th Street, I'd like to highlight its most charming corner cafe, the Blue Dahlia Bistro. Nothing says gentrification like faux-Euro fare, but the Blue Dahlia is quirky, authentic, relatively inexpensive, and surprisingly humble (check Le Mission).
To the stranded francophile's relief, it offers a menu full French-inspired dishes, including cheese plates and open-faced sandwiches. It also offers continental inspirations not of France, like the porcini ravioli with basil pesto and caprese salad (fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and fresh basil). Other seemingly everyday American fare is given a French treatment - the egg salad is served with capers.
It's also a vegetarian's delight, with several exotic meat-free sandwiches (and let's face it - those are a rare find). I've already mentioned the egg salad, and also consider the ricotta with fig, black pepper, and agave. Or the brie with walnuts and apricot preserves. Or the humus with avocado, sprouts, and tomato. Plus, all the salads are served sans-meat.
The Blue Dahlia also tries to offer as much local, organic produce as possible, all the while keeping most entrees under $10. Every sandwich is served on whole wheat bread. It's these little touches, plus the beautiful ambiance created through low-lighting and sturdy wooden tables, that make this place seem right out of Provence.
Lucky for us, it's happily settled in East Austin.
Location: 111se E. 11th St., across from the Victory Grill
Hours: Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Accepts: all major credit cards
Rating: 4 stars
Bottom line: East Austin's the better for it.