It was a beautiful day yesterday and I met a friend at Cafe Via in Birmingham for lunch to celebrate her upcoming birthday. Cafe Via is tucked behind an alleyway off of Maple near Woodward and seems to be very popular with the well dressed people who shop in Birmingham.
Inside are several cozy rooms lined with rich wood, plush fabrics, and a hallway decorated with books with little counters where a couple people could sit. Outside the restaurant is an alcove where a dozen or so tables sit under a large olive green canopy. This seems to be a popular place for lunch dining and we had to wait about 15 minutes before a table opened. Unfortunately, the table where we were seated was smack dab in the sun with a lovely view of a parking garage! But after a few minutes another table opened in the shade and we moved to a more pleasant location under the canopy. On one wall outside there even is a fireplace, which I'm sure is delightful on cool evenings.
We were served a crusty wheat bread studded with olives while waiting for our meals. My friend ordered the steak salad. It was beautiful, covered with matchstick apple slices. gorgonzola cheese, and some candied walnuts that looked rather tempting. My friend liked it, and the size was just right for lunch.
I ordered the chicken paillard. The chicken had a crispy panko crust and was layered on top of roasted tomato, spinach, and fresh artichokes with slightly creamy sauce over top. It was very good!
Since this was a birthday celebration, we had to have dessert! My friend had vanilla panna cotta topped with raspberry sauce and garnished with pistachios and gooseberries. (How do you describe panna cotta to someone who has never had it - a cross between pudding, custard, ice cream?) My dessert was apple pie with a caramel maple sauce and rum raisin ice cream on the side. The pie had a thick Dutch apple topping and was very cinnamony (is there such a word?). Yep, it was good.
The restaurant was pretty reasonable for a nice lunch (around $10 - 16). There were some delicious looking sandwiches, salads, a chicken pot pie, and a lot of people seemed to be ordering the burger. If you add in dessert, it is a bit of a splurge, and I'd guess that dinner prices would be more expensive. However, it is a charming and classy place to eat and a perfect spot to dine on a lovely summer day.