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Food Review: The new Lamplighter spot on Morris could use a little more panache.

click to enlarge food33_lamplighter.jpg

Ash Daniel

This place is "what do you want?" with a side of move over and quickly.

Sure, that may be great for the business lunchers adjacent to downtown, and those comfortable with its style of brisk customer service. Not as much for the newbies or the seemingly unhip coming to drink coffee, hang in a well-designed coffee shop and eat great food from a menu born from the delicious success of a sister location.

Lamplighter Roasting Co.'s new Morris Street location has all the great food we've come to expect, but without the panache.

It's settled nicely into the worn and well-loved shoes of its location's predecessor, Crossroads. The layout is fleshed out well for a quick meeting or lounge session over lattes with friends, save for some too-loud-for-chatting music. It's an order-at-the-counter and take-a-number type of place.

Water is from a draft system with get-your-own cups and pick-up-your-own dishes. There's one size of coffee for "mixed" beverages — latte, cappuccino — and as much as 20 ounces for a batch brew capping out at $3.25, a black eye for $4.25.

A few snacks and cookies are offered. Spinach, sweet potato and apple turnovers are options on a recent visit, with mixed results. Served at room temperature, the spinach rises above the other two options with a salty, interesting interior. Sweet-potato purée renders one turnover soggy. Apple would be great, but with a good portion of the filling in the center, most bites are pastry. At $3 apiece, the price is steep for the silver-dollar-sized snacks.

The coffee shop is open seven days a week and serves myriad hot and cold sandwiches. No one seems concerned about specials or menu discrepancies. Call ahead for pickup, and your sandwich is liable to be on a different bread, or your vegan choice will have unadvertised mayonnaise (most likely vegan, yet still a surprise). [Please see editor's note below.] Eat in and you'll receive chips and a pickle and very little else.

It's too bad, because the sandwiches are incredibly well thought out with some dead-on repeats from Lamplighter's first location on Addison.

The always excellent goat herder's mistress (eat-in) is on thinly sliced, pressed Billy Bread. Same with the goat herder's daughter. To go, it appears on spongy focaccia. The sandwich, in either incarnation, is delicious. Leeks, thin asparagus spears and goat cheese are a superior combination. The mistress differs from the daughter in its addition of faintly spicy capicola, almost superfluous because of the already strong backdrop of flavor.

TLTNA is a combination of plum-barbecue-marinated tempeh, tomato, avocado and mixed greens. Vegan and hearty, its standout flavors are sweet and sour. With a lot less mayonnaise, not included in the description on the menu, it shows a deft hand with tempeh in a hefty and healthy way. A fat Tony is stacked precociously full with spicy Italian sausage and roasted red peppers. This behemoth is covered with fresh basil and mild provolone.

Unfortunately, the nonchalance goes further than just at the counter. At one point on a visit, almost 20 minutes after sandwiches are ordered, someone comes out with a number and asks if we ordered a sandwich, resulting in confusion.

The inconsistencies can be disconcerting to those who are fans of other Lamplighter spots, which have been given thought and style. But you will be served noteworthy coffee made by talented people and uncommonly good food. Just don't expect warm and fuzzy. S

Lamplighter Roasting Co.
26 N. Morris St.
Monday-Sunday 7 a.m.-7 p.m.
lamplightercoffee.com/morris-st

Editor's note: Although the reviewer's experience included a call-in order because of a unique circumstance, Lamplighter doesn't offer regular call-in service at its Morris Street location. Style regrets any confusion this may have caused.

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