2706 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto
It's not often that I find myself thinking, "I could really go for some stewed pumpkin." And I'm certain that before today, I've never had this idea in a coffeehouse.
The sign over Cafe Sophia's small storefront says “Coffee Roasting Company,” but there’s much more inside. The first surprise upon entering is the riot of color. Oriental rugs cover the floor, and the walls are decorated with bright tapestries and and rugs. The wrought-iron dining chairs are cushioned with kilims. The slanted ceiling is covered with lavish swirls of pink, purple, red and orange. It made me think of a rose garden gone wild.
The second surprise is that this coffeehouse is also an Afghan restaurant. You can order a muffin or a panini, but there are also kabobs of all sorts and dishes such as kofta challow (beef meatballs served with potatoes and Afghani gravy) and quabili pallow (seasoned pieces of lamb with browned basmati rice, topped with carrot strips and raisins).
The veggie plate was a colorful presentation, with generous portions of spinach, zucchini and eggplant, each stewed in tomato sauce with garlic and spices. There were two mounds of rice, white basmati and the browned basmati, which tasted of cinnamon. A good-sized romaine salad rounded out the plate, topped with feta, black beans, chopped tomatoes, walnuts, and olives.
The affable man behind the counter asked if it was my first visit, then offered his advice on what I should try first. There was a pleasant hum of conversation in the café, even in mid-afternoon, from what looked to be tables of friends just hanging out and chatting.
After eating all my veggies, I wasn't ready to sample the coffee. I'll gladly come back another time.