Stepping Out: Café Osage
When the sun came out the other day, pushing aside the ugliness of the recent damp and cold, it reminded me of my experience at Café Osage. This breakfast and lunch joint on the other side of Forest Park is the antithesis of fried and heavy. The ambiance of the café affects your experience about as much as the food: Greenness and life surround you.
Across the street is a small farm, Bowood Farms, that belongs to the restaurant. Fresh local produce is a big part of the philosophy at Café Osage. In addition to the fresh produce, the café uses this local farm to provide bison meat in many forms: sausages, ground meat, steak, etc.
I went to Café Osage with a couple of friends on a recommendation. Despite the beautiful setting, we almost turned right back around upon arriving at the quaint organic hideaway. The wait, unfortunately, was 45 minutes—and it was 45 minutes before closing time. I think it’s safe to say that this place is a pretty popular spot. Nevertheless, we decided to wait it out and explore the shop attached to the restaurant. The store houses bamboo plants, pot hangers, seeds and frozen bison meat, among various other oddities. I ended up purchasing some some bison meat (which was delicious) and decorative bamboo. About half an hour later, we were seated in the sunlit dining room.
Browsing the menu, we noted the very reasonable prices—plates and specials for $9-10 and soups and salads for around $5-8. Most of the menu focuses on simply prepared food with the freshest ingredients. In that spirit, I ordered the Gardener’s Plate, an arrangement of grapes, pineapple and watermelon on one side, and alternating slices of bison “summer” sausage and artisan cheese slices on the other. A centrally placed cold eggplant salad rounded out the dish. The most memorable part of this meal had to be the summer sausage. I don’t usually go for sausage, but this one caught me off guard. It might sound trite, but there really was something summery about it. It was bursting with lean meaty flavor, and the coldness brought out the freshness of the meat. The grapes, too, were memorable: They were some of the plumpest and sweetest grapes I’ve ever eaten.
My friend ordered the Smoked Trout Plate, a plate of cold smoked trout, pumpernickel bread and horseradish and dill crème fraiche (a variation on lox and cream cheese on toast). The cold flakey fish with that smooth crème fraiche over a toasted circle of bread provided a perfect textural balance. It was fun, too: You get all the ingredients to construct each little delicious open sandwich yourself. I highly recommend Café Osage to anyone looking for a refreshing organic meal without the price of its yuppie counterparts. It’s all the benefits of organic without the new-age pretentiousness.