The Boston Phoenix
October 7 - 14, 1999

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Ras Café

Homegrown comfort, via Ethiopia

by John Buntin

Yes, there's a Starbucks in Central Square, but if you live in the neighborhood you probably prefer your comforts more homegrown. Now residents have a new reason to avoid the Seattle interloper: winsome Ras Café.

Tucked behind the imposing First Baptist Church in Central Square, the Ras Café is a cheery aerie with bright décor and a bird's-eye view of the street. The proud creation of two cousins from Ethiopia, Ras Café serves up good sandwiches and coffee and topnotch juices and smoothies. Everything is wonderfully fresh. The tomatoes, avocados, carrots, sprouts, and cheese of the "Urban Garden" sandwich ($4.50) testify to the power of good ingredients. The veggie-melt sandwich ($4.75) -- artichoke hearts smothered in cheese with red onions, sprouts, and spinach -- is as good as it sounds. The pear-ginger-lemon juice ($3.50) is puréed on the spot.

The most enticing thing on the menu, however, is something you can't have: the special Ethiopian house coffee brewed in a French press ($1.25). In Ethiopia, coffee is prepared in an exacting manner; the grinds are traditionally brewed three times in a special earthen container. Our regretful server explained to us that the French press method hadn't worked out -- yet. We can always hope for a breakthrough.

Ras Café, located at 26 Franklin Street, in Cambridge, is open daily from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Call (617) 441-3021.

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