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R: ARCHIVE, S: FOOD, D: 07/09/1998, B: >, A: >,

Blue Shirt Café

Juice and wraps with a shot of Zeitgeist

On the Cheap by Rob McKeown

The Blue Shirt Café is this close to being a cliché: it serves wraps and smoothies; it squeezes fresh juices; it uses of-the-moment ingredients like goat cheese. But beneath the trendy concept is a little shop with admirably fresh ingredients and large portions. The businessmen, neighbors, and students who eat elbow-to-elbow at lunchtime are living (and, oftentimes, waiting) proof of this Davis Square yearling's local cachet.

To the sound of folk music, neo-hippie workers prepare sometimes healthy, sometimes impressive salads, soups, and wrap sandwiches. Nine teal-and-fuschia tables give the place a chilled-out and sanitized atmosphere, but in warm weather most people head out the doors and over to the picnic tables in Davis Square's central sculpture garden.

Spicy Mexican vegetable soup ($2.25 cup, $2.75 bowl) is so thick with beans it's unfinishable. Still, the tomato-heavy liquid packs the advertised heat, the vegetables are substantial, and the bowl is enveloped in a generous layer of jack cheese. A grilled-steak burrito ($5.75) has tender-as-can-be strips of steak but suffers from stuffing overkill, with too-chunky poblano rice, chipotle peppers, refried beans, and jack cheese. Sesame chicken salad ($5.25), on the other hand, has undergone a few changes for the better. Shredded lettuce, jasmine rice, and carrot rounds make for interesting textures, while a sesame-soy aïoli is more flavorful than most.

The fresh-squeezed juices, along with an array of New Age "boosters" (echinacea, ginkoba, and so on), come at a cost: $3.75 for 16 ounces, plus 50 cents per booster. A pear-apple-kiwi juice is sweet and thick. Is it delicious? Yes. Is it worth $2.50 more than a Nantucket Nectar? Hmm.

Blue Shirt Café, located at 424 Highland Avenue, in Somerville, is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Call 629-7641.