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[Cheap Eats]

Devlinís Cafť
Play with your food
BY RUTH TOBIAS

on the cheap
Vici Koreana Real Pizza Billings & Stover

Barring the carrot-slaw incident for which, 26 years later, Iím probably still in trouble, Iíve never played with my food as much as I did recently with the sandwiches at Devlinís Café. Dismantling them, recombining them, and sniffing at them, I mustíve looked as if Iíd been raised by wolves. (Which, by the way, I wasnít; see " carrot slaw. " ) In fact I was conducting a scientific study in contrasts ó in complements and clashes.

Take prosciutto, pear, and camembert: dressed with arugula, the combination sings in your mouth like a suave quartet, each distinctive ingredient coming in, harmonizing or standing out, and fading at just the right time ($6.50). I compared it to the turkey on whole wheat with timid corn-bread stuffing ($6.25); the menu reads " served with cranberry, relish, " which I assumed was a typo, but no. The cloying cranberry relish ó jelly, rather ó is topped with pickles. Thereís a Thanksgiving invite to decline. Both come with your choice of side dish; while the capreseís unfortunate (look, it is its ingredients; get quality tomatoes and mozz or donít bother), the potato-dill salad reminds you that plain mayo has its time and place, and this mellow but flavorful mixtureís it.

Of the panini (there are 15 sandwiches in all), both the Yankee (smoked turkey, bacon, white cheddar, and honey mustard, $6.50) and the Alpine (corned beef, caramelized onions, Swiss, and whole-grain mustard, also $6.50) confounded me at first. I kept chewing and chewing ó is this too spicy? is that sweet enough? ó unable to determine how or whether the push-pull of opposing flavors worked. And then, suddenly, they were gone. Answer: yes. As Woody Allen reminded us, even the Earl of Sandwich endured a few misses ó including " two slices of turkey with a slice of bread in the middle " ó before he could relish his hits. Tom Devlin, too, has concocted more successes than failures (and not one over $6.50, with several under $6, plus chips); just give him a little time. And hey, while youíre waiting, have a cappuccino brownie ($2.50). Itís a knockout.

Devlinís Café, located at 332 Washington Street, Brighton, is open daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call (617) 779-8822.

Issue Date: April 19-26, 2001