Don’t bother coming to the Milk Street Café if you’re looking for a trendy, stylish lunch spot. There are no velvet couches, candlelit tables, funky lights, or hip photography here. Instead, the place feels more like a squeaky-clean corporate cafeteria: a few simple paintings hang on solid-colored walls, wooden benches and metal chairs serve as seating, and large, curtain-less picture windows provide a view of the drab buildings across the street.
What you should come to the Milk Street Café for — again and again and again — is the unexpectedly extraordinary food. It’s interesting, actually, how the food stands in such stark contrast to the dining-hall décor. For one thing, everything in the place is kosher. For another, whether you order a simple sandwich or a delectable dessert, it’s all bright and beautiful and garnished to perfection. My favorite dish, the tomato-basil panino ($6.95), came with fresh shredded basil, deep-red tomatoes, melted cheese, and two crisp dill pickles. The garden salad, almost too pretty to eat, was piled high with chopped romaine lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, cherry tomatoes, and radishes ($4.95). For just a buck more, add homemade soup, like the fall-colored minestrone — packed with kidney and garbanzo beans and chunks of celery, potato, and carrot — or the soothing cream of broccoli.
If soup-and-salad doesn’t get you excited, not to worry; the menu goes on and on. Most likely, you could eat here every day and never have the same thing twice. In addition to grilled panini, wrap sandwiches, homemade pastries, and combination meals (like fish with soup or salad for $8.95), the café offers daily rotating specials. Recent specials included eggplant parmesan ($6.45), grilled lemon fish ($7.45), vegetable quiche ($5.45), sun-dried-tomato pizza ($3.95), and taco-bean salad ($4.95 small/$6.95 large). You can’t go wrong with any of them. Even better: if you dine between 2 and 3 p.m., you save 20 percent off your order.
Who needs comfy couches?
Milk Street Café, located at 50 Milk Street, in Boston, is open Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. (A second location, at Post Office Square, in Boston, is open Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.) Call (617) 542-FOOD, or visit www.milkstreetcafe.com