Restaurant News & Reviews

Its charm is part of the appeal of The 6 Friends Café

The Tanner panini features chicken, tomatoes, onions, pesto, spinach and melted Swiss.
The Tanner panini features chicken, tomatoes, onions, pesto, spinach and melted Swiss.

The 6 Friends Café brings out the numbers lover in me: six friends, two owners, five appetizers, 15 sweet crepes, 23 savory crepes, 16 panini and so on. I guesstimate that there are about 15 gelatos and sorbets.

When I'm not busying myself with counting, my emotional intelligence kicks in and I enjoy lingering, either with company or by myself, in the happy mood of this quintessentially relaxing hangout. It is set in an old house whose interior and exterior are both conducive to kicking back: the porch overlooks pretty Woodland Park, and the décor — unfussy furniture in rooms of pumpkin and olive green with a backdrop of local art on the walls and ambient noise from the kitchen — is spare but inspires spontaneity.

There has been a lot of buzz about the less quantifiable charms of one of 2010's hottest openings. The large, equally unquantifiable presence of nurturing estrogen from the two female owners helps create an outgoing, unpretentious and loving vibe, with unassuming fare following suit: good food that does not take itself too seriously.

Initially, I admit, I doubted the food. Early on, customers had to wait a long time for crepes, which are a main focus. When they finally arrived, they would be too small and amateurish, and their fillings seemed neither here nor there.

But what a difference a few months make.

Now savory crepes and panini come out in less than five minutes, during which time you might order a simple appetizer of artichoke-spinach dip with pita bread or munch a bag of Miss Vickie's potato chips that are included with sandwiches — yes, even those are gender-sensitive. Or, if you're there for dessert crepes, your "appetizer" could be a small dish of delicious gelato from Michigan-based Palazzolo's ("gelato to the stars," according to Palazzolo's Web site). Try the dark chocolate mint, made with Andes mints, one of the more brilliant culinary ideas for chocoholics.

All of the café's assorted fillings, savory or sweet, numbering at least two dozen, are mixed and matched to suit any taste. Whether rich with cheddar or roast beef, or more minimal with spinach and hummus, all are light as can be. Vegetarians have myriad choices as well: cheeses, pears, apples, tomatoes, lettuce and pine nuts.

Dessert fillings range from chocolate to fruit, curds to ricotta, peanut butter and jelly or, my favorite, the Sis: a simple fluffy pancake bright with lemon, and sweet with powdered sugar and coconut flakes.

The same broad variety applies to the heartier panini, served on perfectly grilled sourdough, whole wheat or ciabatta rolls. The Tanner is my personal favorite: tender chicken with chopped tomatoes and onions, a smear of pesto, a few leaves on spinach and a little melted Swiss cheese. Again, rich but light.

Because 6 Friends Café stays consistent with its casual persona from start to finish, my only quibble might seem petty: I would like to see a bit more effort put into presentation. The plates are rather large and lonely palettes for sandwiches and crepes to sit there solo, without garnish of any kind. Yes, that is aesthetics, but there is truth to the notion that we "eat with our eyes."

That said, 6 Friends has created a destination where previously there was none because its whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts — many times over.