Movable Feast: Live lunch

When World Café Live opened in University City’s Hajoca Building last summer, promoters of the new music venue hoped the one-of-a-kind hotspot would tap into two of Philadelphia’s loves: Great music and great food.

There’s no question the music venue has succeeded in bringing new life to West Philadelphia’s music scene. The venue, independent of but closely linked to adult-alternative station WXPN, has already featured Ray LaMontagne, Jamie Cullum and Philly’s own Amos Lee, among many others. It has also sweetened the pot by introducing free live music—just recently, when the venue hosted a free performance by Old Crow Medicine Show, its 300-seat-plus main venue was packed on a Friday afternoon. But what about the food?

That’s what we here at The Current wondered. So on a recent lunch hour, we took the short walk down Walnut Street to sample World Café Live’s lunch fare—which was accented, fittingly, by live music, courtesy of Scottish jazz artist Maeve Gilchrist.

Light lunch

Taco Salad with chicken: Presented in what can best be described as a lopsided tortilla bowl—an interesting presentation, at least—the salad was basically run-of-the-mill taco salad, with lettuce, tomatillo salsa, black beans, cheddar and jack cheeses and lime sour cream. Though light and refreshing, this proved to be a tad weak in flavor.

Chipotle chicken sandwich: The skinny frites (french fries by any other name) were lackluster, and while the chicken was just fine, it was nothing more. A heavier hand with the chipotle might have helped. The tidy little salad pleased us, though, with just enough garlic in the dressing and a couple of sweetly tart grape tomatoes to liven up the tangle of fresh greens.

Veggie burger: We were intrigued by the inclusion of crisp snow pea shoots on a veggie burger, but they simply proved that too much of a good thing can be, well, too much. Perhaps we should have asked the chef to toss on the toppings available to meat-eaters (cheddar cheese and balsamic onions). Best was the generous pile of eggplant fries—sliced eggplant dipped in a light batter—that were surprisingly light and only moderately greasy.

Desserts: Of the two desserts we tried, we gave the lemon-scented cheesecake the thumbs up for tangy citrus flavor and a pleasantly toothsome texture. The bittersweet chocolate mousse cake was comfortingly smooth and rich, though the unmistakable hint of banana left some of us wishing for full disclosure on the menu.

For the record

Live music is piped into the restrooms so patrons won’t miss out on any of the musical action. In fact, away from the clatter of cutlery and the din of your fellow diners, the music comes across with extra clarity and sweetness, making a bathroom break a hi-fidelity experience not to be missed.

Originally published on March 31, 2005