July 31, 2008

Galaxy Cafe, 4600 Guadalupe (in the Triangle)

I've finished eating my way through the Triangle, so it's time to pass judgement on the rest of the establishments there (see a review of Sago here). I'll save the annoying Which Wich? for a forthcoming sandwich roundup, and the jury remains out on the affable but inconsistent Mandola's. If you've been itching for outer-space themed dining and drinking experiences, look no further than the eerie minimalism of a new Galaxy Cafe, docked next to the malt-soaked prurience of the Flying Saucer. A better exercise in contrast could not have been imagined by either proprietor. Let's tackle the lighter side first.

For those pining for a dining experience designed by Stanley Kubrick, the ascetic white and orange minimalism of the new Galaxy Cafe will leave you wondering where, exactly, the HAL 9000 is located. Soaring ceilings, Gilliam-esque duct-shaped light fixtures, stark Ikea chairs and an Orwellian flat screen presentation of a mesmerizing, animated logo (and nothing more) bring to mind the lighter side of fascist architecture. Indeed, as you are channeled via a low, colored ceiling back toward the strangely dark ordering counter, one has the impression of entering an exquisitely designed abattoir.

Thankfully, Anton Chigurh is not manning the register here, although the sound of compressed air might send me running for the door. Galaxy is an order-at-the-counter, "fast-casual" joint like sister establishment Zocalo, and if the food wasn't worth a damn at either one of these places, the sheer force of image management and clever grace notes would be oppressive. Galaxy Cafe is sort of an anti-matter version of Applebee's – just as calculated, but engineered for a hip, health and design-conscious audience.

The food is inexpensive, the after-order service attentive, and the overall sensation is one of trains running perfectly on time. I applaud Galaxy for countenancing a "light" cuisine of sorts – I just wish it didn't leave me hungry two hours later. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served, and many dishes attempt to strike a balance between gourmet aspirations and girth-controlling portions. In the case of the PLT – a proscuitto, tomato and mixed greens sandwich with pesto mayo on a baguette – the formula works; it's a moderately clever twist on a diner classic. The French Breakfast, a rich quiche paired with fresh fruit, showed simplicity and contrast; the meatball sub threw a subtle curve with feta and fresh spinach.

As to the "signature wraps", that whole debased burrito-renaming concept fell out of favor with me five years ago when KFC started offering the things. These are burritos, and in general they're pretty good – dense and customizable, as a burrito should be. Unlike some of the other morning offerings, the breakfast burrito will fuel you well into the afternoon. Other dishes didn't fare as well. The migas were insubstantial and, worse, pretty bland. The french toast is generous but gets cold before you can make your way through much of it. The salads are, by and large, competent.

I like what Galaxy and its sister establishments are trying to do – reasonably priced food with healthy options, sandwiched somewhere between sit-down dining and fast food. The overabundance of calculation and cuteness does make for a slightly cold dining experience, as if the concept got overtaken by engineers at some point. When you suck the character out of the environment, we search for warmth in the food. Galaxy's food, while decent on many counts, doesn't exactly scream character either, and the lasting impression is perhaps just a bit too clean for me.


Posted by brentbuford at 02:26 PM | Comments (0)