Cafe 'n Me
Wednesday, August 10, 2005
Abby Wong wants you to try her Bubble Tea. "It's easy to drink," the petite half-Chinese, half-Thai girl smiles. "All the kids will like it÷the texture's like gummy bears."
Called "Boba Tea" in Taiwan, the concoction combines sweet drinks with flavors like mocha cappuccino, jasmine milk tea and Thai tea with small "bubbles" of tapioca. While it may sound unusual, the drink is soaring in popularity in big cities. Caf» 'n Me, Wong's restaurant on Sprigg, is the only place in Cape Girardeau to offer the trendy drink.
I order the coconut milk bubble tea and am shocked at how good it tastes. Better than any bubble tea I've had in St. Louis. So sweet, and the tapioca provides the perfect texture. Wong really knows how to make it. I envision jaded college kids forsaking Starbucks and flooding the small caf».
But Caf» 'n Me offers much more than drinks (slushes and regular coffee drinks are also on the menu). Customers can choose from a long list of "Oriental sandwiches" and salads. After much deliberation, I order the Chicken Yakitori (bypassing the mysterious 'Curry Puff') and am treated to a well-crafted teriyaki chicken hoagie, with a side of puffy chips that I know I wouldn't stop consuming, if given a limitless supply. You know a restaurant is good when you'd eat yourself to death if given the opportunity.
Caf» 'n Me, however, is about even more than the usual caf» fare. A small, soon-to-be expanded menu offers Thai dishes, classics like Tom Yum soup, Pad Thai, Chow Mein, spring rolls, and fried rice. For those who have never tried Thai food, or are scared off at its spicy reputation, the Pad Thai noodles are the best place to start. The items on the menu are priced from three to six dollars, making Caf» 'n Me a very affordable place to score excellent Thai food.
"At first I just served sandwiches," Wong explains, "But people kept asking if we had rice or other Asian dishes. So we added the menu. I make this food for myself all the time, and I just want other people to eat it too."
Wong's relatives own Saffron, across town. She's quick to separate herself from that establishment, however. "We're more casual, more comfortable. You can walk in here for lunch in your shorts."
Aside from Chinese buffets and cookie-cutter Mexican restaurants, it's rare for an ethnic restaurant to creep its way into the market at Cape Girardeau. Wonderful places like the Phoenicia and Shangrila bit the dust long ago. Despite its simple appearance, in the strip mall where Burritoville used to be, Wong's restaurant holds promise, as Thai place to replace the also-defunct Manee Thai, and as a hangout for hipsters looking for coffee that won't cost an arm and a leg.
And don't forget to try the Bubble Tea.