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Café L’Etranger: Less Funkiness, More Cheesiness

Posted by Emily / January 14, 2008

What do Che Guevara, Don Quixote, and Mulan all have in common?

They are all delicious. At least, they are at Café L’Etranger, where the names of characters in literature and history are creatively ascribed to sandwiches.

You’d be hard pressed to find a menu that’s more fun to read than Café L’Etranger’s. Sometimes, the names of sandwiches clearly reflect their ingredients, like the ‘Don Quixote’, which features Spanish onion. Other times, the connection is a little fuzzy.

The décor matches the café’s eclectic menu with an assorted collection of art and funky furniture (that is sometimes more funky than comfortable). You might think that the owners of the café put more thought into the menu and the décor than the food. Well, that may or may not have been the case.

Most of Café L’Etranger’s sandwiches work a lot better in theory than they do in practice. Take the ‘Genghis Khan’, for example, which I had the other night. The mixture of goat cheese, mandarin oranges, and crisp endive was a very clever and tasty combination of flavors. But every time I picked up the sandwich to take a bite, half the contents fell out onto the plate. I’ve had the same problem in the past with the ‘Bob Marley’, which has flavorful but chunky jerk chicken.

Despite their tendency to disintegrate, most of the sandwiches have delightfully creative and subtly complex fillings. But sometimes, I find my bliss in simpler things, like bread. And Café L’Etranger does bread really, really well. Thick, moist slices are served warm and toasted with a light drizzle of olive oil. I find myself rushing to finish off the innards of my sandwich (with a fork) so I can enjoy the bread without distractions.

Even with its funky décor and allusive menu, at its core, Café L’Etranger is a sandwich joint. Selecting a sandwich from the menu is usually a safe bet. But getting something other than a sandwich is a bit of a gamble. The other night, my friend took a roll of the dice, ordering the burger. The meat patty was pathetically flat, and she was still famished at the end of the meal. While I struggled to reconstruct my ‘Genghis Khan’, she hungrily munched on the addictive noodle chips, which are always served on the side.

I hope I haven’t listed too many of Café L’Etranger’s flaws, because I really do like the place and whenever I visit, I leave happy. If someone could just add some adhesive element (eg more cheese) to hold the sandwiches together, they would be just about perfect. Alternatively, if the place served nothing but that delicious toasted bread with olive oil, I’d probably visit more frequently than I do now.

Café L’Etranger
680 St. Catherine West



furtive / January 14, 2008 at 07:04 pm
It's a great place for meeting people downtown before doing bigger and better things, such as going to the Habs game or a movie. They serve beer and have a large screen TV but it's not a sporty place, just a good place to have a bite before something else.
sammi / April 10, 2009 at 01:47 am
i have been there several times during my lunch time, the food its usually good but sometimes its AMAIZING... and the best are the prices, nothing cost more than 11$
Nikola / October 20, 2009 at 12:53 pm
Café l'Étranger is AMAZING!!!! The food is delicious, the staff is friendly, the atmosphere is fun and relaxed... and I always leave satisfied!! / May 29, 2014 at 09:58 pm
They know what their priorities in daily life are.
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