Swim Cafe a couple of years ago when they catered a pre-show event for Redmoon Theater. I really liked the freshness of their food and the fact that everything seems to be made from scratch. I thought at that time that I would visit their place and try their regular fare. That didn't actually happen until recently. While they aren't really far from where I live, they are a breakfast and lunch place (they are open until 7 pm but I generally don't go for sandwiches for dinner) and are in the wrong direction for a stop on the way to work. Stopping by would require a special occasion which happened recently. I don't own a car so when I travel to visit my family in Michigan, it is by Amtrak. I will generally pick up food for a meal for the trip because the food on Amtrak is expensive and not much better than something that you would get out of a vending machine. In this case, I will take a sandwich for dinner. I do like some variety so I am always looking for a new shop that might do things a little different. In this case, Swim Cafe fit the bill. Located across the street from Eckhart Park, it looks at the natatorium (indoor swimming pool) which is where it took it's name from. The design of Swim Cafe looks like any number of coffee/sandwich shops in the area with an with tables along one wall and a counter looking out the front window. There is an order counter off to one side behind which the coffee, tea, sandwiches and salads are made and there is a display case with the available baked goods (which are made in the back of the restaurant). It also has a hardwood floor and an unfinished ceiling with exposed ventilation pipes and a tin ceiling (painted blue). There is also art from local artists for sale on the walls. The thing that catches your eye though when you walk in is the fact that the place is painted like a swimming pool. The lower part of the wall is painted in various shades of light blue like a swimming pool is tiled, the ceiling and top two feet of the walls are painted bright blue as if looking up from the bottom of a pool at a blue sky, and the space between the upper and lower blues is white.
Swim serves a variety of salads and sandwiches to satisfy vegetarians and meat eaters alike. The meat and produce served at Swim is largely organic and the baked goods are made from scratch. All of the sandwiches are served with a choice of side. For my meal, I chose a Roast Beef and Gruyere Sandwich. It was served on a Pretzel Roll with Red Onions, Mixed Baby Greens, tomatoes, and a horseradish creme fraiche. For my side I had an Asian Slaw with baby greens, red onions, and a sesame dressing. While the slaw and the sandwich don't exactly sound like they would work together, surprisingly they do. The sandwich had a lot of strong flavors from the horseradish creme fraiche, to the gruyere, to the onion, to the pretzel roll (all of which complemented each other). The greens and the tomato provided a moderating influence to the flavors which may have been why they were able to complement instead of overwhelm each other. In order to make any influence on the taste buds after eating that sandwich, the flavors on the salad also had to be prominent which the sesame was and the greens and the onion from the sandwich also showed up in the slaw tying them together. For my baked good "dessert", I had a Dulce de Leche Bar. This was amazing. It started with a crisp and buttery butter cookie base. It was then topped with the dulce de leche, a slowly made caramel-like confection that is made with caramelized sugar and sweetened and condensed milk. All of this is topped with butter cookie crumbs. It was crisp, buttery, sweet, chewy, and very, very good. I will return here just for this bar.
Swim Cafe does seem to be a place inhabited by a group of regulars. While I do think their food is good to great, because of it's location and operating times, I will never be a regular. I will however, definitely return when the circumstances dictate a sandwich for the road.