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Photo: B.A. Nilsson

For the Community

By B.A. Nilsson


Java Jazz Café

318 Delaware Ave. (Main Square Plaza), Delmar, 439-1727. Serving 7-9 Mon-Fri, 7-3 Sat. AE, D, MC, V.

Cuisine: coffee, pastries, wraps

Sandwich price range: $5 (hummus wrap) to $7 (mixed-meat sub)

Ambiance: sociable

Gathering places are prized community assets that encourage us to fight the solipsism bred into us by a society that profits from our social isolation. So, what constitutes the ideal gathering place? You know my prejudice: I want to see food involved. My other requirements, though, probably aren’t terribly different from yours: good coffee, plenty of tables, background music that doesn’t torture the nerves, wi-fi. It’s a place to settle in with some friends. Even better, it’s a place to see some friends you weren’t expecting to meet. Best of all, it’s a place to go for the outrageous possibility that you might make some friends.

Java Jazz Café owner Cathy Callan says she’s a fan of Wendell Berry’s essays about community, and she sees the communal aspect of her café as not just a side effect of serving comestibles but the core reason for its existence.

“I left a career working for nonprofits,” she says, “mostly doing development. But nonprofits are in a tough place these days, and I decided I wanted to run my own business.” With no previous restaurant-biz experience, she took her cues from the social aspect. “I figured I’d approach it from a communal point of view, allowing people to be with people.” To that end, she also offers art exhibits and live music.

It was a photography show that brought me in last week—a chance to see the work of Joseph Schuyler. I happened to meet not only current friends but also some folks I hadn’t seen in years, and was introduced to still more. So Callan’s formula works. All I needed was some dinner to complete the pleasure.

Subs, salads and especially wraps (which number 30) dominate the menu. “I wanted a kind of northwest feel, something like Seattle,” says Callan. She’s crafted a selection that’s going to set you back a mere five to seven dollars per plate.

The frequent, welcome appearance of avocado in her sandwiches characterizes the menu. Also common are the Seattle sauce, which is like a tzatziki, and the judicious use of cheese, Swiss being typical when the item is served hot.

Chicken is a frequent star. Add goat cheese, spinach, tomato and onion and you’ve got a Popeye (it’s the pop-cultural moniker for Florentine); the Coop de Ville adds barbecue sauce, Swiss and provolone; the Natural is dressed with honey Dijon mustard, garnished with lettuce, tomato and onion.

You can also get this preferred meat in the form of various chicken salads, including the Gorgeous George, a heated wrap with bacon, onion, tomato and melted Swiss, along with hot peppers and Italian dressing. True to its name, the sandwich required some wrestling, but that’s because I’m not a skilled wrap consumer. My daughter showed me how to tuck the far end into the barrel of the sandwich, thus arresting the cascade of filling that tumbled down my hand.

Otherwise, there’s nothing not to like about this one, which comes with pita chips and Seattle sauce. I ordered a generously-sized side salad as well that sported crunchy cucumber and pepper slices.

You’ll also find roast beef, turkey, tuna salad and seafood salad in a variety of sandwiches.

My wife’s pursuit of culinary happiness led her to the Nirvana, with its three different cheeses (Swiss, American and provolone) melted over slices of avocado, tomato and onion, drizzled with Seattle sauce. It’s one of several meatless wraps into which hummus, tabouli, portobello mushrooms or even a garden burger can figure.

Java Jazz also offers pita platters for catered events, which is a nice variation on the usual sandwich array. If you prefer more bread, a handful of sub options contain some of the above combos. One is Cousin Luigi’s Italian Mix, with salami, capicola, ham, provolone and more.

One of the glories of urban life is access to a coffeeshop breakfast. Java Jazz offers bagels, of course, and enhances them with a variety of additions: egg, bacon, ham, cheese, sausage, each combo costing no more than $5.

Get that wake-up sugar in your system faster with a muffin, choosing from (the day I went) banana nut, cinnamon coffee cake, cranberry nut, lowfat orange, blueberry (old-fashioned or low-fat), golden zucchini raisin, corn, and cappuccino chocolate chip.

Other pastries (almost all of them baked on the premises) include classical Danish, plain, blueberry or chocolate croissants, fruit turnovers, cinnamon buns and brownies. Have a brownie with organic Brown Cow ice cream. I’ll plug for the sweet, flaky chocolate croissant, both crisp and gooey when warmed.

The cookies we saw included gluten-free almond, peanut butter and good-old chocolate chip. You can stock up, economically, from a basket of day-old items on the counter.

Of course, it’s coffee over which you’ll linger. It’s all here: flavored coffee (pumpkin pie, vanilla caramel and hazelnut, for example), decaf, latte, au lait, along with an extensive menu of espresso drinks. There’s also a good tea selection along with fountain and Italian sodas. I contented myself with a cappuccino, and enjoyed the sandwich as well as the photo show.

Callan bought the business in May 2007. “It came with an established customer base,” she says. “I’ve seen some attrition, but I’m also seeing lots of new people. Delmar has historically been a town of very conservative values, but that’s changing as younger people from the nearby cities move in, looking for good schools and neighborhoods. This is a place that can bring together a great variety of old customers and new.”

Click here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.


Red Thread Confections is a Slingerlands-based candy maker whose wares are featured at Java Jazz Café; it’s also just been chosen to participate in this year’s American Express Holiday Wishlist Guide. Cardholders will be deluged with appropriate documentation, and regular customers are invited to use coupon code RTCNEWS002 for a 15-percent discount. You’ll find the candies at . . . Heat up your night with tapas and salsa. In this case, the latter refers to the dance, which will be taught at El Platano (198 First St., Troy) at 6 or 8:30 PM on Nov. 10. Featured eats are Spanish tapas by chef Jackie Baldwin, with a menu including shrimp la plancha, grilled mini chorizos, jamon serrano, boquerones (fresh anchovies), bacon-wrapped dates, artichokes jerez, garbanzo beans and spinach, and more. El Platano’s chef Pedro will be concocting some appropriate beverages. It’s $25 per person, and you need to make reservation in advance at the restaurant or by calling 272-3011. While you’re at, make a reservation for Pedro’s Gingerbread House Workshop on Nov. 24, where attendees will be shown the process of producing a gingerbread house and will take home their very own self- decorated unit. . . . Remember to pass your scraps to Metroland.

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