Fresh-baked bread foundation for great sandwiches at Crow’s Nest Café

1:26 pm | June 21, 2013

A wonderful new lunch spot has been winning lots of fans, myself included, since opening a few months ago in the Crow’s Nest, a downtown Elizabethton antiques shop.

Shop and café are owned and operated by Brian Irick, who launched the eatery with a limited menu and has been gradually growing and expanding the offerings.

The most important thing to know is that much of the fare at Crow’s Nest Café is made fresh on the premises. The establishment smokes its own barbecue and bakes its own bread. Desserts, soups and other items are also freshly prepared on site.

The menu offers a selection of sandwiches, as well as rotating daily plate lunch specials. Some of the dishes offered in recent weeks as daily specials have included Chicken and Dumplings, Steak and Gravy, Turkey and Dressing and Lasagna with a Garden Salad.

The café and its dining area are located toward the back of the antiques shop. Attractive antique cabinets, hutches and baker’s cabinets have been arranged to separate the dining area from the rest of the business. There’s also a display case laden with the tempting desserts available for concluding any visit.

The shelves of the cabinets are lined with canister sets, cookbooks and other vintage kitchen items giving the café a definite home-like feel. The walls bear chef-themed knickknacks and other decorative items, including signs and decals with clever sayings such as “Never Trust a Skinny Chef.” Seating is available at several tables.

I’ve visited the Crow’s Nest Café several times with different friends, so I’ve had the opportunity to try many of the menu items. So far, I’ve loved every sandwich I’ve tasted. The secret is the fantastic bread. All the sandwiches are served on this fresh-tasting bread, which is buttered and grilled to provide the foundation for every sandwich.

The sandwiches on the menu include Pork Barbecue, Chicken Salad, Grilled Cheese, Hot Ham and Cheese, Philly Cheese Steak, Smoked Pork and Fried Bologna.

So far, my favorite sandwiches are the Chicken Salad and the Smoked Pork.

Other menu items include a Pork Barbecue Platter, which is served with baked potato, roll and a choice of baked beans or slaw. This platter, which I haven’t tried, is the costliest item on the menu at $11.99. The majority of menu items are $7.99 and under.

There’s also a Nathan’s All-Beef Hot Dog, as well as a Pork Barbecue Baked Potato. This deluxe spud is served with the café’s pulled pork barbecue, as well as butter, sour cream and cheddar cheese.

I’ve tried several of the sandwiches, including the Philly Cheese Steak, Chicken Salad and both pork sandwiches.

The only difference in the Pork Barbecue and Smoked Pork is that the latter has not been doused with sauce. I actually prefer the sauceless sandwich because the smoky flavor of the pork comes through better.

The Chicken Salad is also very tasty. The smooth, light and refreshing salad features tender chunks of chicken, as well as sliced dark grapes, which is something different from most chicken salads I’ve encountered.

I also enjoyed a cup of Vegetable Soup with my Chicken Salad Sandwich. The tomato-based soup featured a medley of vegetables, including green beans, corn, onions and potatoes. The soup was seasoned well and paired nicely with the flavorful sandwich.

I’ve visited Crow’s Nest Café with friends and co-workers, ordering something different on each visit and being pleased on every occasion.

My most recent visit took place on a Saturday afternoon with a friend. A server took our drink orders while presenting us with menus.

Consulting the menu board, I noticed that the daily special was Lasagna with a salad and garlic bread. I chose to try this special, but my friend ordered the Hot Ham and Cheese Sandwich with a side order of Potato Salad.

Food is made to order, so there is an occasional wait for meals to arrive. Our meal on this occasion arrived fairly quickly.

The lasagna held together well and tasted great. Plenty of ground beef and a mild seasoning of herbs made this classic comfort food a real hit. I also liked the salad, which consisted of mixed greens, shredded cheese, cucumber slices, broccoli and cherry tomatoes.

My friend enjoyed the Hot Ham and Cheese Sandwich, which was a tasty take on a classic sandwich. The version at Crow’s Nest features slices of ham topped with lettuce, tomato and a choice of mayonnaise or mustard.

He also liked the tangy potato salad, which featured pickles, chopped eggs, poppy seeds, mustard and a little mayonnaise to give it a good balance.

You will definitely want to save some room for dessert. If anything rivals the hand-made sandwiches at Crow’s Nest Café, it’s the sweets for finishing a meal. On my most recent visit, the wide selection of desserts on display in the glass dessert case included Apple Cake, Coconut Cream Pie, Butterfinger Cake, Peanut Butter Pie, Lemon Pie, Blueberry Cheesecake, Coconut Cake, Chocolate Pie, Snowball Cake, German Chocolate Upside Down Cake and Best Ever Cake.

I decided to finish with a piece of Peanut Butter Pie while my friend, intrigued by the name, ordered the Best Ever Cake.

The dense, rich Peanut Butter Pie was drizzled with chocolate syrup. This dense, indulgently rich pie combined two of my favorites — chocolate and peanut butter — for a winning dessert.
My friend also enjoyed the Best Ever Cake, which featured a fluffy cream cheese frosting over a yellow cake with chunks of pineapple baked right into the batter.

Crow’s Nest is a welcome new addition to dining in Elizabethton. The annual Covered Bridge Celebration is going on this week in Elizabethton, so if you’re in town, why not pay a visit to Crow’s Nest Café? If you do, let them know they were recommended.

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Chicken Salad Sandwich with Vegetable Soup and Cornbread Muffin.

Chicken Salad Sandwich with Vegetable Soup and Cornbread Muffin.

AT A GLANCE: Crow’s Nest Café, 520 E. Elk Ave., Elizabethton. Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Menu items $11.99 and under. Credit cards accepted. Carryout available. Catering available.

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