When you don’t see your 18-year-old niece for months, there’s so much to go over: boys, school, summer jobs, which colleges can woo you the hardest. (Mollie’s the goalie who helped Monroe Community College win its first women’s lacrosse national title this spring, if I can brag a little.)
We got caught up over lunch at Dark Horse Coffee, smack across the street from Aquinas High School.
Comfortable and serene, with wall-sized images of horses (one quotes Neda DeMayo: “Wild horses remind us that freedom is your birthright”), wood floors, candles on the tables, colorful pendant lighting, and seating arrangements of all types (bistro tables, regular tables, chairs, a couch).
It smelled like bacon when we walked in, which helped lead Mollie toward the Turkey Panini ($7.25), a daily special with turkey, bacon, spinach, tomatoes, and mozzarella and provolone cheese on a white panini roll. This was a bold choice for her. Mollie’s not a fan of tomatoes, and “I’ve never had spinach before — my mom doesn’t like vegetables.” But unlike our last lunch date, she kept every ingredient intact and even said she’d order the panini again. I seconded her high praise; we switched entrees halfway through the meal so she could continue on her culinary adventure.
I had another daily special, the California Chicken Wrap ($7.25), specifically because of the herb cream cheese. Neither of us could taste the cream cheese, though, which was a bummer, but we still enjoyed the fresh mix of chicken chunks, mixed greens, sprouts, cucumber, tomato, red onion and garlic, drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette and served in a wheat wrap (you get your choice of wraps). Mollie appreciated a new use for the vinaigrette, which she only eats with pasta noodles and butter. Both sandwiches came with pickles and chips.
The coffeehouse serves a variety of specialty and breakfast sandwiches, fresh fruit dishes, salads and baked goods, prepared with local, natural ingredients whenever possible. Signature sandwiches (indicated on the menu with a horseshoe) include the Tomato & Basil Panini ($6.25).
All coffee is made with certified Fair Trade organic coffee beans. Gourmet coffee, espresso, latte, chai tea and other hot drinks range from $1.50 to $4. My subtle, coconut-flavored chai (reportedly an Aquinas music teacher’s favorite) was $1.35. Iced drinks are $1.50 to $3.95, and frozen drinks start at $2.75. Bottled water (which Mollie had) is $1; juice is $1.25.
The damage: $21.20 (tip jar on counter)
Next time …
The Ranchero Roast Beef Panini ($7.25) — roast beef with roasted red pepper sauce, provolone cheese, tomatoes, romaine lettuce and sauteed onions.