Brunch is an important meal for us-- particularly on the weekends. Big, hearty, indulgent-- you've seen it all before. Sabrina's Cafe is infamous for its brunch menu that fulfills your every over-the-top breakfast+lunch desire. J and I have been once before (well, to the Art Museum outpost, Sabrina's Cafe and Spencer's Too, a long-winded name paying homage to the owner's two children) after I begged her to accompany me to the place that served the biggest, best pile of stuffed French toast ever made (I mean, REALLY.)
The picture that started it all (by Foodadelphia)
But I'm not here to talk about brunch. I'm here to talk about the other meal Sabrina's serves, that meal for which I am most often looking for a solid place to eat it: dinner. I think a lot of diners see Sabrina's as a hot brunch spot, but then forget they also serve the later meal. Case in point: trying to get your name on the list during weekend brunch is luck of the draw (and sometimes you'll face hour-long waits), but walking in at 7PM on a Saturday night finds only a smattering of diners and a hostess happy to seat you (and no, reservations are not taken for either meal).
The Cafe is cozy, good for couples (I love the tiny two-people booths) as well as larger groups (a group of eight was comfortably seated near us), with a semi-open kitchen, a long coffee bar, chalkboard menus, and general peace and quiet (hard to find around here, it seems). It's the perfect atmosphere for a first date, or a catch-up dinner with friends, when you actually want to hear your dining mates.
Sabrina's food can be described as classic comfort foods with a bit of a diner twist (breakfast served all day), with an emphasis on quality ingredients, homemade goods, and relatively healthy options, when portion control isn't taken into account. Portions. Are. Massive. On one hand, I'm not a fan of overloading plates, which only adds to America's increasing obesity epidemic. BUT. I am a fan of leftovers. So Sabrina's suits me well.
My dining companion, not the most adventurous eater, always allows me one of two shared appetizers: the mussels or fried calamari (good thing they're fairly ubiquitous around town). I opted for the mussels, in a white wine sauce ($10.95). A large plate of a few dozen mollusks were served with a generous amount of flavorful broth (although it appeared to be tomato-based, so I'm not sure if they mixed up that order), and a hunk of freshly toasted garlic bread, perfect for dipping. The stars of the show were large, fresh, well-cooked and completely free of sand and grit. Not particularly anything you couldn't get elsewhere, but solid.
For my main course, I actually was really eyeing the salads, but sometimes the need to showcase the epitome of a restaurant overcomes my simple cravings. Plus, it's winter, it's freezing, and it's hard to say no to a hot, hearty meal. So, I went with the meatloaf. Yeah, meatloaf. Something I don't often see on menus (minus those diner types), and made with a special Sabrina's twist-- just as with their famous French toast, the meatloaf comes stuffed ($13.95). Two huge slabs of dense meatloaf (much like a well-done slice of burger) served stacked with a variety of vegetables and cheese between them, and all topped with a thick, creamy mushroom gravy. As if that wasn't enough, most of the entrees also come with a pile of steamed veggies (broccoli, peppers, carrots and the like), as well as your choice of garlic mashed potatoes or mashed sweet potatoes. I opted for the sweet kind, which served as the base for my pile of meat, and ended up in each bite. I could hardly finish one of the meat slices, but certainly savored every moist, flavorful bit.
On the opposite side of the table, my dining mate was enjoying the surf and turf special ($19.95, hitting the top price on the entire menu). A solid portion of New York Strip steak was grilled to order and topped with two large coconut-encrusted shrimp. I was lucky enough to snag one of the shrimp and while a bit out of place (I typically link coconut shrimp to tropical environments), Sabrina's didn't miss a beat. Good ratio of meaty shrimp to crispy, sweet outer shell, it had me wanting to eat even the tail. The steak and seafood combo was topped with a Bearnaise-style sauce, of which I remember nothing (thanks, photos for the reminder). Again, this entree was served with veggies and potatoes (although he chose the garlic mashed type-- a good choice to accompany the steak), and overall, also allowed for a small leftover portion to be enjoyed the next day.
The portions at Sabrina's unfortunately left us not wanting dessert, but they do offer a full selection of sweet treats, including what appears to be a number of homemade cakes (I eyed servers slicing them up throughout the evening). I don't know how anyone could go for a third course here, but props to them, the cakes certainly looked delightful.
Next time you're looking for a quiet place to share dinner with friends or family, I'd highly suggest Sabrina's- even at the last minute, you can usually slip in without a problem. This restaurant definitely deserves some credit beyond just their delicious brunch!
910 Christian Street or 1804 Callowhill Street