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Tidbit, a modest-looking cafe that opened this past September on a restaurant-rich stretch of Capitol Avenue near 19th Street, is making a small if indelible mark on the midtown dining scene. After all, there aren’t many places where budget-conscious diners can enjoy a high-quality lunch with dessert for $10, but this joint gets it done.
Tidbit bills itself as a gelateria, so I’ll begin where most meals here end: with the 20 or so housemade gelatos and sorbets on offer. The flavors, which change frequently, range from straightforward (pear, lemon, blackberry) to deliciously unexpected (black sesame, cucumber watermelon, mandarin kumquat). Tidbit is unique in that its gelatos are made with soymilk, not cream, resulting in a product that’s somewhat lighter but no less satisfying than traditional gelato. Everything I tried (and trust me, I tried most of them) was so scrumptious it was impossible to choose a favorite.
Even in a place where desserts are meant to be the star, the food menu is hardly an afterthought. The burger, which is served on fresh focaccia and stacked with quality goodies— bacon, guacamole, Jack cheese, french-fried onions, chimichurri mayo—is distinctive enough to stand up to its many crosstown competitors. It is everything you want in a burger: juicy, decadent and messy enough to require multiple napkins. Served with a side dish of your choice (pasta salad, fries, chips and salsa, green salad, soup), it’s a deal at $8.25.
The chicken wrap ($8.25, including a side), typically forgettable at other establishments, gets better treatment at Tidbit. The flavor profile is Asian: Greens are mixed in a light sesame vinaigrette, and the chicken is coated in an addictive chili-peanut sauce. My only complaint is that the portion of chicken tucked into my wrap was rather skimpy. Still, I appreciated the freshness of the ingredients and the sweet crunch of the toasted almonds scattered within.
Soups are made from scratch and portions are generous. The carrot-ginger soup I enjoyed during my visit was rich and flavorful if a tad thicker than I would have liked. The warm garlic toast alongside it was a delicious touch. At $5.25, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more belly-warming light lunch.
On my next visit, I’ll surely be sampling the pastrami sandwich (with house-smoked meat, Swiss cheese, onions and garlic aïoli on sourdough) and the pressed Philly cheese steak, which is served with mushrooms, provolone and garlic aïoli on focaccia rather than the traditional roll. And I can’t wait until Tidbit rolls out its full-fledged dinner menu, which looks very promising, indeed: hand-rolled pastas, sake-steamed mussels, Korean tri-tip and some intriguing appetizer platters.
Tidbit’s environs are spartan: a plain storefront, bare walls, unadorned tables. Some colorful art and a few potted plants would inject some much-needed personality into the joint. The place possesses neither the cheerful buzz nor the graceful service that might keep you coming back to a favorite lunch spot. Nevertheless, the staff is friendly and well-meaning, and the quality of the food is evidence that the kitchen cares.
Tidbit Catering and Gelateria, 1907 Capitol Ave.; (916) 442-7369