Cafesano, a rising star in the Reston-Herndon office-lunch crowd, is causing quite a surge of customers just before noon weekdays, and even on weekends. This restaurant is packing people in. Now I understand why parking is so hard to find around noon in South Lakes Village Center.
For those calling ahead, this wildly-popular cafe has now opened a carry-out only outlet just a few doors down in the same shopping center. No seating inside this pickup-only extension, but you can call ahead and dash in and pick up dinner.
What is all the fuss about? The answer is the food—upscale Mediterranean, with originality, ridiculously-fresh ingredients and "wow" taste.
For a first-time visitor, start with their appetizer dips and sauces. The red pepper hummus, and garlic-infused creamy tzatzki are available in a "dip sampler," as is their delicious roasted eggplant baba ghanoush. This is somewhat fast-food, as you order at a counter, and take a tray with a number to your table, but the service is engaging and very fast. One large group was taking a seat and within minutes their food all arrived, piping hot.
We ordered a "wine sampler" and were offered small tastes before we picked our four wines, then we took our small four-glass sampler to our table (perfect for two people who would like to branch out into other wines before they purchase a glass or bottle). For the mere price of $8.99, this was in quantity about the same as two glasses of wine, so it was a good deal, assuming they fill to the same level for all customers. Featured wines from California, New Zealand and even Washington State sell for $4.50 to $6.50 per glass, and beers are also available.
Salads are creative, crunchy-fresh and a delight for the senses. Our favorite was their most popular avocado, tomato and mozzarella salad, served with a round crispy Parmesan crisp perched on top (upon tasting, I immediately wanted to order more Parmesan crisps). A salad can easily be shared for two people, or a smaller portion is available.
Homemade brick-oven-fired pizzas have a spectacular, thin and crunchy crust. Our favorite is quattro stagioni, which has prosciutto, mushrooms, sliced kalamata olives and artichokes (yes, artichoke hearts, quartered) with fresh mozzarella, parmesan cheese and their fragrant tomato sauce. When this pizza arrives roasted-hot at your table, the aroma is only trumped by the taste. Two people can share a small pizza, share a salad and share a selection of appetizers for a casual inexpensive dinner (no tip required). It is self-serve for all drink refills and extra napkins.
Their avocado, tomato and asiago cheese wrap (combined with the salty sparks of kalamata olives, crunchy romaine and green onions) is even better with the second, third or fourth mouthful. I had to remind myself to stop and savor each flavor that was woven into this tender wrap. There is an unexpected star with these platters—their fresh-baked seasoned chips. These are crunchy brown strips of heaven, which can also be dipped into their smooth appetizer sauces.
Frankly, everything, absolutely everything we have ordered for lunch and dinner at this restaurant is sensational. At this point, we just go early, take friends, and make sure we get a table, or do a quick drive-by to pick up at the carry-out store.
On warm summer evenings their outdoor seating has a lovely view of Lake Thoreau, or you can walk down next to the lake and enjoy a wrap and a sip of wine and watch for the resident pair of bald eagles.
Skip their desserts. They are bland and uninspired. Their baklava is tough and chewy with little flavor, and their chocolate cannoli has very little chocolate filling, it is just piped in the ends, and the tubes were hollow, thick and hard. Their tiramisu was good, but, if you have to order dessert, select their gelato.
For families, the kids menu (check it out online) is very reasonable in cost, and this is a family-friendly atmosphere.
There are more pluses for this Mediterranean star of a restaurant than I can list in this article. Inexpensive, upscale, casual and exciting—and at this point, I will circle and circle, and I don't even care if it takes a few minutes to find a parking space. This place is worth a call-ahead and a few minutes wait in line. This cafe is a rising star in Reston restaurants.