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Archive for Thursday, February 25, 1999

S OFFERS UNIQUE DINING EXPERIENCE

February 25, 1999

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The downtown cafe is a popular destination for breakfast, lunch or just drinks.

As I wander throughout Lawrence, the two complaints I most often hear is that corporate America is taking over Massachusetts Street, and that the town is overrun with fast-food places and sports bars that leave little room for unique specialty restaurants.

I tend to agree. So when a place like Milton's Coffee and Wine comes along, it's almost a cause to celebrate.

The cafe, under the ownership of Jean and Dave Lewis, opened its doors at 920 Mass. in 1997, and has become a haven for shoppers, business people, students and anyone else seeking a change of pace from the ordinary dining experience.

"We are a combination of a cafe and a restaurant," Dave Lewis said. "And I think people appreciate that."

On the Sunday morning I spoke with Lewis, the cafe was packed with morning brunch patrons, some sipping various coffees while they read newspapers and books, others hunched over plates of omelets and fruit-flavored pancakes.

There was a wait for a table, so I bellied up to the counter to order breakfast.

The dining area is really one elongated room. Along one side are booths that seat two. In the center are round tables for four, and running the length of the room on the other end is a counter.

At the front of the counter is a display of mouth-watering desserts including cakes and cheesecakes. Next comes the coffee bar area where the wait staff is in perpetual motion mixing up the assortments of lattes, cappuccinos, mochas, coffees and teas.

Farther down the counter is some dining space, where I took a seat at the end.

Amid the hubbub of conversation and clinking glasses, a peppy big band jazz tune plays over the sound system. I noticed a bulletin board listing various evening times when patrons can visit and hear live jazz and blues.

The walls, which have a beautiful muted apricot hue, are tastefully adorned with prints, posters and artwork.

Milton's look can best be described as casually elegant. It is upscale, clean and well-lit, but without the snooty attitude that permeates some similar cafes. It's a bit eclectic, but pretty much mainstream.

For brunch I sampled one of the specials: banana pancakes topped with blueberries, scrambled eggs and a side order of breakfast potatoes. I'm not much for coffee so I chose a blueberry-flavored iced tea.

Other brunch selections include Belgian waffles, French toast, eggs served any which way, Huevos Rancheros, bagels, cinnamon rolls, muffins and various sandwiches including B.L.T.'s, smoked turkey and bacon, Milton's Salmon Wrap and the Downtown Veggie.

Side selections include hummus with pita, cheese quesadillas, sauteed veggies and rice, soups and a Mediterranean salad plate.

Despite the bustling crowd, my breakfast arrived quickly -- and it was delicious. The pancakes were covered in real blueberries, the eggs were cooked to my liking and the wonderful breakfast potatoes came with melted cheddar cheese, fresh herbs and sweet pepper confetti.

Milton's staff certainly takes care of its patrons. Not only did my waiter check with me frequently, but I think everyone else who works there (except maybe the dishwasher) checked up on me, also.

My tab with a tip came to $12, which is reasonable for this type of establishment.

Whether you desire breakfast, a midafternoon coffee or a late-night spot to sip wine and listen to blues music, this is the place to find it.

Milton's will enjoy a long and successful run on Massachusetts Street. It's almost like the cafe and downtown Lawrence were meant for each other.

-- The Mag's phone message number is 832-7146. Send e-mail to jbiles@ljworld.com.

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