Caffe Tosi

(Saint Joseph, MI) — Autumn has arrived too soon to southwest Michigan, tinting the leaves a brilliant gold. But winter is not far behind, already gusting up a cold wind, enough to shear the treetops off their foliage. This season is made for small coffee shops and hot soup and warm sandwiches oozing with cheese. So, we drive into downtown Saint Joseph for either a late breakfast or early lunch (certainly not a brunch), finding our way to a tiny place called Caffe Tosi...

He Fed:

On weekends, it’s easy to lose track of that little smidgen of coffee cake you had at sunrise. Hunger sneaks up on you. As we park downtown, I’m nervous we won’t find a suitable restaurant; after all, in this neck of the woods, many places opt to stay closed on Sunday. Thankfully, we notice Caffe Tosi is open and bustling.

Inside, I’m dismayed to see it’s deli counter service. Many other patrons are waiting in line, so we queue up. The menu looks pretty good—mostly sandwiches, some pizzas, side salads—but you can tell everything is made fresh. We belly up and place our orders with the friendly staff. I decide to get a beer and am instructed to go down to the cooler to grab one. Once I return to the register, I’m instructed to go back and use the opener mounted on the wall. Ohhhkaaay... About this time I notice more pedestrians arriving so I instruct Juliet to snag one of the few free tables left while I pay.

Now we play the waiting game. I’m informed our name will be called when the food’s ready. I sip my bottle of Round Barn Brewery Bob’s Your Uncle, a sessionable (4.8% abv) English style bitter that’s not bad. After about 10 minutes, someone calls out our name and delivers Juliet’s glass of wine and, shortly thereafter, our food. We dig in.

I absolutely love egg sandwiches, so it’s no surprise I ordered the ham, egg, and cheese croissant. And what a croissant! It’s a huge cornucopia-shaped pastry, flaking away as soon as I pick it up, buttery crisp and fluffy and only slightly chewy. Delicious. The eggs are scrambled and fluffed up, almost an omelet. Steam rises from each bite. Rich Swiss cheese melts on top of thin, salty layers of ham. In virtually no time, I make the sandwich disappear. It’s damn good.

Just for fun, I had ordered a trio of mini frittatas for us to split. However, I misread the menu, thinking they were three different frittatas. Instead, we each get 1.5 mini frittatas filled with too much slimy spinach, large chunks of squishy button mushrooms, and not enough cheese to cover these sins. I can only eat a half. The breakfast potatoes are stale; I can barely get my fork in some of them. A generous sprinkling of cumin powder helps, but it’s a straight-up dash of seasoning that could have used some help. Even the sausage links seem out of a cardboard box.

Getting out of our corner table is awkward, hampered by other folks deep in conversation, unaware they’re blocking the avenue for escape. We manage to sidle out the front door after bussing our own table, back into the fresh air. Caffe Tosi is a mixed bag. The environment is cloistered and the ordering process is janky. Food ranges from great to “not my cup of tea”. It seems like a great place to stake out a table early, before church lets out.

She Fed:

The last few weeks have been incredibly stressful. After packing our Grand Rapids condo, moving our lives and our belongings to Saint Joseph, Jeremy starting a new job, and me travelling hither nither for work...we wake up Sunday morning to find ourselves in search of Sunday Brunch. I’m not in the mood for anything fancy; being less interested in white tablecloths and more in want of a spicy bloody Mary. Turn out, there’s not much in the way of “Sunday Bloody Mary Brunches” in our zip code so we venture downtown to see what we can find.

Despite working here for six years, I’ve never been to Caffe Tosi though I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews from colleagues who flock there for the pastries and breads sourced through Bit of Swiss. I know we’ve made a good choice when I open the door and can barely get into the cafe. There are small tables throughout, menus handwritten on chalkboard, a short line to order and a few folks seemingly milling about. Being newbies, we’re not exactly sure of the process. A bright and cheerful worker sees our “deer in the headlights” expressions and takes us under her wing. She runs through the menus with us, sandwiches, salads, Sunday brunch-y specials, etc. Most importantly she confirms we can order a beer or wine. Amen.

I’m tempted by the ham, egg, and cheese croissant, knowing the croissant alone will be amazing. But the description of the Italian tuna salad panini snags me and I have to try it. Jeremy ends up ordering the croissant as well as an order of breakfast timbales for us to share. He grabs a bottle of beer from the cooler and I order a glass of pinot grigio. As we finish ordering, a two-top opens up and I snag it.

Our wait is very brief and when our name is called Jeremy stands to fetch our food but a server runs it to us. What seemed slightly chaotic at first has become quite civilized. My panini is not grilled, but served on a thick round of bread instead. The quality of the bread is over the moon. Slightly chewy like focaccia, but lighter and airier. The tuna salad is absolutely incredible. Feta cheese, chopped artichoke hearts, and all white meat tuna are mixed together and topped with a generous layer of mixed greens. This is without a doubt, the best tuna salad sandwich I’ve ever enjoyed. It’s so large in fact, I have to get a to-go box for half the sandwich. (I can report the day-old leftovers are just as amazing!)

The egg, mushroom, and spinach timbales are tasty, but not my favorite. I’m fussy when it comes to cooked spinach and these are just a bit to vegetal for me. I pick out the mushrooms and eat them along with the super crispy fried potatoes. My pinot grigio is drained, my hunger is assuaged, and the sun is shining. Life is good on the lakeshore!

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