Saturday, December 8, 2012

Cafe Alfresco - Dunedin

Cafe Alfresco on Urbanspoon

Traveling incognito as 'triathletes' recently had Watson and I registered for the Tri-Rock Triathlon at Clearwater Beach. We were so flummoxed by the continued inaccessibility of parking anywhere near the Pier 60 confluence during our surreptitious Saturday registration period (wearing an overcoat and smoking a pipe is NOT the way to hide in plain site I quickly found), we abandoned all hope and elected to vacate the area and try our luck in downtown Dunedin (and this after also deciding not to tempt fate in the downtown Clearwater / Church of Scientology Central locales).

As a brief aside, might I suggest strongly to our elected representatives that it's high time for a parking structure or three in this Clearwater Beach area? Methinks it's high time to upgrade the parking facilities in this highly trafficked area AND leave those oh-so-prized tourists, flocking to these wonderfully refreshing waters, with the feeling that Clearwater actually WANTED their time and festivities here to be fun and hassle free. And WITH that feeling would be their desire to RETURN to the area As it is, Watson and I can barely tolerate visits to this beach at all......even WITH the redesigned roundabout mousetrap.... and we KNOW where we're going at this point!
Jai Alai IPA

The existing facilities are sparse and either forever filled with cars already OR (as was the case with our venture) filled with the registration officials for the Tri-Rock Triathlon. The business and proprietors in this area should be given medals all their own for being able to compete in the marketplace under such conditions!

Mind you, simply having potentially hundreds of potential patrons walking, running, biking, blading, strolling, lolly-gagging, and even just parked on their own 'caboose' outside is not a recipe for success unto itself. No, for if this establishment had not (as is my estimation) been producing foods and libations enjoyed by the many and delivered in such a wonderful fashion it would surely fall prey to the same fate that dozens and dozens of other busted hospitality dreams have gone in the Pinellas market (and this location no doubt quickly turned into a Subway, a Starbucks, a gun shop or even a strip club - for the Tampa area has more of these than almost any other city in the US save Las Vegas and Cincinnati!)
For this trip we meandered lazily into Cafe AlFresco with it's open air seating overlooking the splendid Pinellas Trail. We were instantly seated this mid-afternoon at a time (unfortunately) just after the cessation of their Sat/Sun Brunch from 10-2, a happenstance that left Watson rueful (trying on that seal suit surely cost us valuable time!)

I was intrigued by how this cafe has stood the tests of time after all these years for on only one other occasion had I been to this location. The very fact that this house was still  in existence is an obvious testament to the proprietors' gumption, pluck, deft menu picking, and the no doubt prescient move from 'Nowhere' to 'Somewhere', for there is no other location in all of downtown Dunedin that has the pedestrian exposure that Cafe Al Fresco has; the restaurant equivalent of drinking from a firehose if you will.

A 'shared' plate of Crab Cake (left) and Cuban (top)
Parched thirst and Prince Michael in tow (and Lady Elizabeth performing her duties at the infirmary) we chose our opening liquid salvo from a fairly well represented drink menu that soon had us quaffing a very large Tucker Hefe Weisen and a Jai Alai IPA, both unfamiliar entries to my palate.

Watson indicated that he had taken his small cadre of Drs. here many times previously and indicated that there was only one menu item that he was pining for, the Crab Cakes, and so his choice was made.

The Prince chose a Cuban sandwich while I chose a Salmon Salad, mindful of the weight and heft of participating in the race the next day and feeling that any 'fish' I could get into my system would surely help me in the swim portion of the race! [Note - this proved not to be true and I was humbled by the lack of swimming prowess I possessed.)

Salmon Salad
The Crab Cake entry was as splendid as Watson had hoped and again, a happy Watson make my daily toil so much more pleasant so for this alone I was elated. The Cuban was simply pedestrian at best......I'm still not entirely enamored with 'The Cuban' as a sandwich no matter how long I reside in this locale, a fact not altogether the fault of Cafe Al Fresco for Prince William scarfed it down in it's entirety like a ravenous doberman in a junk yard lot.

The Salmon Salad, while pleasantly presented was just that, pleasant. The greenery was not the stuff of legend but the Salmon was tasty and delicious. And with a to-go order of Fried Shrimp Tails for Lady Elizabeth we soon paid our fare and, nicely situated from our brews, headed out with a satisfied feeling and the best wishes for ANY restaurant that can last as long as Cafe Al Fresco has.......

Ze Locomotive in front

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