495 N. Semoran Blvd.,
Those familiar with the scene at Austin’s Coffee, Dandelion Communitea Café and the Drunken Monkey Coffee Bar will undoubtedly recognize the bohemian aesthetic cultivated by the Sleeping Moon Café, the newest meeting space for moonbats young and old. Its location – around the corner from the Aveda Institute on the southeast corner of Semoran Boulevard and Aloma Avenue – isn’t exactly conspicuous, yet a steady stream of free spirits, as well as students and instructors from Aveda and nearby Full Sail University, pour in for a caffeine fix, a bite to eat or a little live music. On this particular Friday evening, the commanding presence and pleasing timbre of a young female vocalist held the colorful room rapt, and this is a space with plenty of visual distractions. Only a break in the music allowed for a concentrated perusal of the various paintings on the walls, and the recognition that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
But in the culinary arts, such subjective notions don’t hold as much traction. Yes, taste is in the mouth of the devourer, but collective, not individual, approval is needed to generate the buzz that allows a restaurant to survive. Sauntering up to the circular counter, we surveyed the offerings on the chalkboard menu (none of which presented anything different than what appeared on the printed menu) then listened to the gracious gentleman who made every effort to expound on dishes we showed an interest in. We took his suggestions, then seated ourselves at a hightop and discussed the viability of a boho beanhouse situated in such a low-key locale.
As far as Rollins College, Full Sail and UCF are concerned, the location is central. Owner Raihan Preston, like café proprietresses Julie Norris, Jackie Oswalt and Maureen Hawthorne, is aiming to make SMC a neighborhood fixture for local artists and java junkies alike, albeit slightly off the beaten path. In the midst of our discussion, bowls of butternut squash and tomato lentil soup ($2.35 for 6 ounces) were served, along with a mound of fragrant jasmine rice ($1.50).
Both soups were impressive, but the smooth, pleasant sweetness of the former really paired well with the rice. Grape leaves ($2) somehow made their way onto a menu mostly limited to soups, sandwiches and salads, but the too-firm texture and mealy filling had us thinking the effort in preparation was lacking. While the “roast beef yum” ($6.99) wasn’t my first choice (they were out of the meatball-and-cheese panini), there was plenty of provolone and American cheese to qualify the sandwich as decent; nothing more, nothing less. Now I’m no vegan, but I really can’t imagine that one would find the Tofurkey Day ($6.99) sandwich, a meatless spin on their Turkey Day sandwich with vegan ingredients replacing turkey, provolone and American cheese, and a cranberry spread, particularly gratifying. (Vegans do get plenty of options here, though.) Sleeping Moon doesn’t have a pastry chef, but we both enjoyed the chocolate trilogy ($5.50) – a puck of chocolate ice cream, dark chocolate mousse and a white chocolate topping – and their tiramisu ($4.90). An Americano ($1.75), made with Dark Horse Blend from Maitland’s Coffee Roasters Alliance, was just the way I like it – bold.
Coffeehouses have notoriously short shelf lives in this city, but in the case of Austin’s, Dandelion and Drunken Monkey, patience was a virtue. All needed a little time from their loyal patronage to nurture, mature and evolve organically – a lesson Preston can learn from. Until this latest space gets there, I’ll let sleeping moons lie.
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