Purple Onion Review


Emma Komar, Opinions Editor

If you’re looking for a new place to eat between practices or after a B-day, Lincoln Avenue’s new addition could be the place to go. Purple Onion Cafe recently opened in the Garden Theater, right in the middle of the Avenue. 

Despite the series of restaurants, including a Starbucks, that have failed in this space, I’m excited to see how Purple Onion fares. Based on my experience there, I think it has promise and will hopefully stay open for much longer than some of its previous occupants.

Although the cafe is small, the store makes good use of all available space, with a narrow but open cooking line and a wide floor space for tables. The almost complete wall of windows gives the store an intimate vibe and serves as a good medium for people-watching on the Avenue.

The other walls are mostly bare, but the contrast between the unpainted wood, metal, and black paint surrounding the restaurant gives it an industrial farmhouse feel, and is actually a pretty interesting combination. The lighting is cool looking, especially because of how low the lamps hang down over the high tables.

Even with the bulbs almost at eye level, they aren’t too bright to be painful and still make the room look lighter and more open against the dark walls. I would recommend choosing a low table if you’re tall, though. My brother definitely whacked his head as we were leaving and it was embarrassing for everyone involved.

But don’t worry, there are plenty of tables to choose from, with varying heights for any personal preference. They were a little small, so I was slightly uncomfortably close to my family, but with such a small space it was hard to complain. And because of the openness of the store, you can even see the cooking line from your table if you choose the right one. It’s a good way to make sure no one’s spitting in your food, if you’re ever concerned.

I wouldn’t worry too much though. The food we ordered tasted pretty great, despite the slightly underwhelming menu. Purple Onion offers a basic assortment of soups, salads, and sandwiches, with a few breakfast plates and pastries to go along with it. There isn’t much room for personal customization either, since almost every meal comes with a vinaigrette-dressed side salad as a single option side. But if you’re okay with simplicity and just rely on taste, this cafe can offer you a solid breakfast or lunch that can easily leave you happy.

We started with coffee. The menu offers an assortment of lattes ($2.75), cappuccinos ($2.50), and mochas ($3.25), so there’s just enough for anyone looking for a basic but satisfying coffee order. I was very happy with the cappuccino, since there was lots of foam to balance out the coffee, but the latte didn’t have as great of a ratio. It was a little too milky, especially considering that we ordered a triple, so it needed a little more coffee. However, both drinks were large enough to keep a Pres girl going on four hours of sleep, so the size-to-price ratio definitely fit the bill.

Some of the food options tasted better than others, but the coffee cake ($3.50) was at the top of the list. It was dense and sweet, with a cinnamon crumble on top and flaked with powdered sugar. It was a delicious treat at a solid price, and I’d definitely order it again.

I was also very happy with the ham quiche. Although a little pricey at $8.95, it was rich, soft, and full of well-cooked egg with the perfect amount of crust and ham to tie it all together. The large slice was also very light, so it wasn’t overwhelming and, according to my mom, didn’t leave her feeling excessively full. This was honestly my first time tasting quiche, but I would order it much more often if it could always taste like this one.

My bacon and egg sandwich, while pretty tasty, was a little boring. It was a good size for a $6.95, the bacon was crispy, and it came with garlic mayo that brought some extra flavor. My only real complaint was the lack of bread options, since the sandwich only came on whole grain bread and didn’t list any potential substitutes.

It’s safe to say that the breakfast foods were worth coming back for, but the lunch options at Purple Onion weren’t as good as I was hoping for. I sampled two different sandwiches, and both of them were too expensive for what we received.

The chicken mozzarella ($11.95), while it tasted excellent, was not a large enough portion for such a high price. The chicken was well-seasoned and obviously fresh, as were the vegetables, but since it tasted so good I was disappointed that there wasn’t more of it! The sidewalk baguette ($9.95) was a combination of ham, brie, basil and olive oil on fresh baked bread, and had a similar problem. While it tasted fantastic, it was too small for such a high price, especially with so many nearby competitors. I’d willingly eat either of these again, but only if the price dropped.

But while the food had its ups and downs, the service at Purple Onion was fantastic at both of our visits. We were treated by a friendly team of workers and very polite, helpful waiters that made the whole experience at the cafe more positive. Many of them were willing to go above and beyond their job descriptions, even helping us bring trays back to our table despite the cafe’s do-it-yourself buzzer system.

Purple Onion Cafe may be in an unlucky location, but the quality of food, friendly team, and unique surrounding made both of our overall trips memorable and worth returning to.