Trailer-Made: Purple Bean Cafe
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 10.20.11
2013 UPDATE: The Purple Bean Cafe has closed.
Blue Dahlia Bistro, Purple Bean Cafe. The mood indigo on this stretch of East 11th carries sympathetic waves. Blue Dahlia’s a sit-down place with decent coffee and extraordinary open-face sandwiches called tartines. It has a patient, long-skirt-and-tanktop vibe and a shaded patio. I could say the same for the Purple Bean Cafe trailer, except the sandwiches are called sammiches and the patio is the whole point, a collection of sling-back chairs fronting East 11th under purple and yellow umbrellas that match the trailer’s color scheme.
Breakfast and lunch carry equal weight at the Purple Bean. Breakfast sandwiches come with two eggs, cheese, meat, lettuce and tomato on a choice of croissant, ciabatta, vegan whole wheat or Rockstar bagel for $5. The Classic (pictured at right below) comes preselected with hard-fried eggs, basil, a round slice of good smoked gouda, bacon, lettuce and onion on a croissant. It wasn’t what I’d ordered, but the result was still a decent handful, fresh-tasting and easy on the palate for a windy morning. At Purple Bean, you can chase it with a toasted brown espresso ($1.50/single) with crema the color of a burnt siena crayon. Or a Mayan mocha ($3.75/medium) that tastes like a cinnamon roll with overnotes of powdered cayenne.
Lunch here calls for a muffaletta ($6 with chips, pictured at top). Not a muffaletta in the traditional sense, but one with some common elements sandwiched between stout ciabatta bread. The olive in a dusky red pesto takes a backseat to the raisiny acidity of sun-dried tomatoes, and basil moves it farther away from the usual tang of the New Orleans version. At the core is a thick blanket of provolone, peppery turkey pastrami and Genoa salami. Forget the Big Easy purists and enjoy your sandwich.. I asked the cashier to pick the flavor an Italian soda made with Perrier and syrup ($2/small), and she went with watermelon and lime. Nice, and part of an overall customer service experience that was cheerful, patient, even goofy.
The trailer’s been on two different corners of Lydia and 11th since September of last year. I’ve been Swedish all my life, but I’d never tried the Norwegian treat called lefse until I came here. To give you an idea of my Scandinavian culinary range, let me do my special Minnesota cheer for you: “Lutefisk, lutefisk, lefse, lefse. We’re gonna beatchya, ya sure you betcha.”
Lefse is like a cross between a thick flour tortilla and a potato pancake, and Purple Bean’s Troy Twibell draws on his Norwegian roots to make them. He said that when he was a kid, they’d dodge eating the mashed potatoes at suppertime, knowing that the more leftover mashers there were, the more lefse there’d be the next morning. Twibell rolls them up with butter, cinnamon and sugar or with bacon and a side of syrup. They’re a dollar apiece, and with a cup of oily black drip coffee ($2.75/small), you can pretend you’re a character in a Stieg Larsson book, dragon tattoo and all.
Purple Bean Cafe
1104 E. 11th St. inside the Victory Grill. 512-820-9707, www.thepurplebeancafe.com.
Updated hours: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday-Friday. 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.