Café Sonder, reviewed
Café Sonder, which occupies the spot that formerly housed the venerated Zia Diner, is the fancier, borderline fine-dining sister restaurant to downtown’s perennially packed Plaza Café. The owners of Sonder, longtime restaurateurs who also operate the Plaza Café Southside, are dedicated to making everything in-house and from scratch, with locally sourced, fresh ingredients. Sonder, which opened in November 2016, has the feel of an upscale diner, with the former Zia Diner’s same open, multilevel floor plan and minimalist decor topped with modern-looking metallic red ribbons that hang from the ceiling.
The menus (brunch — Saturdays and Sundays only — lunch, and dinner) offer a purposeful variety of items that run the gamut from classic meat and potatoes to Italian pastas to diner-style sandwiches. The starters come from all over the map, cuisinewise: mussels with red chile, the French-ish pork belly with frisée and a tea-boiled egg, and an Asianinspired chicken soup. The Mediterranean Dips starter features three house-made dips: an herby white bean, smoked beet, and spiced yogurt. While the beet was a tad sweet, the other two were sublime, particularly when piled together on soft pita slices and topped with a handful of perfect Greek olives.
The fried calamari was also a solid choice. The batter was a bit on the heavy side, but the squid was fresh and not too oily, and it came with two pleasantly spicy and creamy dipping sauces — one green chile tartar sauce, and one red chile aioli. The calamari was sprinkled with crispy fried kale, which took on a fishy quality that married perfectly with the squid and a squeeze of lemon.
Sprinkled throughout the generally farmhouseEuropean fare are a few experimental-feeling Asian