Western Nebraska Observer - Observations all along the line - Kimball & the Southern Panhandle First

By Dave Faries
Editor 

Restaurant Review: Java Blend

 

Rebecca Brown prepares a blender drink.

Eight years ago, Java Blend was what its name implied.

Owner Rebecca Brown gambled that Kimball coffee drinkers--enough of them, anyway--wanted something more than drip grind from Sysco and opened a storefront dedicated to espresso, cappuccino, cafe au lait...as well as unadorned brew.

Or, as she explained, “it seemed like a good idea.”

The concept borders on urban. Brown uses organic, fair trade beans grown in Brazil and roasted in Fort Collins, Colorado, to a point where bitterness and acidity settle into mildness--though some of the more traditional cups carry a jolt.

“A lot of people cringed when they saw espresso,” she recalled. “But after trying it, they like it.”

Brown learned the art of coffee-making in Colorado Springs many years ago. She carried the skill through gigs at bakeries in Colorado and California. Before opening Java Blend, she did a refresher stint at Starbucks.

Sandwiches were a natural addition to the menu. Pastrami is the most popular, though ham, bacon and other options follow. The cafe’s approach is reserved, allowing decent ingredients to stand, almost unsupported. So their chicken salad, for example, relies on the subdued nature of white meat for flavor. It’s a clean and light presentation, although diners prepared for a little mayonnaise or mustard zing might find it wanting.

For a moment, anyway--the bread (wheatberry or marble rye are solid options) makes up for any brief concern. These are worthy sandwiches.

Java Blend added pizza to the menu after the family behind a long-closed parlor expressed an interest in making pies again. “Having the variety”--pizza, sandwiches and coffee--”has really helped,” Brown explained.

Signs behind the counter promise New York style pizza. They are thin crust, though hardly the dripping, floppy version favored by Tony Manero (remember the opening scene of Saturday Night Fever?). Nor are they reminiscent of the bitter-hued kind you pick up from Brooklyn’s coal-fired ovens. Instead, the homemade, hand-rolled dough bakes to a crisp sheen and simple flavor.

What stands out is the breezy freshness of Java Blend’s toppings. It’s a departure from the husky, red sauce and grease pies prepared by the chains.

The coffee blend may seem mild, at least in comparison to Starbucks. Otherwise, they pour the best cup in town, and the drinks are well prepared. The pizza and--especially--sandwiches are distinct.

Yeah, Java Blend serves more than coffee these days.

That’s a good thing.

 

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