That much-abused word, eclectic, is one way to describe Isabella’s Cafe, a casual new lunch and dinner eatery at the edge of the Oakhurst community. Truth be told, though, it’s difficult to get a fix on exactly where the cuisine and scene are aimed.
The cooking is informed by the spirit of the owner’s Kenyan roots. But flavors flit from Asian and Cajun to Mediterranean and Indian. And while the contemporary decor is pleasant enough, the ambience can feel almost as scattered as the menu.
The double wide storefront space on West College Avenue is divided into twin dining rooms framed by long white curtains. A row of booths near the main entrance offers the coziest seating option. And one recent evening, it was the most popular place for diners to land, leaving the majority of the surrounding tables empty.
Like the rest of the menu, appetizers go in several directions. Mix-and-match tilapia, ground turkey or vegetable samosas ($8.95) come three to an order with assorted Indian-style dipping sauces. Other choices include a huge plate of hummus and olive tapenade with fluffy pita points or Thai chili or tamarind chicken wings. An appetizer sampler ($12.95) features a little of everything.
There are several burger and slider options ($8.95-$10.95), made with beef, turkey, portobello mushrooms or pimento cheese. On the side, sweet potato Tater Tots and pepper jack mac and cheese are the crowd pleasers.
Though most entrees are huge, they don’t come with sides, which makes sharing a good move. Swahili shrimp curry with mango ($13.95) is a sweet and mildly spicy combo, attractively served over basmati rice on a rectangular china platter. Chicken masala ($12.95), served the same way, is much hotter and richer. Cajun shrimp and andouille sausage Alfredo ($13.95), served over pasta, continues the big, rich and spicy theme.
Desserts and drinks
Vanilla cardamom pound cake, hummingbird cake with cream cheese frosting, and sweet potato pie with pecans ($5.95 each) top the homemade dessert menu.
The drinks list features South African wines priced by the glass or bottle and a small assortment of bottled beers, including Tusker Premium Lager from Kenya.
Isabella’s Cafe, 910 W. College Ave., 404-373-7177
Signature dish: Swahili shrimp curry with mango
Entree prices: $8.95-$13.95
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays; 5-10 p.m. Sundays
Credit cards: Yes
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