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Cheap Eats

The chef's special

(Essdras M Suarez/Globe Staff)
By Denise Taylor
Globe Correspondent / May 20, 2009
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At first, Teele Square Cafe looks like the usual urban cafe habitat: a cheery storefront populated with laptop users, a hipster barista, and a mostly young crowd munching well-stacked sandwiches and saucer-size cookies.

But when we ask about a herb vinaigrette, an unexpected species makes itself apparent: a high-end chef. We barely finish speaking before owner Jonathan Adelson bounds out of the semi-open kitchen to explain every ingredient as he stands beaming in his chef's whites. This gets our attention. Few cafes harbor the kind of chef who makes his own creme fraiche and then humbly claims, as Adelson does, "Everyone would make it themselves if they knew how easy it is."

Still, the menu at Teele Square, which Adelson opened in the former Cafe Soleil space in March, is basic. It runs from breakfast and baked goods to soups, salads, sandwiches, and two daily entrees such as thyme-rubbed chicken kabobs ($7.25) or sweet pulled pork ($7.25). But Adelson, who has worked at tony locales such as Aquitaine, Lumiere, and Upstairs at the Pudding, and formerly owned the casual 2nd Street Cafe, takes the same care with his Stroganoff ($7.25) as he does with a grilled PB & Fluff ($4.25).

Thick-sliced challah French toast ($4.25, shown below) sopped in batter with vanilla-infused cream and topped with fresh berries and the chef's creme fraiche ($2 extra) could make even a Monday feel good. A full breakfast ($4.50) delivers moist scrambled eggs, greaseless potatoes, savory seven-grain toast, and coffee strong enough for a European - a good teaser for Sunday's fancier brunch.

Homemade soups change daily and are announced on Twitter. Watch for refreshingly light seafood chowder crowded with tender fish, shrimp, and clams; creamy, subtle sweet potato bisque; and summery, mild gazpacho ($3.25-$5.25).

Salads are impeccably fresh and extra touches add interesting notes to sandwiches: a splash of balsamic on a grilled portabello sandwich ($6.95), a drizzle of pesto with grilled chicken ($6.75), and a choice of cheese or bread for grilled cheese - try fontina on country white ($4.25).

Desserts also deserve a nod, especially a nearly flourless, bittersweet Callebaut chocolate brownie that takes this humble after-school snack to the realm of fine confectionary ($1.55). Soon, the cafe will offer Christina's homemade ice cream, which Adelson praises for its pure flavors, rich cream, and local origins. Spoken like a true chef.

TEELE SQUARE CAFE 1153 Broadway, Teele Square, Somerville. 617-625-0082. www.teelesqcafe.com. www.twitter.com/teelesquarecafe. Cash only. Wheelchair accessible.

Prices Breakfast $1.25-$6.50, soups & sandwiches $3.25-$7.25, entrees $7.25-$12.95, desserts $1.55-$3.50.

Hours Mon-Sat 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday brunch 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

Liquor None.

May we suggest French toast, egg breakfast, seafood chowder, gazpacho, sweet potato bisque, grilled cheese, grilled portabello sandwich, grilled chicken sandwich, pulled pork, chicken kabob, brownie.