Lunch Box : Back Door Cafe
When I first moved to Carlisle, this hole-in-the-wall establishment tucked next to the Bosler Library on West High Street was one of my family’s first stops for a meal out. On that fated night I ordered the Nutty Tunafish, beginning what can only be described as a thirteen-year love affair.
The Back Door Café has many virtues, but if this wrap was the only reason to come here it would be more than sufficient. Braving the construction next door, I met my sister for lunch at the small Greek-Italian-American family restaurant last Tuesday. True to its name, the only way to enter the Café is through a “back door” down a small side alley, which then leads to a cozy one-room dining area. Within the past few years the formerly plain concrete entrance outside has been transformed into a very small outdoor seating area, where we sat for the first time on Tuesday. Our waitress was very attentive and quickly brought us menus and beverages, and the service was much more prompt than I remember it being in the past (I believe our meals only took about ten or fifteen minutes to arrive – which was doubly impressive since one meal was a calzone – as compared to half-hour waits which I have endured in the past; perhaps they are taking customer comments to heart.)
My sister ordered the Red Devil Calzone: pepperoni, banana peppers, and tomatoes with ricotta and mozzarella cheeses and homemade dough, accompanied by a generous bowl of marinara sauce for dipping. I need not tell you what I ordered. My only break from tradition was to pay an extra dollar and substitute the homemade “soup of the day” for the house salad. The salad, with feta cheese, kalamata olives, onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, and a very nice house dressing, is always superb; nevertheless, I simply could not resist the sound of a fresh tomato and rice soup with zucchini and other vegetables.
As mentioned previously, our meals arrived in good time; both my soup and her whole meal were piping hot. The “soup of the day” did not disappoint. The twelve-ounce bowl was stuffed with chunks of tomatoes, zucchini, and more floating in a non-creamy tomato-based broth. There was just enough rice to add a hearty, satisfying texture and flavor without making the soup too heavy or “grainy”.
My sister, who has been a longtime fan of the BDC’s calzones, had never previously tried the Red Devil. She loved it, devouring the entire thing but thankfully sharing a few bites with me. The tomato and two cheeses lent a pleasant, traditional undercurrent to the tangy banana peppers (of which there was no shortage in the calzone) and the cured, ever so slightly spicy pepperoni. The homemade dough has always been my favorite part of the BDC’s calzones; I believe it might be sourdough based, though you would have to ask the chef for certainty. It has a crusty yet soft texture and an extremely fresh taste.
The Nutty Tunafish is the whole reason I come to the BDC. While I have tried several other delicious menu items, I always slightly regret these decisions and then eagerly await the next visit; needless to say there is no hesitation that time. The dish consists of a generous heap of tuna salad, lettuce, tomatoes, and ranch-toasted almonds wrapped in a spinach tortilla. Thank goodness it is cut in half – there would be no way to eat it otherwise! The tuna salad is truly out of this world and unlike any other I have had; it is just tuna and almonds in a creamy, slightly sweet dressing. The combination of richness, meaty heartiness, and crunch is perfect. (Relishing this fantastic, unique flavor is so all-consuming that I had an incredibly hard time trying to analyze and describe it!)
The bill for our entire meal (including my substitution) was $19.88 before tip – a fair price, it seemed, for a thoroughly enjoyable meal: amazing food and a pleasant atmosphere.
The BDC is regarded by many of my friends, most of whom have lived in Carlisle for decades longer than I have, as a local institution – with its homey atmosphere, good service, and excellent food, I can definitely see why. Even if you are not a tuna fan, there is plenty on the menu – wraps, gyros, salads, sandwiches, soups, pizzas, calzones, and superb desserts – to satisfy most every taste. I, however, will never be unfaithful to my constant companion of thirteen years. While I highly recommend the whole restaurant, the Nutty Tunafish deserves so much mention of its own – naturally, I recommend it most highly of all. I hope it disappoints no one.
Reviewer CP | August 2012