Fried chicken and waffles:

By Allison Costa 02/11/2010

Cafe Amri
2000 Outlet Center Drive
Suite #295, Oxnard
983-3026 
$5.25 - $12.95


Though the name Cafe Amri might conjure up images of beautiful people leisurely sipping mugs of cafe au lait at a sidewalk cafe in Paris, it turns out there’s nothing French about it. This quaint cafe at The Palms shopping center in Oxnard was named after the owners’ daughter, Amri. Her name was cleverly created by reversing her mother’s name. Ray and Irma Chaparro opened this little cafe at the end of December, the culmination of a lifelong dream of owning their own restaurant.

The décor at Cafe Amri is feminine with faux-finished taupe walls, ornately detailed iron-backed chairs and marble-topped tables. Yet the atmosphere is relaxed and family-oriented; flat-screen televisions and the hustle and bustle lend a casual feel to the space. 

We stopped in for brunch on a recent Saturday and were pleased to find that they serve both breakfast and lunch all the time. The breakfast menu offers a mix of traditional American food with some Latin favorites like huevos rancheros and chorizo with eggs thrown in as well. The lunch menu offers mostly American food — pulled pork and pastrami sandwiches, burgers, salads and wraps.

Our friendly server started us off with coloring books and crayons for the kids, mugs of hot coffee for the adults, and asked if we wanted to try one of the cinnamon buns to start. We were hungry and our willpower was at its wimpiest, so my inner health nut never had a chance. This steaming, gooey delight was as big as a softball, and we peeled off warm sticky layers one at a time. The white, dripping icing was the perfect partner for the spicy dark cinnamon mixture buried between the layers.

Reading through the menu, I was lured by the omelets and pulled toward the country-fried steak. And then I saw it: fried chicken and waffles. See some people have bucket lists — a list of things they want to do before they die — and not surprisingly, mine includes some foods I’d like to experience before my time comes. Because I’m a sucker for both fried foods and dishes that mix savory and sweet, chicken and waffles was on that list. It’s not something you see very often, but here it was, in Oxnard.

This monumental dish consisted of four pieces of fried chicken accompanied by a large Belgian waffle. The chicken was hot, the outside glistening, and the waffle was thick and fluffy. It absorbed the syrup until sweeter than sweet, making it the ideal counter-balance to the crackle and saltiness of the chicken. With it’s back and forth of opposing flavors, this is a great dish for diners who can’t decide between breakfast and lunch.

The chile verde omelet was made with lightly browned eggs wrapped around a generous serving of chile verde. The tender chunks of pork sat happily in a sauce made from tomatillos and green chiles. It was good, but the flavor felt subdued and it wasn’t spicy enough. When topped with a sprinkle of salt and a spoonful of the fresh pico de gallo, it came closer to the spicy dish I was looking for. The omelet came with toast and cottage fries, round slices of potatoes that were gently browned. Oftentimes, hash browns are too mushy or too oily, and these were neither. They were so good that little hands that were supposed to be drinking juice and eating pancakes kept grabbing them off the plate.

As for the toast, unfortunately it never made it to the table, but as you can imagine, we hardly noticed. (Remember the cinnamon roll appetizer?)

For those seeking something sweet for breakfast, or lunch for that matter, the pancake, waffle and french toast options are endless. The buckwheat pancakes are dense, dark as molasses, and boast a nutty flavor. The banana nut pancakes, on the other hand, are white and fluffy, filled with soft chunks of sweet banana and sprinkled with chopped nuts. Each dish came stacked four pancakes high, and there was plenty left over. There are also chocolate chip, pumpkin nut, buttermilk and multigrain pancakes and waffles.

Throughout our meal, the service was efficient, our server was bubbly, and coffee cups were kept warm and full.

Owner Irma Chaparro was even greeting customers and working the cash register at the front of the restaurant. She interacted with both staff and customers as though they were family, creating an atmosphere of warmth and openness that just might bring you back, again and again and again.                            

www.venturafoodhappenings.com

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