Hard to believe that Cafe Colonial has been around for 12 years, but there you have it: you really have aged that much since you first spotted the "jungle mural" and bright blue awning on that bustling Nolita corner. Anyway, after all these years, a couple of weeks ago I took my laggard daughters for their first ever meal at this casual Brazilian place before a movie at the Sunshine.... and while the reviews around our table were mixed, there was a least one dish that they they liked so much that I don't think not returning is an option.
I'm speaking, of course, of the Pao de Queijo, or cheese rolls. Now that the great Puff and Pao is closed, we need to get our fix of these gummy, chewy, cheesy, puffy breadstuffs from somewhere... and though Cafe Colonial doesn't offer them in any other variety except regular, these are nice and big and certainly amazing enough to be an absolute requirement with any meal you may have there, whether lunch, brunch or dinner.
We did eat some other things, too. I liked my Steak Salad just fine: the greens were bright and bitter, the meat reasonably juicy, the fries mostly crisp, the balsamic dressing adding just enough sweetness and tang to make it feel a little special. Bo was also happy, munching away at her Santa Fe Salad, a well-handled version (fresh ingredients, nicely balanced) of what I imagine they serve at any number of those family chains as a "taco salad": corn, cheese, lettuce, cabbage and tomato all piled onto a tortilla that's been spread with refried beans and guacamole.
Co, on the other hand, was dealt a disappointment with her Cowboy Rice, an appealing-sounding dish of beef, rice, fried eggs and black beans, but in reality the meat was chewy, the beans bland, and the rice oddly and overly seasoned (not sure what is was, but it wasn't pleasant). For dessert we wolfed a serviceably sweet Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding and a Brazilian Flan, supposedly "grandma's recipe" and definitely very good indeed... but also definitely not as good as the version they serve a few blocks away at Móle.
Cafe Colonial is located on the corner of Houston and Elizabeth Streets. Your fellow patrons will likely be thin and beautiful.
Plus: Bonus moody photo, courtesy of Co!