Cafe de Sol is a place to eat and relax

March 11, 2011


Special to The Herald-Mail

On its website, Café del Sol claims to offer a unique dining experience blending "West Coast style with East Coast sensibility." That sounded like an intriguing proposition to me so I couldn't wait to try it out.

Café del Sol is located just off Interstate 81 and Salem Avenue in a small shopping center. (There are also locations in Greencastle and Waynesboro for you Pennsylvania folks. But this review focuses on Hagerstown.)

The dining room has a number of booths around the outer walls and tables and chairs in the center. The look of the room is chic and contemporary: light tables with dark chairs, dark wood and modern art decorate the restaurant.


Jazzy music played in the background. The overall affect is sophisticated, but not intimidating. It feels like a place to come and have fun.

Pap Ricka and I went in and were invited to sit wherever we wanted. Our waitress came over and took our drink order.  Café del Sol has a nice little wine list as well as a good selection of imported and domestic bottled beer.

We ordered a glass of wine while we looked at the menu. Our waitress brought the bottle to our table to fill our glasses (a very generous pour!), which I thought was a nice touch.

Sandwiches and salads dominate the menu, along with pizza, stromboli and calzone.

Pasta is available after 4 p.m. and includes some interesting combinations such as "Pasta del Sol" ($15.99) -- chicken, portabella mushrooms, bacon and spinach in a roasted red pepper cream sauce and "Milano" ($16.99) -- balsamic glazed salmon over portabello mushrooms, sundried tomatoes and kalamata olives in a basil pesto sauce.

I decided I wanted a sandwich -- but did I want a panini or flatbread? A wrap or a quesadilla?

The list of paninis was the longest. Most were between $9.25 and $9.75 and included a Cuban (ham, marinated pork, swiss cheese and pickle) chicken pesto (grilled chicken, tomato, fresh basil and provolone) and the primavera (eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, roasted red peppers, hummus, tomatoes and fresh mozzarella).

Wraps were between $8.50 and $8.99 and I choose from turkey, Caesar, fajita or market -- avocado, cucumber, tomato, onion, feta and hummus.

After much deliberation, and consultation with our waitress, I decided upon a "Cabo" flatbread ($9.50): topped with blackened tilapia, avocado, mango salsa, Asian slaw, chipotle aioli and sour cream.

Pap dithered about a salad. He couldn't decide between a spinach portabello with egg, roasted peppers and almonds with feta and croutons topped with hot bacon honey mustard dressing ($9.50) or the "Santa Barbara" (also $9.50) with barbecued chicken, mango, avocado, corn and black beans with crispy onions and ranch dressing.

"Santa Barbara!" our waitress recommended.

We also got crostini as an appetizer: Four generous slices of ciabatta bread with fresh mozzarella, roasted peppers, olive tapenade and prosciutto. Balsamic  vinegar glaze was drizzled over the top and it was sprinkled with fresh basil.


The bread was crunchy, but not tough and the layers of flavor were wonderful. The saltiness of the olive tapenade and prosciutto was balanced by the silky mozzarella.

Because Pap was getting a salad and I was having bread with my dinner, I let him eat more than me, but it was hard.

I fell in love with my dinner. The flatbread was warm, soft and puffy and folded over the filling, held together with a toothpick. The insides were a wonderful spicy mess.

The blackened fish and chipotle aioli packed a punch complemented by the velvety avocado and sour cream. The mango salsa was a nice sweet note while the Asian slaw added crunch.

The slaw had little strips of won ton wrapper on top so it was crispy, too.

I ate every bite (much to Pap's disappointment as he likes to finish my dinners.)

I did share just one bite with him so he at least got to taste it.

Pap's salad was equally delicious. The romaine and other greens were sturdy enough to stand up to the abundance of other ingredients without becoming soggy.

The chicken was spicy hot but the presence of the avocado, corn and black beans provided a more neutral flavor and texture.

And, of course, there were crispy onions on top. I maneuvered my fork through his salad trying to get some of everything on the fork. Yum!

Our waitress was attentive without being annoying. We told her that we appreciated her recommendations.

I am not exactly sure about the West Coast/East Coast thing at Café del Sol, but I am sure that I will return many times.

The food is unique and it is definitely a "relaxed and comfortable setting."

Anne Chovey is a pseudonym for a Herald-Mail freelance writer who reviews restaurants anonymously to avoid special treatment.

Café del Sol

4 stars  (out of 5)

Food: 4 stars

Service: 4 stars

Ambiance: 4 stars

Value: 4 stars

Address: 1481 Salem Ave., Hagerstown

Phone: 301-739-3072

Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Food: Sandwich-style entrees, salads, pasta, pizza and stromboli. A good number of vegetarian options.

Bathrooms: Clean and accessible.

Parking and handicapped accessibility: There is a parking lot in front of the restaurant. No accessibility issues were noted.

Reservations are not necessary.

Café del Sol has a website:

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