Desert Rose serves 'karma by the cup'

July 15, 2011

By Anne Chovey

Special to The Herald-Mail

WILLIAMSPORT -- Desert Rose Café and Catering is located at the major crossroads in Williamsport: at the corner of Conococheague Street (Md. 68) and Potomac Street (U.S. 11).

Previously, the restaurant had been across the street in a tiny storefront The new location offers an expanded interior as well as space for outdoor seating in front of the restaurant.

My friend, Penny Pasta, and I stopped in to check out the new space. You enter the restaurant into a spacious room with tables and chairs along the right side. To the left is a counter with stools, reminiscent of an old-fashioned drug store lunch counter. Behind the counter is a blackboard where menu choices are written.


We were greeted by a friendly young woman who we later learned is Rose, the owner of the restaurant. She invited us to take a seat anywhere and she would come and get our order.

We walked through the first room and into the back section of the café. There were more tables and chairs in this room, but also a couple of big comfy wing chairs where you can sit and access the wireless Internet. There is also a big bookshelf with all sorts of reading material.

The menus were at the table and the choices were simple. Sandwiches, which could be served on a variety of bread or in a wrap, salads and soup.

Penny is not a strict vegetarian, but she has lived with several people who are and she has come to appreciate the vegetarian point of view.

She often chooses vegetarian dishes, and she looked to see what was offered at the Desert Rose.

On the menu were peanut butter and jelly, grilled cheese (both $2.99), veggie and cheese ($4.29) and a Boca burger ($5.29). One of her particular favorite things to eat is hummus and the menu had a hummus sandwich for $5.29. She was sold.

Other options on the menu included sandwiches in your choice of turkey, ham or pastrami, roast beef or grilled chicken, and tuna or chicken salad (each $5.29).

Salads are made with organic greens and choices include a large veggie-and-cheese ($4.49), chef or grilled chicken ($5.29).

Other menu choices are "Fun on a Bun:" sloppy joes, pork barbecue and hot dogs and "Other Yummy Stuff": soft pretzels and nachos. There was a thorough list of drinks, too, including fair trade coffee, chai tea, latte and cappuccino. I decided upon a deluxe bacon, lettuce and tomato, one of my favorite sandwiches.

As we placed our order, Rose asked Penny what she wanted on her sandwich. She rattled off a list of toppings which included avocado.

"Everything," Penny decided.

"A walk through the garden?" Rose answered.

Also included with the sandwich was a pickle and a side order but instead of just chips, we had the option of yogurt or a bag of veggies. Penny picked peach yogurt and I picked the bag of veggies.

While we waited for the food, Penny took an old Williamsport High School yearbook off the bookshelf to read. I looked around the room. It had interesting artwork hung on the wall, done by local artists and for sale. There was no particular theme to the art, but it made a pleasing hodge-podge. The Desert Rose café reminded me of a place you would find in a college town or art community where you are invited not just to come in and eat, but stay, browse and visit for awhile.

Our food arrived promptly. Penny's hummus sandwich was piled high with lettuce, tomato, avocado and lots of other things. It was a beautiful mouthful.

My sandwich was really good, too. The bread was nicely toasted and didn't fall apart as I ate it. The bacon was perfect.

Sometimes when you get a BLT, the bacon is underdone and chewy so you have to fight it to get a bite.  This bacon was very crisp and the slices were small so that I could actually bite into it. The tomatoes were ripe and juicy. And the organic blend of lettuce was a nice touch.

The best surprise however, was the veggie bag. It was a little snack bag of carrots, celery and broccoli and it came with a small container of ranch dressing for dipping.

I told Rose I really liked that.

"Well, we try to be healthy here," was her reply.

While we were in the restaurant, people came and went, including a number of folks who had been biking on the C&O Canal. All were made welcome.

It is just that kind of place:  Good food, friendly service, relaxed atmosphere.

As the menu says, "Desert Rose Café and Catering: Serving Karma by the cup!"

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

Restaurant review

Desert Rose Cafe

3 1/2 (out of 5)

Food: 4

Service: 3 1/2

Ambiance: 4

Value: 3

Address: 42 N. Conococheague St., Williamsport

Phone: 301-223-6400

Hours: Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sunday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Food:  Sandwiches, salads and soup. A number of vegetarian options. Breakfast is also served.

Parking and handicapped accessibility: Street parking available outside the restaurant.  The café is in an old building so there might be some accessibility issues when entering.

Reservations are not necessary.


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