So I was ecstatic when they opened a second location on Piedmont Avenue, spitting distance from my house, and with a gorgeous patio that is the perfect place to spend a few hours on a Sunday (or Wednesday!) afternoon.
I've now been to Cesar four times, for both lunch and dinner, and I can call it an incredibly welcome addition to the 'hood. Service is generally stellar, the bar is exceptionally good, and the food is always solid. There are usually some standouts, and a few things that are just "ok" in my book, but nothing has ever fallen flat.
We generally start out with either a Dark & Stormy's ($8.00), made with uber-spicy Belvoir Ginger Beer or a Pimm's Cups ($6.75), made with Elderflower soda -- a lovely spin on a traditional cocktail. While both are standout drinks, you could order just about anything here and rest assured that it would be perfectly rendered. (I owe you guys a story about my new favorite cocktail, which I've dubbed "Manhattan, the Elder").
Cesar's charcuterie/salumi choices are plentiful and worth a try. The Tocino de Pato ($5.75 for half portion - more than enough for even 3 people to share), or smoked duck breast is my personal favorite. Toothsome, a bit gamey, a bit fatty, and very delicious. The Lomo Embuchado ($6.75) is also great, and a unique treat -- dry-cured pork loin is not something I've seen on any other menus.
The rest of the menu is pretty seasonal, so some of the dishes I've loved have since been replaced. Generally speaking, though, anything with anchovies or sardines is worth a try -- we had a standout beet salad with boquerones that made a believer out of C. More recently, I shared the Grilled Sardines with Heirloom Tomato Salad ($11.75) with a friend, and we couldn't believe the quality. While sardines can be a pain in the butt to eat, Cesar makes them more than worth the work. The tomato salad, too, was exceptional. And honestly, you'd pay that much just for the salad at most places of this caliber.
The bocadillos (sandwiches) have generally been my least-favorite things on the menu, although that may have more to do with the fact that i'm just not a "sandwich person". The open-faced Smoked Salmon with Queso Fresco, Dill & Capers ($8.25) could have packed a little more punch, though the accompanying lemon wedge helped. And the Spicy Tuna with Egg ($7.75) wasn't really all that spicy.
Frankly, I think that the already-mild sandwiches really suffer from being served with other, more flavorful dishes.
Two more things to note: First, if you see black rice/black noodles on the menu, order them. They knock B44's Arros Negra out of the water. And, while the Patatas Bravas ($6.75) are worth a try, these dense wedges of potato with spicy tomato sauce and aioli WILL fill you up, so nibble them sparingly while you still have other food coming.
Amazingly, I've never tried any of Bar Cesar's desserts (it's a cocktail or a sweet for me these days, lest my waistline continue its magical disappearing act), though I've watched plenty of other tables gobble theirs down happily. You'll have to give them a try and report back.
4039 Piedmont Avenue