Heather Hawksford

Bridges Cafe & Catering
2716 NE MLK
288-4169

Breakfast joints have a hard time transitioning into dinner spots. Why? Maybe because of the bright, goofy breakfast restaurant decor. Maybe because their names denote "breakfast cafe" (undoubtedly, the reason Genie's night menu failed). Or maybe it's because people just don't think of a breakfast restaurant when they're going out to dinner. Luckily for Bridges, it's located on Martin Luther King Boulevard on my way home, so I have a hard time missing it.

I will admit that eating dinner at Bridges feels a little weird. This is a venue where I've devoured countless hangover brunches while gulping grapefruit mimosas (their mimosas are the biggest and best in town), so enjoying a fancy dinner in the loudly colored dining room feels like I'm hanging out.

If you put aside the slight kookiness of the space aside, Bridges' menu succeeds rather marvelously. The selection provides something for everyone, from pasta to beef to seafood, and it's all lovingly prepared. The Manila clam appetizer was an immaculate representation of a simple dish, with the big, juicy clams sautéed in beer, hot Cajun spices, and creamy butter. My friend and I frantically gobbled them down, and then dipped bread in the amazing spicy, salty sauce. The rock shrimp ceviche wasn't quite as good. The marinade lacked a nuanced flavor and tasted more like shrimp squirted with lime. Also, the ceviche would've gone better with a lighter, airier tortilla chip. Still, though, not too bad.

Entrees fared remarkably well to our judgmental tongues. The pork scallopine was delicious—pieces of moist pork pounded thin, then dredged in flour and topped with a hearty, tangy, addictive pear walnut compote. The dish came served with roasted sweet potatoes and a big pile of perfectly simple vinegar-spiked wilted spinach. Likewise, the natural rib eye steak tasted like it came fresh from the butcher, and was cooked medium rare—the middle being dark red and bloody, like every great steak should be. Along with the succulent and daydream-inducing beef came Bridges' smoked cheddar grits—creamy and awesome—more wilted spinach, and a sweet and spicy corn salsa. The combination of meat, cheesy grits, and corn is undoubtedly a winner—as calorie laden as it may be.

For vegetarians, Bridges offers a few compelling choices, like eggplant stuffed with rice, dal (lentils), and tzatziki (cucumber yogurt sauce) paired with ginger chutney. They also have a stir-fried spring vegetable dish, made with a spicy peanut coconut sauce, served over rice. If you're just looking for a simple meal, though, Bridges offers homemade soups and tasty salads for a reasonable price. Their Market Salad made with arugula, pancetta, pickled beets, and duck will run you $9, while a large baby greens salad with a lemon, garlic vinaigrette will only set you back $4. Or, split a hearty mezze platter, complete with tzatziki, hummus, dolmas, mixed olives, and pita for $7. Basically, you can spend a lot or a little and still leave satisfied.

While dinner in a breakfast cafe didn't make me feel like a happening scenester, it did leave me pleasantly sated. So props, Bridges, for doing dinner as well as you do breakfast, and giving us Northeast folk another much-needed nighttime option.