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Going South in a good way

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"Trend" means, "a general tendency or inclination." Add the letter "y," and you get, "of or in accord with the latest fad or fashion." Park Avenue is too established to be "trendy," and could probably be called just, "chic." Now, the East End? That's trendy. South Avenue? Decidedly not, but there is a clear tendency or inclination toward South Avenue becoming a hot destination for food.

            Dubious? Within five blocks, you can get everything from high-end cake to pancit (Philippine noodles). There's the venerable local treasure of Cheesy Eddie's, as well as brand-new spots like Julienne for salads. Bakeries? Three of 'em. Coffee? Got that covered. Let's take a stroll up the street, shall we?

            Premier Pastry (546-1420), at 443 South for the last seven years (in business for 14), is "the best local bakery where you can't buy anything." Partners Philip Duquette and Paula Stadtmiller run the high-end cake and pastry outfit in town. If you're trying to impress, this is the place. Go to the website (www.premier-pastry.com), click wedding cakes, then click whimsical cakes. Amazing.

            You can't walk in and buy cookies, but do stop by. There's something of Maurice Sendak's In the Night Kitchen to the place, with its high ceilings, enamel, and steel. There are always several cakes in mid-process, and Philip and Paula can tell you all about what they do.

            Julienne (232-3290), a new "lunch delivery and catering kitchen," will open next door to Premier in mid-January. Lisa Bleier brings all sorts of experience, having managed Cutler's and helped open Tastings. Her sister, Michele Cavalcanti, is an artist and cook just back from a decade overseas, where she learned about Moroccan, Tunisian, and Senegalese food.

            They chose South Avenue because they love its diversity, and they want Julienne's food to reflect that love. To that end, it will offer Asian chicken salad, Tunisian-style tuna Niçoise, and grandma's fried eggplant with roasted peppers and provolone. Delivery will be free within 10 miles. Hours will be 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., but Julienne will also offer "easy suppers" as a drop-off service.

            Ever been to a Philippine restaurant? Ly Lou's Pearl of the Orient, at 489 South, is just that. Teresa Giron opened in October, and if you've been dying for some daing na bangus, you're in business. Ly Lou's is primarily takeout and delivery (232-2790), and very inexpensive, with dishes for between $4.75 and $7.

            Barbecued pork skewers are popular, but I'm drawn to the unusual: Inihaw na rellenong bangus, whole milkfish stuffed with onions, tomatoes, and spices then charbroiled and served with fish sauce, lime wedges, and eggplant salad; or sisig, a mixture of parboiled then charbroiled pork, chicken liver, paté, onions, hot peppers, and spices, served sizzling. Teresa makes everything to order, so call ahead. Ly Lou's is open Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday until 10:30 p.m..

            Dashen (232-2690), just across Alexander at 503 South, opened last year and serves Ethiopian food daily from noon to 10 p.m. Sam Ezzezew is the principle owner. Ethiopian food comes atop bread called injera, spongy stuff that soaks up juices from the foods. You tear off pieces and pick up dishes like sega wat (beef chunks with onion, wine, and pepper), doro wat (chicken leg and a whole egg in spiced butter with onion), or gomen wat (collard greens). Everything is well under $10, and combinations are available, so you can try several things.

            Eddie David sold Cheesy Eddie's to his sister, Marjorie David, who opened at 602 South in 1982. John and Colleen Baker just bought it from her, and insist that nothing about the product is going to change. Marjorie is helping to ensure that, and the entire staff is staying on. Cheesy Eddie's is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday from 9 to 4. Call 473-1300.

            Nancy Sawyer-Molina and Shirley Freeman at Women's Coffee Connection (642 South, 442-2180) want us to "taste the difference and make a difference." Sawyer-Molina and Freeman are substance abuse counselors, and Women's Coffee Connection (WCC) provides an opportunity for women moving from welfare to work --- and for those in recovery --- to learn employment skills in a pre-employment environment.

            WCC offers a signature coffee from a Peruvian cooperative of farmers who used to grow coca. The coffee is shade-grown, certified organic, and bought fair trade (the PC trifecta). Currently, Sawyer-Molina and Freeman have the coffee roasted locally, but they plan to do their own roasting soon. WCC has all the usual coffee drinks (espresso, latte, etc.), as well as light desserts and bagels, and is open Monday through Friday 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Friday till 9), and Saturday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

            In six years at Rudy's Oven (650 South), Steve Conversi has established himself as a neighborhood character. Stop by Tuesday through Friday, 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Saturday to 4:30) for Steve's rotating menu of breads and entertaining conversation on just about any topic. The loaves are smaller and less expensive than at most "artisan" bakeries, suiting family appetites and budgets perfectly.

            Every day, Steve has baguettes, peasant bread, some kind of Italian, and a focaccia. But keep an eye out for seven herb, pecan date, and a host of others. Rudy's Oven also carries Chef K's jams and jellies, as well as breadcrumbs and pizza dough. The most recent addition is local honey from Mike Kopicki --- unprocessed, rich, and creamy.

            Across the street, Open Face promises to open soon (651 South). I couldn't get many details, but it will be a sandwich shop. Call 232-3050 for information.

            Beale Street Café (689 South) has been in the neighborhood since 1997. Texan owner Terry Bauer gets his smokers straight from home, and Beale Street is the place for Texas-style barbecued beef brisket. Try some Texas beans with andouille sausage on the side. Beale Street also received high ratings from the City Newspaper Wing Team.

            Futhermore, Beale Street has style and atmosphere. Waitress Sherry Kuhn lays on the good 'ol southern girl act thick and sweet, and there's live music four days a week. Stop by for lunch Monday through Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., or for dinner seven days a week. Call 271-4650 for takeout or delivery.

            Skippy's, like its predecessor Slice of Life always was, is closed for the holidays, but will re-open January 5 (742 South). For old Slice fans, much will be familiar, including the lentil club and the Marge (the tempeh ruby). Owner Stephanie "Skippy" Frontuto has changed the look, but still employs Slice chef Bobi Sherwood. Frontuto's father, Joe, painted all the murals.

            So, you've got five blocks with at least 10 food spots. Those of us who live in the neighborhood are taking note, but for South Avenue to really take off it needs to draw from all around the city, like Park Avenue and the East End do. There's plenty of reason to believe it can.

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