We headed down to Newport on the Levee, ready for a meal at Cafe Istanbul. We traditionally go there before concerts at Southgate House, most recently to see Mindy Smith and Tift Merritt. We also had a really memorable night there on the patio earlier this summer, but it was strange because it seemed that their air conditioner wasn't working. We enjoyed the weather on the patio, but our wine was hot from the bar. Maybe they were on the way out at that point. Anyway, when we got there, we were alone -- no restaurant. I can't believe they closed -- they had a great veggie kabob grill and, of course, falafel.
There are several other restaurants in the center, and of course we could leave as well, but we'd just paid for parking and had plans to see a movie there. We stumbled into Jefferson Hall, and I really didn't have high expectations. We had a great view, medicre service, and our meals were served in baskets.
One of our bad habits when eating out is to try an appetizer, even when we know we'll have enough food with just our meals. I'm learning to use the appetizer as something just to try so that I'll be hungry enough to enjoy my meal. Last night, we got the soft pretzels with beer cheese, which is available all over the place in this area as a nod to the German heritage. Of course, to us, soft pretzels are very Philly -- plus I used to work in a pretzel shop. These were really tasty, and the beer cheese was better at Jefferson Hall than at Keystone.
Of course, the reason we chose this restaurant above the others in the same area was that we saw on the menu that you could substitute a black bean burger for the animal burger with any of their toppings. We each got a burger and fries and split each in half. Our suddenly attentive waitress wanted to get us a box for our other halves, not understanding that we placed them in the paper trays to swap. She seemed relieved that we would be eating our meals, not reducing their size prior to digging in.
On the left, the "better" burger -- we both preferred the JHall burger. This featured a generous spread of boursin cheese, a thick slice of grilled onion, and then the regular burger toppings (I took off the raw onions). The other one we tried is the California burger, which features pepper jack cheese, roasted red peppers, and guacamole on the side. I wasn't in the mood for spicy cheese, and the red peppers were a little bitter. Don't let my criticism taint this review, though, because this was a tasty burger. The black bean patty was nearly perfect; it wasn't a Gardenburger like I can get in the frozen foods aisle; it wasn't a hit-or-miss attempt at a homemade veggie patty; it was consistent, tasty, and much appreciated. I think we will be back, but maybe next time we should aim to be there for happy hour.