Old Crown Coffee Roasters might be one of the most edgy, unique, ahead-of-its-time places in Fort Wayne, or it might be the citys most confusing eatery struggling to find an identity.
Long a staple among coffee aficionados, Old Crown had cemented itself as the best-known local roaster at its original location in North Anthony Center. But near the end of last year, it moved across the street to a free-standing building at 3417 N. Anthony Blvd.
Like at many coffeehouses, a menu of sandwiches, salads and soups was offered, but with its new digs, Old Crown also added impressive wine, beer and cocktail menus after obtaining a three-way liquor license.
The new atmosphere is a kind of mishmash with an emphasis on urban-modern. Black paint covers the exposed ductwork overhead, the floors are concrete, and the bar area is separated by a bright, multicolored railing. A giant hot dog sign is slapped on a wall behind one of the counters, which was confusing given there are no dogs on the menu.
The coffeehouse part of Old Crown was not at all confusing. The freshly roasted beans are diverse and impressive. If you are a fan of strong brews, try the Ninth Degree of Darkness blend; it is robust but not at all bitter. And for a great dessert beverage – which would go great with one of Old Crowns scrumptious cookies or cake-like scones – try the brevé style mocha, which is made with half-and-half instead of milk to be extra luscious. However, I was disappointed that after adding liquor there was no list of Irish coffees or other booze-infused coffee drinks.
Old Crown serves soft drinks only from cans and bottles, so certain varieties (diet) can sometimes be scarce. I found that odd considering so many mixed drinks incorporate soft drinks.
The Anytime menu at Old Crown has 10 wraps, two hot sandwiches and three salads. Soups are offered from October through April. An ever-changing, weekend-specials menu is available from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, with a suggested wine and beer to go with each dish.
The soups were the stars, highlighted by the exquisite butternut squash and pear bisque. It was a thick, dark-gold blended soup with a somewhat grainy texture, and it was topped with a little heavy cream and slivered almonds. It really tasted like fall, and the sweet pear was evident but did not keep it from being a hearty soup. The cabbage, kale and mushroom soup was just as impressive with a light, clear broth that really let shine the flavor of the coarsely chopped cabbage and kale and the big meaty mushrooms.
The spicy Angus beef and black bean chili was less impressive and pretty much failed when used in Old Crowns taco salad. The chili had a nice slow-cooked flavor and plenty of hearty black beans, but there was little of it on the salad, and it was not at all spicy. But the creamy, fresh-tasting salsa verde and sour cream dressing was worth having again on any salad.
The two sensational salads from the Anytime menu were, indeed, sensational. The Other Salad was made with a fresh, diverse blend of field greens and leaf lettuce with roasted red pepper, red onion, crisp sprouts and cucumber, sweet ripe tomatoes and bleu cheese crumbles. It was finished with a generous sprinkling of dried apricots and slivered almonds. The Second Salad was similar with super creamy feta in place of the bleu cheese, dried cranberries and walnuts instead of apricot and almond, and briny black olives.
The barbecued smoked chicken hot sandwich was better than any of Old Crowns wraps. The smokiness of the meat came through the not-too-sweet house barbecue sauce, there was plenty of meat on the sesame sub bun, and the pepper jack cheese provided some heat here and there.
The spicy mango sauce on the hickory smoked chicken wrap was tasty, and the rosemary and sun-dried tomato ham with baby Swiss had a nice background of rosemary, but both were scant on meat and pretty forgettable. I was encouraged by my server to have my wraps grilled, and that did add a little texture and life to the somewhat bland tomato-basil and garlic herb wraps Old Crown uses, but I was put off when I discovered I was charged an extra dollar to simply have it pressed on a grill.
The O.C. Hummus Pita Sandwich failed to deliver. The fresh tomato, greens, crunchy cucumbers, red onion, black olives and creamy feta were great, as was the pita, which was soft and delicious, but it lacked in the most important area. The pita was smeared with a thin layer of hummus; because of its scarcity, I could not really judge its quality. The amount would have been fine if it was simply a condiment on a meat-filled pita, but there needed to be about three times as much for it to be a suitable hummus pita.
Restaurant: Old Crown Coffee Roasters
Address: 3417 N. Anthony Blvd.
Hours: 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday; 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday; 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday
Handicapped accessible: Yes
Alcohol: Full bar
Credit cards: Yes
Kid-friendly: Yes; but no high chairs or boosters
Menu: Soup ($3 cup; $5 bowl), taco salad ($8.75), hummus pita sandwich ($6.50), BBQ smoked chicken sandwich ($6.25), wraps ($5.95), second and other salads ($5.95)
atmosphere: 1/2 (1 maximum), service: * (1 maximum)
Note: Restaurants are categorized by price range: $ (less than $20 for three-course meal), $$ ($20-$29); $$$ ($30-$39), $$$$ ($40-$49), $$$$$ ($50 and up).