The gourmet sandwich concept is nothing new, but Atlanta has seen an explosion of such establishments in the past year. Are gourmet sandwich shops this year’s cupcake or fancy hamburger? Trend or not, there's a need for this type of dining — especially in areas saturated with office workers — and it’s easy enough to conceptualize the menus. Just throw on a few sandwiches, a salad or two, some fancy chips and pricey beverages.Cafe Mims
(659 Peachtree St., 404-897-5000, www.livingstonatlanta.com
) is the latest spot to capitalize on the need for speedy lunchtime fare. The food, overseen by Livingston’s executive chef Gary Mennie, is made fresh daily and pre-packaged so you can grab and go. The cafe opens early so you can pop in for some coffee and one of the homemade baked goods, such as the trio of mini bear claws filled with blueberries, cheese and almond paste. Sandwiches are the best thing the cafe has to offer at lunchtime. Each sandwich — with the exception of the grilled cheese — is made with a personal-sized baguette and wrapped in brown paper affixed with a branded sticker. The crusty bread has just the right amount of chew. And the fillings have been uniformly excellent. A meat-heavy sandwich of Coppa, “soprasotto,” green olives, piquillo peppers and basil pesto had my newly non-vegetarian friend asking for bite after bite. Mims' take on the ubiquitous turkey sandwich is more of a club-style creation. They slather the bread in mayo and pile on the thin slices of turkey, ripe avocado, red onion, smoky bacon and roasted tomatoes. Mennie’s signature chopped vegetable salad — a mix of crunchy seasonal vegetables with shaved parmesan and walnut oil dressing — is on the menu, but the one-cup portion is laughable for the price ($6). Don’t forget one of the oversized cookies to cap off your lunch. The crumbly and buttery pecan sandie is the stuff of legend.
As good as the food is, there are some service and logistical issues that need to be addressed. Upon arriving, the valet treated us like idiots for thinking the complimentary service for Livingston applied to the cafe before directing us toward the paid garage. The lady running the cafe’s counter is nice, but had either forgotten part of my order or simply given me the wrong dish on both of my visits. And while the patio seating at Cafe Mims is situated across from the glorious and glittering Fox Theatre marquee, there are only a handful of tables available. Getting to-go is the best option and the valet will hold your car up front if you want to run in.
Despite the sometimes off-putting service and limited seating, there’s a good chance the cafe will fare well if it focuses on a customer base of hotel guests, nearby office folks and people visiting the Fox.