Grace at the table: Lueker's beautiful, minimalist style translates gorgeously to her food. Sandwiches such as the rare roast beef special ($7.95 with side item) are simple creations, yet every mouthful of downy white bread, supple and rosy slices of beef, horseradish cheddar and sun-dried tomato mayonnaise is a revelation of intense flavor.
Although it bares little resemblance to a Cuban sandwich, Sun in My Belly's version ($7.95 with side item) has crusty pressed brioche, melted Swiss and velvety ham with a piquant kiss of Dijon mustard. Side items are prepared with equally great care. Macaroni and cheese is perfumed with a hint of cumin. Crisp, sweet haricots verts are elegantly dotted with chevre.
Take-away meals are more exquisitely assembled and perfectly portioned than many restaurant dinners I've had in recent memory. The only bad thing about the adobe pork loin with mashed potatoes and haricot vert salad ($9.95) is that it takes awhile to reheat in my dinky toasted oven. The blushing loin is astonishingly moist and fork-tender, with a heady adobe crusting redolent of chili and cumin. Goat cheese in the thick, whipped mashed potatoes lends a tang that marries beautifully with the loin's mild spiciness.
Mom's was never like this: The ready-to-go meatloaf dinner ($7.95) satisfies a cold-weather craving for hefty, hearty meats without any of the gut-bomb feelings that usually accompany such a culinary outing. One of the slices of meatloaf doesn't make it long enough to get reheated. Wolfed down cold, the loaf has the texture and richness of a country terrine, and I gobble it so quickly I'm sidelined with a bad case of the hiccups. Skepticism about a lack of gravy is assuaged when I reheat the other slice, which melts into a tender, juicy slab of beefy heaven. The mashed potatoes are exactly how I like them -- dense with butter and thick as pudding but with a feathery lightness that melts in your mouth like whipped cream.
With Sun in My Belly, Lueker shows not just how impeccable her personal style and vision are. She and Leblanc have created a superlative example of what urban renovation should be, with a cafe and boutique that pack more charm and character into one corner of Decatur than you could find in any newly built strip mall.
Love pork belly.
Some food just doesn't photograph well, even if it is tasty.
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