Rebas Cafe & Gallery
Arlene Levin is looking out for your best interests. The owner of Rebas Café and Gallery, in the Junction, serves baked chips - not fried - and doesn't keep diet pop in the fridge. "It's bad for you," she says, matter of fact and end of discussion like. She also slots her musical guests (about twice a month) in the mid-afternoon, so everyone can get to bed early. "If you stay up late, you lose the day." Alyssa and I listen to this paraphrased proverb - early to bed, early to rise - like no one's ever told us that the day is valuable. I sip my organic coffee ($1.60) and make a note to exercise more self-control, especially when it comes to sleep.
There is wisdom in every corner of this place. While we wait for our food, Alyssa and I flip through The Affirmation Book, a collection of life advice authored by Ms. Levin and published by her company, SoundWorks. We're also handed a coffee card (the seventh coffee is free) with an uplifting message from the universe written on the back (it's kind of like a fortune cookie, but better). I have the strength, power, wisdom and love to successfully handle whatever comes my way. Alyssa deserves to have fun and enjoy herself and she does. Amen.
In this case, what eventually comes my way and Alyssa enjoys is our food. By the time the dishes are placed before us, we're starving because we'd spent forty-five minutes checking out the great patio, meeting "the" dog (Reba!) and talking to Arlene Levin before even ordering. Alyssa is having a wild salmon burger ($5.75) and I, a roasted chicken sandwich ($5.50). Both come on a Panini from Dough Heads Bakery and we've opted to make them both "a plate," meaning for an extra buck fifty we get coleslaw and veggies sprinkled with poppy and sesame seeds, plus some (baked) chips. The coleslaw was created before our very eyes. We even saw the cabbage being chopped up. And for my sandwich, I actually watched Arlene Levin haul a whole chicken out of the fridge and pull off pieces of meat for the grill.
Along with grilled onions and green peppers, I had pesto and havarti added to my sandwich on the fly and after talking out her options, Alyssa added some cheddar to her burger. At Reba's you are allowed (encouraged, even) to be intimately involved in the construction of your meal. No ingredients are set in stone and Arlene Levin emphasizes that she aims to accommodate all dietary needs. "In a perfect world, what would you like to eat?" No one's ever asked me that question, so I have to think about it for a while. But Steve, the regular customer who takes a seat beside us, has it all figured out.
He comes in most days and orders his own creation of chips, veggies, an omelet and toast. Arlene has dubbed it "Steve's big ass breakfast." It's not on the menu, but it will be soon. While awaiting his big ass breakfast, Steve chats to us about the Junction and how much it's changed in the twenty years that he's lived in the area, recalling the long awaited end of Junction prohibition (in effect until a few years ago!) and ensuing development. The sale of alcohol has really improved the area, he says. "When I moved in it was kind of a slum." Steve loves his usual breakfast so much that he shows us a photo of it that he keeps on his laptop. About ten minutes later, the real thing arrives in front of him.
Alyssa and I decide to make our exit. We've hung around Rebas way longer than we had intended and we're full to the brim with our delicious sandwiches, unable to finish all our crunchy coleslaw and baked chips.
Photos by Alyssa Bistonath