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Ready To Serve

Cockadoos and Vietnamese Bistro open.




So reads the front of a T-shirt advertising the new Cockadoos restaurant on Second. It's a name that owners John and Lana Wells chose for its sticking power — an important consideration, as the breakfast, lunch, and coffee spot has moved into what was Café 61.

When I stopped by to check out the new digs before Thursday's opening day, the staff was being schooled in barista arts. Mississippi Mud, a St. Louis-based roaster, had come down for the day to get all aspects of the coffee bar in working order.

Bench-style seating lines the walls, and a plethora of brightly colored pillows (maybe in need of some pruning, John says) give the place a warm, coffee-lounge feel. Farther back, tables and booths abound for the studious types or for those interested in a sit-down meal. Destined to be the most coveted seats in the house are the stools at the balcony bar, which offer a unique vantage of the entire front of the restaurant.

Cockadoos is Project Green Fork certified. They hope to work closely with farmer's markets in the near future. And John boasts, "There is not a single fryer in the kitchen." They offer quick-serve baked goods (such as scones and muffins, made fresh daily), an all-you-can-eat salad bar, and a full breakfast and lunch menu. Standout items on the menu include twists on Southern favorites: catfish and grits, a Memphis barbecue omelet with pulled pork, and a cornbread turkey pot pie. They also have cat head biscuits, which is Southern-speak for uncut biscuits that rise unevenly.

Cockadoos is reaching out to its customers via social-media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. "We have it set up so that people can tweet or post an order on our Facebook wall, and we will have their order ready to pick up when they come in," John says. Sure enough, behind the bar are two computer screens, one dedicated solely to taking orders over the Internet.

Cockadoos opens every day at 6 a.m., and closes at 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 3 p.m. Friday through Sunday.

Cockadoos, 85 S. Second (590-0610)

Vietnamese Bistro, which recently opened in Midtown on Cleveland, offers standard Vietnamese fare as well as some menu items you may not have seen before. (I'm looking at you, quail eggs, tripe, and chicken feet.)

If you aren't the adventurous palate in the group, I can recommend the spicy steamed rice pancakes with pork bologna, the vegetable and tofu stir-fry, and the betel-leaf-wrapped beef. This last item is my favorite for a number of reasons. First, the beef rolls are delicious (they look like dolmas but without the rice and lemony grape leaves), and the spicy, sweet dipping sauce is an excellent contrast to the nutty, grilled flavor of the meat. Second, the dish comes with the materials for do-it-yourself rolls: rice noodles, lettuce, mint, and thin rice wraps.

If you've ever made your own spring rolls, you know the wraps are thin and stiff until you submerge them in warm water. Then you arrange the beef, noodles, lettuce, and mint together and roll it as best you can. My first attempts were pretty paltry, but once our waiter offered a demonstration and clued us in on an important trick (don't saturate the rice wraps), the feast was under way.

Vietnamese Bistro had just opened when we visited, so a few menu items weren't yet available, and the debit/credit machine wasn't up and running, so bring some cash just in case.

The restaurant is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Vietnamese Bistro, 153 N. Cleveland (725-1222)

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