Folks who work in the cluster of office buildings in the 400 block of North Brand Boulevard have something new to cheer about. Just outside their front door lies the Beyond the Stars Cafe, a small but mighty sandwich, salad and coffee spot with quality that is a notch above the ordinary.
Perhaps you've seen the historic Beyond the Stars Palace. This supper-club-type theater can be rented for large social and business events. They also have the occasional public performance. The owner decided to put the catering kitchen to more use by creating a few ready-to-eat sandwiches and salads, and offering them to local workers and passers-by from a newly created cafe in the front corner of the theater property.
Customers may choose pre-packaged goodies from the display case and take them to go, or sit outside on the sunny sidewalk or in the wind-shielded outdoor foyer of the theater. Both spaces have a pleasant, leisurely feel.
Beyond the Stars features organic teas, coffees and espressos roasted locally by the Supreme Bean. The fresh and flavorful meats, veggies and breads are shopped for daily at Whole Foods and other markets. The recipes are unfussy, yet uncommon.
For example, they take an ordinary turkey sandwich and add fruit. There's the green apple and turkey ($5.99 for all sandwiches), which has slices of tart Granny Smith commingling with creamy brie cheese and mounds of shaved mesquite turkey on a gigantic croissant.
In another inspired turn, the turkey apricot has the same croissant, but this time with roast turkey, a touch of cream cheese, chopped apricots, sliced almonds and red onion. It's really satisfying but not heavy. The same can be said of their roast beef sandwich on a crispy French roll. One suggestion I'd make is to offer a sandwich option on good whole grain bread.
A nice little perk — all the sandwiches come with iced tea, which is a refreshing herbal blend, but the predominant flavor is mint. Another nicety is that the drinks come in big clear plastic cups with good ice. I'm a sucker for good cups and ice.
The entree salads are standard but fresh and well-priced. Don't take this the wrong way because I love Trader Joe's, but the salads are similar in type and price to ones they sell at TJ's (Berry & Nut Chicken, Caesar, Asian Chicken, and Veggie Delight — all $4.25 each). But at Beyond the Stars, they're bigger and fresher.
They also have a few side salads. One that stands out is the Olivieri (strangely, more expensive than the entree salads at $4.95.) It has tiny cubes of potato mixed with peas, carrots, pickles, chopped egg and herbs in a light mayonnaise dressing. It's a cut above your average potato salad. Don't waste your time on the pasta salad. It's nowheresville, as my kids tell me I like to say.
Don't be disappointed if the things I mention are not in their display case. Offerings tend to vary each day. But it is possible they can whip it up back in the kitchen. Their treats section is woefully low. The menu promises mini-bundts, brownies, scones, etc., but the few times I went, there was only a danish or two left.
Their specialty coffee and espresso drinks are excellent and well made by the friendly barista. They offer sugar-free and dairy-free options, using organic soy milk. And they have a basket of health-conscious packaged snacks, a godsend when you're trying to eat clean.
So while there are a number of coffee and snack places sprinkled along Brand Boulevard, Beyond the Stars is worth checking out for their organic coffees and teas as well as their unique and light, albeit limited, bill of fare.
Infobox What: Beyond the Stars CafeWhere: 417 N. Brand Boulevard, GlendaleWhen: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. dailyPrices: Sandwiches $5.99; salads $4.25 to $4.95; espresso, coffee and tea drinks $1.75 to $4.45Contact: (818) 243-0681