Last week I stopped for lunch at Graffiti on my way to the farmers market. (http://chowhound.com/california/board...)
It's part of the new riverfront commercial center and has some great spaces. Inside, nearly half the floor space is devoted to a large bar and lounge area with a couple brewing tanks in the back drop. Outside, patio seating wraps around three sides and along the water with some charming views. I took an outdoor seat facing the river.
In a hurry, I picked two small-sized dishes from the "soup taster" and "graffiti" sections of the menu. Even smaller nibbles are featured in the "accessories" and entree-sizes are found in the "big bites".
The trio of soups, $7, was more generous than I expected, probably close to 8 ounces in total. A nice touch is that that the porcelain shooters for the hot ones had been heated to retain temperature in those small serving sizes. Likewise, the gazpacho stayed cold in its chilled shooter. The gazpacho was my favorite, the taste of summer with crunchy bits of sweet red and yellow pepper, cucumber, and full of tomatoey goodness. The veggies in this were so crisp and fresh, they must have been diced to order. I liked the little dab of guacamole floating on top. The roasted tomato soup had a dollop of something between sour cream and marscapone in texture that didn't do much for it. The soup itself was wonderful, full of smokey nuances and velvety on the palate. The artichoke and squash soup didn't do much for me. It tasted mostly of roasted garlic and had an unfortunate moldy note of something that shouldn't have made it into the pot. I didn't remember what the ingredients were until I consulted the menu again. The two flavors seemed to cancel each other out.
The Tuscan calamari appetizer, $8, was even better. What's "tuscan" about this beats me, but it was delicious nonetheless. The squid ringlets and tentacles were so tender, juicy and freshly sweet under the lightest dusting of flour and a few drizzles of lemon-y aioli. The best part was the fresh take on giardiniera: a tiny dice of tomato, sweet peppers, scallions, red onions, and united with the brininess of capers and kalamata olives. Served on three dewy fresh leaves of butter lettuce, I tried cupping one portion to eat out of hand.
The bread is from Della Fattoria. It was icebox cold and day-old at lunch time. I wished I'd taken it home to make toast.
My server, Bob G (according to my receipt), was friendly and knowledgeable, and well-coordinated with the busser who refilled my glass of water four times on this warm afternoon. He had recommended the calamari as one of his favorites on the menu. He expedited things when I told him I needed to rush.
The last pleasant surprise was discovering that prices on the menu include sales tax. My tab was $15, plus $3 for a tip, and well worth it.
P.S. Don't know where the name came from, but I imagine it has something to do with the fact that George Lucas filmed "American Graffiti" in this town.
"The Art of Fine Food"
101 2nd St.