Think of walking into a cozy room sweetly scented with the spicy aromas of baking. In one corner, a 3-month-old baby dozes in a mechanical swing, her tiny toe poking out of the pink crocheted blanket that covers her. Nearby, the mother hums and coos as she trims a pie crust. This is not a fond memory from your past. This is a scene you can indulge in seven days a week and get a fine, home-cooked meal at the same time at C.J. Taylor's Deli-Cafe.
The one in the swing is Taylor. The one trimming the pie is C.J., an ambitious mom who loved to cook, worked as a waitress, learned the ropes, and now has daringly opened her own quaint little spot in the Avenues. Not far from Smith's, next to a laundromat where a shabby little coffee shop once stood, C.J. has cleaned and painted, hung homey decorations on the walls and put in tidy, respectable tables and chairs. But it's the food in the glass-fronted counter that will intrigue you. That, and Taylor's tiny pink toes.Every day, C.J. cooks up huge pans of lasagna, bowls of chicken pesto and tortellini salad, pans of plump quiche, either ham, Swiss, mushroom and smoked provolone; turkey, bacon, spinach, red onion, basil, tomato, feta, mozzarella and provolone (my personal favorite); or vegetable. A slice, served with grapes and garlic bread, costs about $4.25.
She also whips up the most delightful confections: mocha latte cheese cakes; towering double-chocolate layer cake; moist, rich rum cake; carrot cake; muffins; cookies and brownies. To go with them, she'll pour you a steaming cup of coffee or chocolate, in a number of variations.
If none of that suits you, you can order breakfast of either banana nut or zucchini pancakes, biscuits with sausage gravy, Texas scramble or huevos rancheros for $4.25.
For lunch, you can build your own 8-inch sandwich from a number of different meats and cheeses on several types of bread for $4.25. And for dinner, I'd recommend the quesadillas, which are stuffed full of delicious ingredients like pepperoni, cheeses, tomatoes and basil, then topped with marinara sauce and Parmesan; or feta, fresh spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes, red onions, bacon and basil, topped with pesto sauce, feta, black olives and Parmesan. Quesadillas run from $5.50 to $6.50, and can easily satiate two people.
C.J. Taylor's Cafe is really nothing fancy. Just down-home food at incredibly reasonable prices. C.J. will cater, but I would strongly suggest you stop by on your way home for takeout, or eat in and enjoy a hearty, relaxing meal. And don't forget to wave and smile at Taylor. You're contributing to her college education, you know.
Rating: * * * 1/2
C.J. Taylor's Deli-Cafe, 328 4th Ave., Salt Lake City, 322-3331. Open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Cash, checks and credit cards accepted. Reservations are not necessary, but if you want to take home a whole pie or cake, you need to give at least 12 hours advance notice so she can bake it for you specially.