As classes wind down for reading period, the cafes of Thayer and Wickenden fill with students ready to indulge their caffeine addictions with palatable coffee. But for those adventure-seekers looking for somewhere more remote, Olga's Cup and Saucer provides charming surroundings and flavorful brain food.
Heading east down Wickenden and over the river on Point Street, Olga's pops up like a secret garden in the middle of the corporate, industrial Jewelry District.
Inside, the tables and chairs are mismatched, the art on the walls is a mix of found-object sculpture, photographs of food and posters for farmers' markets. The clientele includes students, companies holding lunch meetings and professionals young and old.
First started as a seasonal bakery in 1988, Olga's has expanded to more than its year-round cafe. It now also operates stands at farmers' markets in Pawtucket and North Kingstown and sells loaves of bread at Eastside Marketplace.
Despite its Eastern European name, Olga's offers standard cafe fare with daily variations. Soups, pizzas and panini vary. In addition, the cafe offers a wide variety of baked goods, from hearty rolls and scones to dainty French macaroons, as well as a decadent weekend brunch.
The grilled vegetable panini of the day — zucchini, mozzarella, ricotta salad, caramelized onions and tomato compote — was a surprisingly filling vegetarian's delight. Made with Olga's fresh-baked bread, the sandwich preserved the various textures and flavors of vegetables, cheese and bread.
The spicy cabbage slaw on the side was light and flavorful with a hint of spice from pickled chili peppers, but a bit too oily, especially given the punch packed by the sandwich.
A mug of coffee and an adorable espresso macaroon, intended as dessert but devoured soon after I sat down at my table, completed the experience. Both were excellent — probably worth the trip themselves.
Olga's staff was remarkably friendly, welcoming me as I entered and cracking jokes about my pronunciation of the French pastry I was ordering. They did an admirable job dealing with the rush of customers, even when faced with accommodating a party of 10 stopping by for a lunch meeting.
Served with a cup of coffee or one of Olga's many flavors of iced tea, the cafe's lunch is a low-guilt, moderately priced, high-reward treat. After the breezy walk there, cafe-goers will likely want to sit and soak up the atmosphere, possibly with a book in hand.
But if a relaxed, prolonged sit is your goal, beware the noontime rush. Shortly after 12 p.m. on a Wednesday, the restaurant was packed, with people crowding around small tables and the counter. For a more relaxed atmosphere conducive to studying, go early — they may not start serving lunch until 11 a.m., but Olga's is open 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays.
For a prolonged sit, a bite out with parents or friends or a pretty and satisfying pastry, Olga's is a delightful escape from the well-worn trails of College Hill.