Rudiments Café makes way more sense on a college campus, or in a big-city library, or anywhere, really, than on the concrete-and-asphalt paradise that we call North Powers Boulevard. Not that the area can't use a fresh personality: Neighbors include a creaky and peeling Kmart, an aging RadioShack and a military recruitment office. But the restaurant run by Mark Wickline and Brian Davis is definitely its own space.
As you enter, you see the left wall covered with a variety of local art from Beckie Moss and Annette Camarda, among others. A black leather couch and coffee table complete the corner, while a drum set and speakers sit across the room. Eight or so tables of varying size and type are arranged on the exposed-concrete floor, giving way to a corrugated-steel counter and a large blackboard with the day's specials.
Essentially, it's a vibe that says, "We've probably got an open mic night," and wouldn't you know it — they do. And the food fits: modestly priced sandwiches, wraps, crêpes and omelets, none very bad and a few very good. All of the ones mentioned below are $6.95, and come with your choice of an over-salted and grainy house hummus (with pita chips), cottage cheese, chopped fruit, or SunChips or Boulder Canyon Natural Foods chips.
The Chicken Pickin' is a sun-dried tomato tortilla filled with roasted chicken, caramelized onions, lettuce, Provolone cheese and a kick-ass restaurant-made honey mustard sauce that's great with the greasy crunch of the sweet onions. For the Greek Love, a spinach tortilla wraps around more shredded chicken, spinach, feta cheese, mushrooms, black olives, red peppers and a creamy house tzatziki sauce. This one's all about the undertones: nice earthy notes of olives, fungus and dill emerging around the obvious crunch of spinach.
The Caribbean Rooster professes heaps of mango chicken salad, but comes off a little thin, and tastes more like curry than fruit. The filling's not bad, but the mango isn't ripe and loses itself in the pale yellow, celery-flecked sauce. Also, the to-go menu says it comes on "fresh baked bread," when it's actually from Oroweat.
The Roastinator's another OK option: roasted red peppers, chicken, Provolone cheese and spinach topped with a dill aioli. We did ours on toasted sourdough, and found the cheese the strongest flavor.
As for other options, the cheese-steak's fine — on a soft hoagie roll with quiet shaved beef, grilled peppers, onions and a cheddar cheese sauce from Bakers & Chefs that tastes likes Cheez Whiz — while a meatball sub is messy and hard to eat, if generally tasty. The Chicks Jalapeño crêpe is solid, though its chicken, onions, eggs and jalapeños are a little dry and never merge well.
We could nitpick more — the bathrooms are pretty grimy — but there's more upside here than not, especially considering how great Wickline and Davis are at meeting your needs. After we ordered some food to go, the guys offered to hold off on making it until after we'd finished our dine-in meal; Davis recited one entering customer's order before he'd even reached the counter; and our lunch was finished with a complimentary slice of a creamy and pleasantly sour house-made cheesecake.
Some nice small touches, which is what Wickline told us in October the restaurant's all about. "Nothing you haven't seen before, just doing things well."