The West Bottoms’ vintage scene: tasteful, sure, but good tastes, too

On the first weekend of each month, at least 22 flea markets, featuring more than 600 vendors, spring wondrously open in the West Bottoms’ historic warehouses, just to mess with your sense of personal organization. If you approach this sprawling pop-up village without specific goals, without having mapped out a plan ahead of time, you will wander. You will mutter. You will spend four hours looking for vintage Halloween postcards in August, then go home with a new spice rack and a package of shiny buttons that read:“That’s what speed do.”

Even with a plan, you have one more concern: While browsing the endless array of handmade jewelry, wrought-iron wall decor and fall crafts, you’re going to get hungry. Which is why a number of shops have opened their own cafés, where famished fanciers can stop for beer or biscuits and gravy or wine.

With the traveling Vintage Whites Flea Market making its stop beneath the 12th Street Bridge this weekend, you’ll probably want to shop even longer than usual. Here are four food pauses worth taking.

Breakfast: Painted Rooster Café

Bella Patina, 1320 West 12th Street

This rustic, third-story restaurant is worth the hike up the stairs. Located behind Bella Patina’s DIY craft space, the Painted Rooster is every bit as charming as a wicker basket filled with autumn leaves and colorful gourds, with sunlight streaming in through the large windows and bunches of dried flowers hanging alongside the strands of lights that dangle from the ceiling.

On the day I stopped by, the brunch menu was extensive: biscuits and gravy, bacon pancakes, a meatball sub, bruschetta. I tried the pupusas, which were made by a native El Salvadorian chef and served with sides of rice and beans, as well as curtido, which is similar to coleslaw. The crispy, cheese-stuffed pupusas were savory and especially delicious paired with the slightly spicy slaw. It was a lot of food for $9 — so much that I had enough fuel to speed-browse all three floors of Bella Patina at a pretty wicked clip.

Lunch: Vintage Funk Café

Le Fou Flea, 1400 West 12th Street

A painting of the West Bottoms’ now-defunct Woodsweather Café adorns one wall at Vintage Funk, and the influence seems obvious. This corner restaurant on the fourth floor of Le Fou Flea’s delightfully random warehouse full of“junktiques” feels every bit the playful, vintage diner, with vinyl booths in front of sunny windows and old-school ads and surreal murals adorning the walls.

The menu, too, takes a page from a traditional diner, with offerings ranging from indulgent favorites (mozzarella sticks, pulled-pork nachos, chili-cheese dogs) to lighter-seeming BLT wraps and grilled-chicken Caesar salads. Still stuffed from my morning pupusas, I ordered a root-beer float, which came in a large glass with several generous scoops of ice cream. “If you need more ice cream, just let me know,” said the man behind the bar. I had come to the right place.

Snack: Bee’s Knees Bakery

Bottoms Up, 1300 West 13th Street

Tucked amid the opulent offerings at Bottoms Up, Bee’s Knees feels like the antique-store equivalent of a bustling, high-end sidewalk café. The friendly owners told me they make everything on the menu themselves, with offerings including German
bierocks, quiche Lorraine and cinnamon rolls. The cherry pie looked especially delectable.

I opted for a bowl of gazpacho, a dish I can’t not order if it’s available. The Bee’s Knees version of this traditional Spanish cold soup was smooth and zesty, with the peppers, cucumbers, and onions nicely balancing the tomato base. As at any good sidewalk café, though, you can’t sit in one place for long, because the moment you finish, someone else needs your table.

Dessert: Chantclair Café 

Good Juju, 1420 West 13th Street

By the time I made it to Chantclair, I’d been wandering from door to door for the better part of the day, browsing booth after booth of items both beautiful and baffling. Sweaty and exhausted, I had become markedly harder to impress as the hot afternoon wore on. So it says a lot that the dessert spread at this second-story café, inside the wonderful Good Juju, restored my appetite for wide-eyed wonder.

There was strawberry-rhubarb pie, and there was blueberry-lemon cake, the latter covered with fresh fruit and blossoms of pale, yellow frosting. Several rows of frosted cupcakes were topped with strawberries here, Oreos there. And then I saw the “muskrat love,” a large cinnamon roll covered with butterscotch, honey, mini chocolate chips and bits of pretzel. In the end, though, I opted for a sweet, chewy chocolate-peanut-butter no-bake cookie, which I was told is among the most popular items here, and which did not disappoint. Chantclair’s menu also features various breakfast items and salads, but dessert is what I’ll be coming back for — this time, with a better plan.

Categories: Food & Drink