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Fables Cafe

Inside the Central Library, Lafayette Square

3 1/2 pennies (out of four)

"An innovative eatery"

There hasn't been a line this long in the Central Library on Lafayette Square since the last Harry Potter book was unpacked. But it wasn't hunger for knowledge that had people queuing up Saturday -- it was the new Fables Cafe, which opened just over a week ago inside the front door of the main library, across the airy, light-filled hall from the new gift shop.

The popularity of this place proves the folly of judging a book by its cover. The popularity of the sandwiches, soups, salads and coffee drinks had two staffers nearly run off their feet. "Normally I have five people on, but I thought that Saturday, I'd be selling two bagels and that would be it," said the pleasantly surprised counterman.

The cafe's drinks range from plain coffee ($1.25 for 12 ounces, $1.75 for 20 ounces) and hot tea ($1.75) to Arizona Iced Teas for $1.75 and IBC root beer and cream soda for $1.50. Breakfast choices include homemade granola with milk for $3.50, a parfait for $3.50 and an egg, cheese and ham sandwich on focaccia for $3.50.

We were fortunate to get a cup of the spinach soup with gorgonzola, which sold out minutes later. The 8-ounce cup for $2.50 was a slightly thinner version of delicious creamed spinach, with a rich stir-in of melty gorgonzola. It arrived in a basket with a chunk of fresh bread.

The Ham and Scalloped Potato Po'-Boy was constructed of nearly an inch of sliced ham topped with a layer of tender, cheesy scalloped potatoes. The baguette that held this delicious combination was tasty and toasty. The Albacore Tuna Melt was topped with bacon, roma tomatoes (the tasty kind) and aged, sharp cheddar cheese. Each sandwich arrived in a plastic basket accompanied by a salad of tender field greens and a baked sweet. (The cafe ran out of its "Skrumptions," which were described as two types of cookie baked together, so a slice of brownie was substituted.) Salads include a Caesar for $5.50 and a house salad for $5, and everything from a crab cake for $2.50 to a hard-boiled egg for 75 cents or a serving of roasted red peppers and artichoke hearts can be ordered on the side.

On the way out, we picked up dessert -- a white-chocolate-macadamia-nut cookie that was overdone, bordering on burned, and a soft, rich brownie that measured a full 4 inches on each side. Each cost $2.25. We shared the cookie with the dog and considered the generous brownie a fitting epilogue.

9 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Sunday hours still undetermined. Handicapped-accessible.

The popularity of this place proves the folly of judging a book by its cover.