It would be easy to miss Ettamae's Café among the construction projects in downtown's historic Jackson Ward neighborhood. At first glance, it appears to be a takeout place, but walk upstairs, and you'll find a spacious dining room with pink walls and balcony seating.
Since opening July 5, Ettamae's (522 N. 2nd St., 888-8058) has been serving a variety of fresh-baked breads, slow-cooked meats, house-made pastries and other dishes. The eatery revolves around the notion of high-quality food at a reasonable price, says co-owner Laura Morand Bailey. An average meal costs less than $10, and almost everything is made in house, even the ice cream. Richmond-based Blanchard's Coffee is served, and the menu features local produce.
Ettamae's is owned and operated by Bailey and her brother, Matthew Morand, both Richmond natives, along with their father, Paul Morand. Sister Jenny Smith will also be joining the staff to help with advertising and public relations. Matthew Morand, the head chef, has 30 years of experience; in addition to local restaurants such as Du Jour, Hermitage Grill and the 2300 Club, he has worked in the kitchens at Rock Center Café and Ulysses in New York City. Bailey, a former manager of the Byrd House Market, has a background in catering and marketing.
Popular lunch dishes include the meatloaf sandwich, a whole roasted chicken and a Philly cheese steak. (I sampled the chicken-salad sandwich, which arrived with fresh lettuce and tomato in warm-from-the oven, Amish-style white bread.) For breakfast, Ettamae's serves Canadian tea biscuits and butter tarts in addition to staples such as muffins and bagels.
The café gets its name from the Morands' late grandmother, Ettamae Rivers, whose likeness appears in black-and-white photos in the dining room. The name and 1930s décor add to the nostalgic feel of the century-old building. "She wouldn't let us name any children after her, so we got her back by naming a restaurant after her," Bailey says.