Photo by Brittany Claud
Tucked into the lower level of the wonderful Art Deco building at Ninth and Main streets is a great addition to the food of the financial district. There's seating on the patio, and down the stairs is a small dining room. Reading material hangs on a rope along the far wall, but the best reading material is the menu. Soups of the day, specials and menu items are designed to please the omnivore as well as the vegan. The chef and staff pass orders verbally and efficiently, reminiscent of old-time diners. Orders come up quickly, and at least half of those are take-out meals. The crowd is diverse; everyone is welcomed, and questions are graciously answered.
The day's soup (which we inhaled) was white bean — complex, filling and really good. My turkey meatball bánh mì (pictured), with a hint of ginger in the juicy meat, was made with a fresh roll and came with a side. I chose jerk collard greens from the superb list of selections. Flavorful and tangy, they did become a little too spicy for me toward the bottom of the generous serving.
My companion ordered quiche made with a rice crust, fontina cheese, hazelnuts, figs and Swiss chard. She was kind enough to let me dig in, and I had to hold back. What a great combination of flavors! We asked some of the folks in line how often they eat here, and the enthusiasm for this little place was high. With sandwich options like braised brisket on naan with chimicurri, it's no wonder.
Side dishes such as tarragon white beans and fennel salad help to lift this little breakfast-and-lunch spot right up and over the competition. I recommend getting there early, because customers were out the door by noon. The Citizen serves breakfast all day, and the coffee from Carytown Coffee on the James is locally roasted. But the sandwiches are the real draw.
909 E. Main St. (entrance is through the Ninth Street courtyard, down the steps and to the right), 780-9038
Prices: Breakfast dishes are $5 or less; lunch sandwiches and entrées are between $4 and $6.25.
Hours: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday