Citizen Cafe, MSP
Hey, who has been to the Citizen Cafe on 38th St in Minneapolis? We went the other day after reading the mention in the City Pages and quite enjoyed it. By far the best things we had were the sea scallop appetizer and the delicious corned beef sandwich (truly, the best corned beef I've ever had). There are some minor problems - like the cole slaw was really dry and needed more dressing and the service was slightly rough. Even so, the food deities have reached down and blessed us with a good restaurant within walking distance. Hooray!
We went to the Citizen Cafe a second time. We still enjoyed it, but I noticed some flaws this time. The napkins are the flimsiest paper napkins ever, which seem weird with the white tablecloths. The white tablecloths seem weird with the brown butcher paper. The previously glorious corned beef was tasty, but tough. The worst thing, though, was that the server was completely incapable of describing the food. She described the salmon special as simply pan seared. When I asked her to tell me more about it, she said it was cooked in butter. My guess is she didn't sell many of those specials that night; too bad for her, since they were the priciest item being served. I later overheard a different server describing it as "pan seared salmon with an herbed compound butter and wilted spinach." I might have ordered that.
By the way, the potato chips are of whatever god you do or don't believe in, absolutely phenomenal. The brick chicken is very tasty, an enormous portion, slightly dry, but still a bargain. I really, really want this place to succeed and thrive, because I want the best restaurant in my neighborhood to stay for a long, long time! I think the Citizen Cafe has great potential. I would also love to read comments from other chowhounds.
We thought maybe since they have had a couple of weeks to get acclimated we would visit last night. We also found the butcher paper a little strange as well as the cheezy napkins in what is a somewhat upscale family resturant.
What is that stuff that they serve besides butter with the bread? Herb mayo was our best guess but it was more or less flavor free so we were still left wondering.
My husband ordered the Reuben, it was more like roast beef with cole slaw. Not much flavor in the corned beef, the dressing migrated into the bread and one side was dry the other soggy & wet. The chips were good.
My daughter ordered the BLT. The bread was more Texas toast than brioche, the tomato was tepid, as was the mayo and lettuce. The bacon was well done and somewhat tough. The chips were good.
I ordered the shrimp po'boy. It was served on a branded hogie roll with plenty of shredded romaine, tomato bits, five tasty shrimp and some somewhat runny mayo. I managed to eat it without making a huge mess but it was a challange with stuff and dressing dripping/dropping out. The linguini pasta was good.
We waited when we arrived for a table to be cleared even though there were only one other set of diners inside and one set outside they were all dirty. The server we had was running like she was on fire while the other hostess/server floated about looking harried.
I am not sure when we will visit again, if ever. We were regular customers of Sweet Lorraines and still mis the cakes and the cherry chicken sandwich.
For an appetizer, we ordered their daily fresh sausage: chicken and apple sausage with spicy apple brandy mustard. I love the daily fresh sausage concept, as I'm a lover of the link. Their sausage was tender, and nicely cooked, but it could have used a bit more seasoning. The mustard was fantastic.
I ordered the pulled pork sammich for my meal. The pork was a bit dry, IMO. The pork was seasoned lightly and mixed with lots of bell peppers. The flavor was nice, but I wanted the pork to be a tad more tender. It was served with their house made crispy potato chips, which may be the best potato chips served to me at any restaurant ever. Those are some darn fine chips!!
The Citizen Joe is the cafe's version of a sloppy joe. Similar to a pasty in construction, the savory ground beef is wrapped in delicate pastry dough. It is then baked until gooey, wrapped in wax paper, and served with their house made chips or fresh fruit. If you're the kind of person who likes messy, saucy sammiches, the Citizen Joe is a home run. It isn't dainty. It isn't easy to eat. It's saucy meat wrapped in pastry dough. The flavor was new and different and familiar all at the same time.
We went there for a weekday lunch, and there was plenty of seating, but apparently it gets pretty busy on the weekends. Nothing too charming or over the top, just a nice little cafe (with neat-o light fixtures). The patio features a view of the gas station across the street through some pretty potted plants.
As a former Sweet Lorraine's regular, I found the remodel really striking (and not just the decor). I stopped in on a weekday morning with a book and a need for a quiet American Standard Breakfast, and hey, twenty-five minutes later, perfect eggs, good bacon, OK toast and great coffee. The portion was probably, oh, a third of what Sweet Lorraine's would have served up, but plenty for me. And I got a little sampler of scone and muffin beforehand.
I'm pretty sure I was never served an amuse at SL, but I miss the folks there anyway. Sweet Lorraine's was a wonderful place to come and feel welcomed, and be with the neighborhood, and fuel up and go. But perfect eggs, great coffee, reasonable prices, a welcoming feel and a nice place to sit and (on a weekday) read for forty-five minutes is not so bad either. I wouldn't go to the CItizen if I needed to get served and be on my way, but it suited me just fine that morning, and I'll be back for breakfast, at any rate. I hope they make it.
Had dinner at the Citizen Cafe again. The horrible flimsy napkins are gone and replaced by much more functional napkins. The tables were clean and cleared (the place was also nearly empty). We had a much better server, who could actually describe the special, which was a respectable plate of fried catfish, slightly undercooked roasted root vegetables with cauliflower (seemed better suited to autumn than summer) and tasty mashed potatoes. The bread was fantastic, as always, served with inadequate smidgens of butter and compound butter. We enjoyed the wilted spinach salad with bacon, although it was slightly sweet for my taste.
Given that several of the specific concerns shared here by Chowhounds seem to have been addressed, it seems that the citizens of Citizen Cafe might be reading this thread. If so, I say to you, hang in there and keep working on ironing out the rough spots. We want you to succeed and stick around our neighborhood for a long time.