Zen for the Citizens?

In which I, for the first time, try my hand at writing a restaurant review. What do you think?

June 25, 2008

Citizen CafeThe April issue of Metropolitan magazine included quite a juicy article about the relationship between dining experiences and graphic design. The author, Steven Heller, argued that the elements that make up a great meal are only isolated statements if not somehow brought together with an evocative visual element. Like a book with an irresistible dust jacket, graphic design allows a restaurant to tell its story by artistically setting the tone for a meal.

This was fresh in my mind when I visited the brand new Citizen Cafe in south Minneapolis last week. The restaurant’s graphic design and branding is so effective I started to form an opinion of the place before I traveled down Hiawatha one weeknight to get there. The logo features a joyful chef wielding a huge knife and fork on top of a bright burst of Soviet-style yellow and red. The restaurant’s motto, “cafe for the people,” promises to unite city and countrymen through a solid array of satisfying home-cooked meals with thoughtful urban flair. All in all, the story Citizen Cafe is telling is “finally, we will eat!”

Despite this chic presentation of proletariat joy, there wasn’t all that much fun, kitschy, or communal about our experience. The setting, a low-slung neighborhood shack, is quiet, with elegant white walls, large windows, and clean lines. When my friend and I stepped in and asked if we could get a table for two, the hostess seemed so caught off guard that I had to remind her that it wasn’t a trick question.

At the table, we relaxed into the quiet hush of a new restaurant and ordered two appetizers. One was pickled vegetables, which tried to be a satisfying counterpoint to the meal I had come to expect. The other was braised beef short ribs. I don’t know much about the vocabulary of meat, but we had to poke around to identify what we should be eating.

The service, while pleasant, was a little lacking. We didn’t have water, bread, or a knife for our appetizer until well after these items should have arrived. And while we appreciated the accompanying butter and homemade beet spread, the two types of bread at the table were absolutely lifeless. In a city where every guy and gal on the payroll can pick up an acceptable loaf of freshly baked bread at Rainbow, why should we settle for less?

For my entree, I was pleased with a unique twist: a Caesar salad with scallops. A bit of a Caesar addict, I tend to rely on its distinctive taste as an indication of a restaurant’s ability to express itself. The scallops spoke to me like a perfectly fluffed bed of pillows. I dove in and enjoyed the soft taste of lemon complemented by the perfectly browned tops, but the rest of the salad didn’t say Caesar to me much at all. My friend also ordered a scallop salad, but with roasted tomatoes, bacon, and homemade creamy dill dressing. We both raved about the scallops and suspected that the restaurant was trying to woo us with their generosity. We each had five or six of the big guys.

What did we think while relaxing by the large windows and enjoying the late-afternoon sun? The food at Citizen Cafe isn’t as hard-working as their logo suggests it will be. After a long day at the office, we workaday girls felt a little toyed with rather than satisfied. However, in a somewhat unstylish neighborhood lacking a lot of contemporary restaurant options, Citizen Cafe will find its appeal. The prices are good, the setting is clean and comfortable, and the upcoming liquor license will make for a happy neighborhood clientele.

Citizen Cafe on Urbanspoon

About these ads

27 thoughts on “Zen for the Citizens?

  1. Bob

    I have to say that I agree with your review of Citizen Cafe. My wife and I have been there twice and were not impressed. Your last paragraph is a bit insulting to us who live in South Minneapolis. You state, “However, in a mostly unstylish neighborhood lacking restaurant options, Citizen Cafe will find its appeal.” You couldn’t be any more misinformed because within no more than a couple minutes distance, you have The Craftsman, Town Talk Diner, Longfellow Grill, Buster’s on 28th, Ted Cook’s 19th Hole BBQ, and please don’t forget about the home of the Jucy Lucy, Matt’s Bar.

  2. Carrie Post author

    Bob – I’m sorry to hear that. I’ve been to many of those restaurants (and love them), but I think that comment does make sense. Even Dara used it as the main hook in her review for Minnesota Monthly, here: http://tinyurl.com/awdfca.

  3. Chet,Ashley

    I want to express my thanks to you just for rescuing me from this
    situation. Because of surfing around through the world wide web
    and getting suggestions which were not pleasant, I assumed my entire life was gone.
    Living minus the approaches to the difficulties you have solved all through
    this guideline is a critical case, and the kind that would have in a negative way affected
    my career if I had not discovered your web site.

    Your primary know-how and kindness in controlling almost everything was
    priceless. I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t encountered such
    a stuff like this. I’m able to at this moment look forward to my future. Thanks for your time very much for this professional and result oriented guide. I won’t think twice
    to refer your web site to anyone who wants and needs assistance about this topic.

  4. Velva

    I needed to put you this tiny remark so as to say thanks over
    again about the breathtaking information you’ve provided at this time. It was really pretty generous of you to deliver unhampered all that a number of people could have advertised for an e-book to make some profit for their own end, chiefly considering that you could have done it if you ever considered necessary. Those ideas as well acted as a good way to be certain that most people have a similar zeal like mine to find out a little more concerning this issue. I think there are some more fun periods ahead for individuals who looked at your site.

  5. wordpress.com

    Link exchange is nothing else but it is just placing the other person’s webpage link on your page at appropriate place and other person will also do same for you.

  6. mosquito information facts

    Its like you read my mind! You seem to know so much about this, like
    you wrote the book in it or something. I think that you can do with a few pics
    to drive the message home a little bit, but other than that, this is magnificent
    blog. An excellent read. I will definitely be back.

  7. Jasmine

    Since the admin of this web site is working, no question very rapidly it will be famous, due to its quality
    contents.

  8. www.recipes2die4.blogspot.com

    I know this if off topic but I’m looking into starting my own weblog and was wondering what all is needed to get set up? I’m assuming having a blog like yours
    would cost a pretty penny? I’m not very web savvy so I’m
    not 100% certain. Any tips or advice would be greatly
    appreciated. Appreciate it

  9. Staci

    Hello, everything is going perfectly here and ofcourse every
    one is sharing facts, that’s genuinely fine, keep up writing.

  10. ovarian cyst cause

    You are so interesting! I do not think I’ve truly read through something like that before. So nice to find somebody with original thoughts on this topic. Really.. many thanks for starting this up. This web site is something that is needed on the web, someone with some originality!

  11. life coach academy

    I just like the valuable info you provide in your articles.
    I will bookmark your weblog and test again here frequently.
    I’m reasonably sure I’ll be told a lot of new stuff right right here!
    Best of luck for the next!

  12. structured settlements florida

    Thanks for one’s marvelous posting! I certainly enjoyed reading it, you could be a great author.I will remember to bookmark your blog and will come back sometime soon. I want to encourage yourself to continue your great work, have a nice afternoon!

  13. click here

    Hmm is anyone else encountering problems with the images on this blog loading?
    I’m trying to find out if its a problem on my end or if it’s the blog.
    Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

  14. Sports Betting Systems

    To any and all football announcers out there, there are two simple rules you should all live by that would make me and
    millions of other football fans very, very happy.
    A guide with strategies, statistics, so on and so forth is going to offer you a different perspective on football betting.
    Sometimes, especially on those games in which you are intimately knowledgeable, you might know more than those who are responsible
    for setting the football betting lines.

  15. Trenér In-line Bruslení

    Whats up are using WordPress for your blog platform? I’m new
    to the blog world but I’m trying to get started
    and create my own. Do you require any coding expertise to make your own blog?
    Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  16. iphone spy

    Hello this is somewhat of off topic but I was wondering if
    blogs use WYSIWYG editors or if you have to manually code with HTML.
    I’m starting a blog soon but have no coding experience so I wanted to get guidance from someone with experience.
    Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  17. best web hosting best Antivirus 2013 cnet

    It is the best time to make some plans for the future and it is time to be happy.

    I have learn this submit and if I may just I want to suggest you some interesting things or tips.
    Perhaps you can write next articles relating to this article.
    I wish to read even more things about it!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s