By The Hack
How often would you describe a ham sandwich as “savory”? Um, never. Unless, of course, you try the ham sandwich at The Citizen Café, the restaurant opened by former Sample Room executive chef Michael MacKay. I’ve eaten fine dinners at this restaurant, and always meant to give it the big thumbs up, but, alas, never got to typing. It’s that damn day job. Which reminds me, I wrote about it for the day job just prior to its opening.
But anyway, the sandwich I ate yesterday. Or, rather, my half sandwich and cup of French onion soup. Grilled ham and brie cheese with roasted pear mustard on brioche. It’s the little details that make this place go—such as the brie and roast pear mustard that turn an everyday sandwich into something memorable. Pops ordered a half BLT with hand-cut bacon, which also looked and smelled fantastic.
You’ll find that throughout the menu. There’s nothing outwardly that sounds revolutionary, but the innovation is in the details, like that roast pear mustard. All that stuff—and everything else (including the gravlax)—is made from scratch, in-house. Serves breakfast faves like a fried egg sandwich, steak and eggs or healthful choices like yogurt smoothies, house-mixed granola and fresh seasonal fruit. Lunch is a variety of sandwiches and salads; dinners include roast turkey breast, a sumptuous three-day pork roast, seafood and vegetarian options.
MacKay has the skills to do whatever restaurant concept he wants. But he found a great location in a working-class neighborhood a short walk from the LRT on Hiawatha. He looked around and built what works—what the neighborhood needed, rather than inserting an ego-driven restaurant that might make a short-term splash, but have no long-term life.
It’s food made with care by knowledgeable hands that’s a perfect neighborhood joint. Funny thing, though. It’s that care for the details that also make it a destination restaurant.