3218 Dauphine St.
New Orleans, LA 70117
Napoleon's Rating - ***/*****
Satsuma Café looks and feels like a funky neighborhood coffee shop tucked into one of the city's funkiest neighborhoods, the Bywater. Indeed, in its prior incarnation this colorful building was primarily a coffee shop and today it still fills the role for some customers. But what's really drawn attention to this place isn't the coffee so much as the crops. Satsuma Café spins locally-sourced, organically-grown raw ingredients into affordable breakfast and lunch dishes that feel healthy and taste delicious.
Take a seat in this café, look around and you might feel as though you're peering into a kaleidoscope. The room looks like a complex mosaic of trash-to-treasure finds, reclaimed folk art and thrift store furniture. It's an interesting environment, though some of the unconventional seating arrangements are too cramped for a comfortable meal. The crowd is as diverse as its neighborhood. Some people zip in for a coffee and muffin on the way to work, while others look like they set up camp here for half the day.
Coffee shop-style service remains the order of the day. You line up, order at the register and wait for someone to call your name. The folks here are friendly enough, and they'll take the time to answer your questions about unfamiliar ingredients, but this place does get backed up easily. The tiny kitchen is in plain view and it has a very limited capacity, so when it's busy you can expect to wait.
Owners Cassi and Peter Dymond have evolved an intricate supply chain for fresh local produce, eggs and meats since opening Satsuma Café, and that means many of the dishes change frequently and come with local pedigree. A plate of scrambled eggs might feature locally-foraged chanterelle mushrooms, while the eggs themselves may have been collected from birds cooped up just down the street. French toast might be served with roasted pears and vanilla and cinnamon, while chocolate chip pancakes are as simple and satisfying as they sound. The "green breakfast sandwich" brings fresh arugula to bear along with eggs, avocado and cheese. Salads are gorgeously crisp and fresh. While vegetarians will cheer the options here, this is hardly a vegetarian restaurant. Planks of thick-cut bacon go over salads, fill sandwiches and are cut into the quiche. Excellent ciabatta bread sets up turkey sandwiches stacked with layer after layer of meat and an Italian grilled cheese features spicy salami, provolone and caramelized onions.
Muffins, brownies and other baked goods stare you down from their cake domes by the register. They're all made in house and often feature offbeat flavors, like the moist and dense pumpkin muffins.
Satsuma Café doubles as a coffee shop, and also as a juice bar with healthful drinks made from organic produce squeezed or juiced right there. The pineapple-ginger limeade has a refreshing zing while the uncommonly hearty "green drink" mixes kale, celery, cucumber, apple and fennel.
Prices here are a shade more than you might expect for a salad and sandwich, but given the high quality of the groceries and the palpable freshness it all still seems like a good deal. A sandwich with side salad and a pint of fresh juice can run you about $13.
It's increasingly common to hear fine-dining chefs all over town crowing about their local ingredients and relationship with farmers, but few places at the casual, inexpensive end of the restaurant scene embrace this revived farm-to-table approach as tightly as Satsuma Café. It's worth a detour to see what they have cooking.