by Ian McNulty
Approach the First Bank & Trust Tower on Poydras Street, and its sleek façade, brass detailing and classic bronze sculptures speak of money. That’s appropriate enough for a bank headquarters, but the ground floor of this CBD skyscraper is also now where to find green of another sort.
City Greens, the newest salad slingers in the CBD, opened here in late January. Just proceed past the security desk and you’ll find that the polished marble floors lead to a café with a modern and decidedly more lighthearted design. Step up to the counter, and servers quickly whip together fresh salads from a large and impressively stocked bar of greens, assorted shredded fruits and vegetables and other fixings.
“Traveling around, we saw lots of salad shops turning up in other cities and felt New Orleans was definitely limited in healthier options, so this was a niche we could fill in the market,” says Micheal Birtel, who started City Greens along with business partner Ben Kazenmaier.
This is the first restaurant from the two, but they took some time last year to test run the concept as a pop-up. Initially they operated on Sundays inside Vizard’s, the Uptown fine-dining restaurant where they had both previously worked.
Birtel says his former boss there, chef/owner Kevin Vizard, “was pretty instrumental in helping us figure out a model for something we thought New Orleans was missing.”
The Vizard’s pop-up arrangement lasted until the summer, and in the fall City Greens moved downtown, initially to a spot inside Tulane Medical School while build-out continued at its permanent location.
“The seasons changed so our ingredients changed too and we got to test our menu with a downtown crowd,” Birtel says. “There’s a diverse student body there, people from all different cities, so it was good to see what they responded to.”
At its permanent Poydras Street location, salads are of course the star attractions. Among the options is one with arugula, apples, candied walnuts, goat cheese, bacon with red wine vinaigrette; a Caesar with roasted garlic and a truffle-spiked dressing; and a market salad with a mix of kale, arugula, carrots, fennel, beets, Brussels sprouts and radish in orange sherry vinaigrette. City Greens will fold any of them in a tortilla for a wrap sandwich, and the menu includes a few other wraps, like a Thai shrimp number done with a peanut dressing, herbs and mixed greens. You can build your own salad, and there are daily soups.
The menu changes seasonally, and most of the lettuce served here is grown at Kazenmaier’s own hydroponics farm in Florida. Other greens come from Covey Rise Farms, a small grower in Tangipahoa Parish. Meals are packed into serving containers from Eco-Products, a Boulder, Colo.-based supplier of “sustainable disposables” made from recycled or agricultural materials.
“That’s more expensive for us, but we wanted to be as eco-friendly as possible and we hope people will understand and relate to that,” says Birtel.
City Greens serves light breakfast (coffee, pastries, parfaits and such) and lunch Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.
909 Poydras St., 524-8878