A casual business lunch brought me to Lemon Grass cafe last Tuesday afternoon. It is located at 124 6th St, downtown. It labels itself as a Cambodian restaurant with plentiful vegetarian options.
A 12:15 arrival found us a full house. We waited about 5 minutes for a table to open. Lunch menus were quickly provided. Lemon Grass Cafe has a multitude of lunch specials in the $7 to $10 – most can be made vegetarian or ordered with chicken. Each lunch special comes with a cup of lemon grass soup and a small spring roll.
I ordered the Moarn Chha Kyei with chicken. The description of the dish mentioned shredded ginger root, pineapple, and vegetables. Two others at the table ordered the same thing and a veteran of Lemon Grass lunches ordered the Chicken Panang.
Service was efficient. The soup was out in a matter of minutes and the lunch entrees were quick to follow.
I really enjoyed the soup. Flavorful broth, juicy tomatoes and (I believe) cilantro. I have never tasted anything like this. My soup was slurped up and I nibbled on the spring roll. Nothing special, but a nice little throw in for a lunch meal.
My main dish was enjoyable. It was not too heavy and had plenty of veggies (red pepper, bamboo shoots, etc). The serving was pretty generous – white rice was included. I could have used more ginger, but as I have mentioned before, I am a bit of a ginger freak. The others at the table labeled it as just ‘ok’. Apparently the chicken panang out shown the other dishes that day. I would like to try the chicken panang (usually chicken with a coconut milk/curry sauce) on a future visit.
My total bill, with tip, was right around $10. Not bad for lunch. Heck, you will pay that for a sandwich and a drink at Au Bon Pain. We were also in and out in under an hour. Lemon Grass Cafe was comparable, quality wise, to another downtown lunchtime favorite, Chinatown Inn. If you want to sit somewhere and enjoy something different, I would offer Lemon Grass as a good option.
To note, Lemon Grass Cafe claims to be open until 9PM (and possibly even later on certain night for theater go-ers). A colleague claimed he tried to dine here one weeknight evening and it was closed – this place is definitely hopping at lunch but I cannot attest to the crowd or hours at night.