631 Ninth Avenue, East Village
Mmm…the Naughty Constables are great and spicy, but popping okra pods in your mouth is the best. Little liquid explosions with a tang that kicks the sausage flavor to life.
Naughty Constables is the name for these little round discs of salami (okay, salumi) I’m chomping into. They’re “Thurirger Cervelot–style sausage spiced with caraway and juniper,” according to the menu. But it’s combining them with the house-pickled okra that makes them happen.
They’re part of my late-late brekky here at the Village. Like, 2:00 in the afternoon. And it’s not just me. The danged place is filled with java-juicing laptoppers.
Place took over from Java Joe’s a year and a half ago. Now the welcome mat reads “Village 631.” Name makes you think of a gulag in Siberia, but, hey, far too nice. And the full name over the door is “The Village @ 631.”
So, here I was, passing by, when I noticed this gal Megan sitting outside in the sunshine, in a big comfy red chair under a black umbrella, pounding away at her laptop. “This is my hangout,” she said. “I live at the hostel nearby.”
Next minute, I’m inside the big ol’ arch-roofed hangar of a place. “Used to be a glass factory,” says Sarah-Dawn, the lady behind the counter. “All that timber up there and the brick walls are from the 1920s, at least.” Beautiful painted-glass lampshades hang over the counter. Looks like they’re from the same era.
I check the menu. For breakfast, they have nuts-and-twigs items, like the “Fit Bowl,” which is egg whites, brown rice, marinated tofu, and Swiss chard, $8.95. Uh, even at this hour, hard to face. Also, egg-ham-cheese-tomato-stuffed croissants for $7.95. Also, scrambles, like the pesto (with ham, asparagus, kale, spinach, parmesan, and “arugula almond pesto”) for $6.95.
Then — uh-oh. I see what I don’t want to see: “Breakfast till 1:00 p.m.” I’m too late. Oh, well.
Actually, what I want (need!) is a basic cuppa coffee.
I croak my request to this other gal, Judy, then while I wait, start back into the menu.
Salads, like the spinach, run to $6.75. Sandwiches, such as the Croque Monsieur (with ham, egg, and cheese), are mostly $8.95.
Then there seems to be a separate “wine bar” menu. Small bites, $5 each. Some items, like the plate of warm mixed nuts, or gorgonzola-stuffed dates, or bacon popcorn — ain’t gonna fill the bill. But I see more serious choices, like “Meatmen Sausages.” They come on a baguette with “smashed potato salad” and “house-made” dill pickle. These kind of dishes are $9. The Cheddar Wurst has melted onions and whole-grain mustard. The Sweet Italian comes with provolone, roasted peppers, and pesto. The Kaserkrainer has gouda and aioli.
They also have flatbreads. Like the “Beef and Bleu” ($8), grilled steak with gorgonzola, melted onions, and arugula.
Ooh…maybe that’s the one.
Except, Sarah-Dawn says it’s only served at the wine bar, in its own section at the back of the place. Kinda cool-looking area with art on the walls. Problem: wine bar doesn’t open till 4:00 p.m.
Ho-kay. Back to Plan A.
Mulling that Croque Monsieur (mostly because I like the name the French gave to a toasted ham-and-cheese sandwich), or maybe the Porto Panini (also $8.95), with portobello mushrooms, eggplant, zucchini, roasted red peppers, and mozzarella. All veggies, but luscious possibilities.
In the end, guess what? A bit of whining on my part, three trips to the kitchen on Sarah-Dawn’s part, and the chef says I can have one of the sausage-cheese boards from the wine-bar menu, even though it’s no way four o’clock.
The cheapest is $13. That’s for the small board. But can’t backtrack now. So: more choices to be made. You choose three of five different salumi sausages. Each has a crazy name.
There’s that Naughty Constable. And Juicy Scandal, a dry, spicy-hot salami from southern Italy. And Flagrant Seeds, a finocchiona salami with an anise flavor that comes from fennel seeds. Tasty Treason is a salty French sausage with “a sweet punch of cardamom and orange.” And Spicy Pepperoni is spiced with cayenne, basil, and fennel.
Sarah-Dawn says, “If you go for the $18 one, you can have all five.”
But I choose only three: Naughty Constables, Tasty Treason (never quite worked out what these names are about), and Spicy Pepperoni.
Judy brings them on a wooden board, neat little rows of salami, each with different pickled veggies on top. Pickles, carrots, and that pickled okra. I ask for bread and get a thin-sliced chunk of baguette.
At first I think, 13 bucks? That’s a lot. But then I discover how much you’re getting here. Would’ve been nice to have a glass of vino, but the coffee (the “small” for $2 is served in a sizable white ceramic cup) is a great counterpoint to all the saltiness.
I look around. The brick and timbers are beautiful. So’s the winter sun coming through where the glass doors are folded back. But most people here don’t notice; their heads are down in their laptops.
“We get students from the Thomas Jefferson law school, the New School of Architecture, social-networking companies, and the fitness community,” says Sarah-Dawn. “They come work here, have meetings…this is their other office.”
Hmm…price of a coffee; it’s way cheaper than renting space. Why not ditch the first office? Be a regular Joe with a cuppa regular joe, working here until you get a regular job. There are worse places to spend your day.
The Place: The Village @ 631, 631 Ninth Avenue, downtown, 619-255-9405
Prices: Breakfast Fit Bowl (egg whites, brown rice, marinated tofu, and Swiss chard), $8.95; egg-ham-cheese-tomato-stuffed croissant, $7.95; pesto scramble (with ham, cheese, veggies), $6.95; spinach salad, $6.75; Croque Monsieur, $8.95; Cheddar Wurst sausage on baguette, $9; Beef and Bleu flatbread (with grilled steak), $8; small salumi board, $13
Hours: Saturday–Tuesday, 7:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m.; Wednesday–Friday, 7:00 a.m.–10:00 p.m.
Buses: 11, 901, 929
Nearest Bus Stops: Eighth and Market (11); 11th and Market (901, 929)
Trolleys: Blue Line; Orange Line
Nearest Trolley Stop: Park Boulevard (12th) and Market