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Cafe Raymond prides itself on being local and fast

| Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013, 7:33 p.m.
Owner Raymond Mikesell with the Cafe Raymond cheeseburger Thursday, January 31, 2013. It's made with 33% pork, beef, and bacon, with house-made pickles, tomatoes, and his secret sauce. Heidi Murrin Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
The Cafe Raymond cheeseburger made with 33% pork, beef, bacon, with house-made pickles, tomatoes, and owner Raymond Mikesell's secret sauce Thursday, Janaury 31, 2013 in the Strip District. Heidi Murrin Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Raymond Mikesell is serious when he says he likes to “go local as much as I can” at his Strip District restaurant.

Part of that locality is right inside Cafe Raymond, where he makes tempting pastries and what he estimates to be 80 percent of the bread products used for sandwiches.

Cafe Raymond is an understated lunch spot in the middle of the always-jumping Strip that specializes in hefty sandwiches and fresh, crisply appointed salads.

But don't forget those pastries (or, if you are being disciplined, maybe you had better).

Mikesell says he founded the restaurant five years ago to be a “good lunch spot” that he also wanted to be oriented to local vendors and farmers.

Being in the Strip helps the latter goal a good bit. He is surrounded by meats and produce. The 20 percent of the bread products that he does not produce comes from Breadworks on the North Side, where he worked 13 years.

Freshness comes into play in creation of meals, as well as ingredients. Don't expect to find sandwiches in plastic wrap or salads on plastic plates easing the way to a quick lunch order. Nope, orders are made as they are received, but done so quickly there isn't much difference.

Just behind the tables that seat about 25 is a . Orders are placed there, then given to the kitchen crew that puts them together.

Estimating how much lunch will cost at the cafe is rather easy. Most sandwiches and salads are $7.99. Some are not, simply because of higher-priced ingredients. The smoked salmon sandwich, for instance, is $8.50 to cover its smoked salmon, cucumbers, spring mix, tomatoes, red onions, capers and honey mustard.

There also is the banh mi, a Vietnamese sandwich with pork belly, pickled carrots, cilantro and jalapenos for $8.99.

But the cast of regulars includes a roast beef with blue cheese, spring mix, tomatoes, red onions and roasted garlic mayo on ciabatta and a BLT with applewood-smoked bacon, lettuce, tomatoes and mayo on ciabatta.

There also are specials every day. Mikesell says Thursdays are extra-special, with the Cafe Raymond Burger of ground pork and beef with bacon.

He says the Mediterranean salad and the BLT are two of his favorite menu items. That salad is made of spring mix, feta cheese, roasted red tomatoes, olives, capers, kalamata olives, cucumbers, red onions and house lemon vinaigrette.

It leads a list that includes the Nicoise, with tuna, french green beans, red onions, hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes, kalamata olives, roasted red tomatoes, capers, cucumbers and a lemon vinaigrette. Another rich platter is the chef salad with spring mix, romaine hearts, turkey, ham, Swiss and cheddar cheese, cucumbers, red onions and ranch dressing.

Those pastries are still there for anyone needing some sugar. Slices of pie are $5.95, pieces of baklava are $3.25, biscotti is $1.50 and cookies are $1 each.

Fast and fresh make Cafe Raymond the “good lunch spot” Mikesell wants.

Cafe Raymond, 2103 Penn Ave., Strip District. Hours: 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Tuesdays -Fridays; 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays; 9:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Sundays. The restaurant is closed, but catering is available Monday. Details: 412-281-4670; www.caferaymond.com

Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at bkarlovits@tribweb.com or 412-320-7852.

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