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Drop by City Cafe for a vegetarian meal and an opinion

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Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2009

City Cafe in Lawrenceville is a great place for lunch if you don't mind eating breakfast.

You also have to forget meat, because City Cafe is strictly vegetarian.

"I don't eat meat, and I wouldn't serve it," says owner Emil Lester, who moved the cafe when he lost his space in Market Square almost a year ago.

None of that should matter, though. Lester's offering of seven baked omelets (all at $6.95) are tasty enough to create a good lunch. The flavors are not necessarily breakfast-like either, and get away from a mild cheddar-and-veggies combo. The Italian omelet is filled with peppers, tomato and mozzarella, the Mexican features onions, peppers, potatoes and mozzarella, and the Greek has feta, black olives and green onions.

Of course, if a milder breakfast or a light lunch is sought, there is the Dainty Breakfast of poached eggs, fruit and a bagel, or even the Country Breakfast of pan-fried eggs, whole-grain bread, preserves and a side of fresh fruit (both $5.95).

Taking a step above that is the Spicy Egg, Cheese and Burrito Grande with salsa and fruit ($5.95).

There also are simpler breakfast items such as oatmeal with steamed milk, brown sugar, raisins and fresh fruit, or granola with yogurt or fresh fruit and milk (both $4.25).

Lester also serves a daily vegetarian soup for $4.95 or soup and a bagel for $5.95, the latter of which "is big enough for a lunch."

But there is more to the City Cafe than the breakfast and lunch offerings. It is easy to get Lester to offer his thoughts on matters, although he doesn't force them on anyone.

But he holds automobiles and cigarettes in the same disregard as he does eating meat. He bicycles to work from Point Breeze every day and will expound readily on the senselessness of the automobile. On one chilly day recently, he opened the front door of the City Cafe to air it out after the departure of a customer whom he said obviously had cigarette smoke on his clothes.

"It is a true cafe," says customer Chris Chapman of Bridgeville. Chapman, who works for the Diocese of Pittsburgh, became a City Cafe fan when it was in Market Square and still makes trips to Lawrenceville to get a taste of the food -- and Lester.

Chapman talks about the atmosphere of the place being one of its best aspects. With generally classical music in the background, Lester making everything per order and the chances of a good conversation, a stop at City Cafe is far different from a visit to a fast-food chain.

The owner's opinions and his ease at discussing matters make City Cafe an appropriate spot to settle back with a La Prima Fair Trade Organic French Roast coffee ($1.75 for 12 ounces, $2 for 16), espresso ($2), cappuccino ($3) or latte ($3).

Lester also serves seven varieties of fresh-brewed hot or iced tea at $2. The iced tea, by the way, comes in a 16-ounce glass still bearing its bag, a different touch for the colder variety.

Additional Information:

City Cafe

Location: 4502 Butler St., Lawrenceville

Hours: 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day

Details: 412-621-2460

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