Cafe Carmo (527 Julia St., 875-4132; www.cafecarmo.com) and Satsuma Cafe (3218 Dauphine St., 304-5962; www.satsumacafe.com) are two popular lunch spots that have quickly built niches for themselves — Carmo for serving a refreshingly different (and often meatless) tropical cuisine in the Warehouse District, Satsuma for bringing the farm-to-table approach to its coffee house setting in Bywater.
Both now also serve dinner, adding offbeat, affordable options in their respective neighborhoods.
As of last week, Carmo started serving dinner from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday through Saturday — in addition to its ongoing lunch hours of 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
The prevailing theme at Cafe Carmo is Brazilian cooking, but don't look for the typical Brazilian steakhouse experience. Instead, owners Christine and Dana Honn specialize in different, often complex tropical cooking with traditional Brazilian dishes as well as many other influences from Africa to Asia. While it is not a vegetarian restaurant per se, vegan substitutions are available, and often specifically engineered, for many of the dishes.
Evening service features the most popular dishes from lunch, plus some new dinner items. A few examples include acaraje, a Brazilian black-eyed pea fritter filled with shrimp and doused with hot sauce; rum-cured, cold-smoked tuna with chili oil and pickled quail eggs; an oyster plate with cold-smoked, pickled oysters and marinated, hot-smoked oysters, and dumplings with blue crab, cabbage and mushrooms.
Carmo recently expanded from its initial tiny space, roughly doubling its seating inside and adding sidewalk seating as well. The cafe now has a full bar and offers delivery for dinner. It is not accepting reservations for now.
In the Bywater, Satsuma has launched dinner service from Wednesday through Saturday, beginning at 6:30 p.m.
Satsuma took over a former coffee shop, and while it certainly serves a good cup of coffee, the place made a name for itself by working plenty of seasonal, locally sourced foods into its inexpensive breakfast and lunch menu.
Owners Cassi and Peter Dymond have served dinner at the cafe before for special fundraising events, most recently in September to help an employee's family recover from flooding after Hurricane Irene. At the time they said that the event would double as a test run for future dinner service. Now, the menu and format for evening service is underway with Michael Costantini as the dinner chef and Christina Balzabre as the pastry chef.
The menu includes a short list of snacks, like Spanish anchovies and spiced Marcona almonds; a collection of hot and cold small plates, like a beet and crab salad and gnocchi with kale and sage; entrees like roasted chicken, hanger steak salad and flounder with fried garlic, fennel and peppers; and desserts such as ginger cake with plum-blackberry compote and cardamom cream.
Satsuma is BYOB, with no corkage fee. Reservations are not accepted.