Approach the First Bank and Trust Tower on Poydras Street and its sleek facade, brass detailing and classic bronze sculptures suggest money. That's appropriate enough for a bank headquarters, but the ground floor of this CBD skyscraper offers greens of another sort.
City Greens (909 Poydras St., 524-2822; www.eatcitygreens.com), the newest salad slingers in the CBD, opened in late January.
Once diners pass the security desk and polished marble floors, they find a cafe with a modern and decidedly more light design. Step up to the counter and servers quickly whip together salads from a large and impressively stocked bar of greens, fruits, vegetables and other fixings.
"Traveling around, we saw lots of salad shops turning up in other cities and felt New Orleans was definitely limited in healthier options, so this was a niche we could fill in the market," says Michael Birtel, who started City Greens along with business partner Ben Kazenmaier.
This is their first restaurant, but the two took some time last year to test the concept as a pop-up. They initially operated on Sundays inside Vizard's (5015 Magazine St., 895-2246), the Uptown fine-dining restaurant where both had previously worked. Birtel says his former boss there, chef/owner Kevin Vizard, "was pretty instrumental in helping us figure out a model for something we thought New Orleans was missing."
The Vizard's pop-up arrangement lasted until the summer, and in the fall City Greens moved downtown to a spot inside Tulane University School of Medicine while construction continued at its permanent location.
"The seasons changed so our ingredients changed too, and we got to test our menu with a downtown crowd," Birtel says.
At its permanent Poydras Street location, salads are the star attractions. Among the options is one with arugula, apples, candied walnuts, goat cheese, bacon and red wine vinaigrette. There's a Caesar salad with roasted garlic and a truffle-spiked dressing, and a market salad features a mix of kale, arugula, carrots, fennel, beets, Brussels sprouts and radishes in orange-sherry vinaigrette. City Greens will fold any of them in a tortilla for a wrap, and the menu includes a few other wraps, like a Thai shrimp version made with mixed greens, herbs and peanut dressing.
The menu changes seasonally, and most of the lettuce served here is grown at Kazenmaier's hydroponic farm in Florida. Other greens come from Covey Rise Farms, a small grower in Tangipahoa Parish. Meals are packed into serving containers from Eco-Products, a Boulder, Colo.-based supplier of "sustainable disposables" made from recycled or agricultural materials.
City Greens serves breakfast — light items such as coffee, pastries and parfaits — and lunch Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.