After seeing a couple of people post about Labor District Café, I was intrigued because I hadn’t really heard much about it. Apparently it just opened around Christmas and is from the same people who brought us Punch Burger. It’s up on the second floor of the BMO building downtown. Not sure you’d notice it if you didn’t work there or randomly hear about it. A bit of signage might be good.
Anyway, I met my friend @wibia there since he works nearby. I liked the way they start you out with a bowl of salty local popcorn from Cousin Willie’s Farm in Ramsey, Indiana. This seems to be a theme here. They are definitely trying to source a lot of the menu items locally—even the ketchup is Red Gold. Of course I think this is a great idea, and you get some wonderful quality ingredients, but you will also pay a bit of a premium price-wise compared to other quick service sandwich places nearby.
The popcorn though was tasty—light and fresh and nicely salty (and just a little butter flavor). If I worked in this building, that popcorn might become a workday addiction for me.
The menu is mainly made up of sandwiches and salads. None of them sound bad at all, but honestly, I was having a hard time finding something that jumped out at me. I settled on a “pick two” so I could try a sandwich and some soup ($8.88). The soup was broccoli with cheese. It was good—and a really large bowl I will say (I was expecting a cup). I am a sucker for broccoli cheese soup—this was more of a broccoli cream flavor, some decent chunks of broccoli and a lot of broccoli flavor. I appreciated that it wasn’t over cheesy. The sandwich was just kind of okay. I had half the spicy Cali club. I asked him if it was warm, and he said they could make it warm for me if I wanted. I did since it was practically blizzarding outside at the time (you do get a nice view of Penn from the large windows overlooking the street). They toasted the bread, but that was all that made it warm. I don’t know, it was just a stack of ingredients that were fine, but nothing that made you feel like you couldn’t do it yourself pretty easily. It was sliced turkey, bacon (they use Goose), lettuce, avocado, habanero cheddar, tomato (very thick slice) and mayo. It all just kind of toppled over when they put it on the table. I would have loved to have it with the cheese melted—maybe a quick press in a Panini press—would have made it easier to eat. I also expected a little more spicy bite to it, with its name. A quick bite from @wibia’s roast beef sandwich revealed it suffered the same fate. And his had even less meat on it. We also shared a side of fries. They were fine. Could have stood to be cooked a little longer-they weren’t especially hot or overly crisp.
Overall, I am not sure about this place. We both discussed that it seemed to be lacking some draw to bring people in. The space is easy to miss from the street and the interior design is somewhat sparse. It could use a touch of warmth. I think it works at Punch with it’s modern, industrial feel, but this is a place that clearly was other restaurants before and there’s a mix of what I’m guessing was the old furniture with an attempt at the super modern look. Our server was very nice and they were quick with the food. I’d be tempted to try one of the entrées next time—the fried catfish or even the house made chicken fingers and see how they do with a regular meal rather than the sandwiches that didn’t really wow me.
Have you guys been here? Curious about what you think of the place.
Labor District Café
135 N. Pennsylvania Street, 2nd Floor