18th Street Cafe

The Daily Creative Company, you’ve got some healthy competition. The 4-year-old 18th Street Café just got hip to the fact that downtown denizens need good takeout grub at night too, so owner Jeff Stephens unveiled a dinner menu, complete with beer and wine.

Many of the items you can also order during lunch at this popular spot known for quick but nutritious grub – sandwiches, salads and burgers. And the already fair prices aren’t that much higher. The major adds have been such entrees as grilled mahi, wild caught and served on a bed of greens; skinless grilled chicken breast; and homestyle meatloaf. Their “special recipe” is an unusually tasty mix of ground beef, turkey and pork topped with a cozy brown gravy. Another new option is an entire dinner for two. For $60.75, you receive a quesadilla appetizer; two entrees, sandwiches or burgers; two sides; and a bottle of house wine. Fancy night? Upgrade to champagne for $79.75 and to Dom Perignon for $189.75.

The famished should go for the Black and Bleu Burger, 10 ounces of blackened Angus beef on a Kaiser roll with blue cheese. It’s big enough to cut in half and share; five ounces of meat is a good daily dose. There’s also a turkey burger if you’re feeling cowed out. Unique sides include sea salt fries (addictive), basmati rice and a housemade cole slaw. The signature has caramelized onions, avocado and bacon. How can you miss?

Don’t overlook the café’s so-called international chop salads. All are supertasty. The curry chop is diced romaine layered with saffron rice, cherry tomatoes and avocados topped with a good helping of spicy, marinated chicken, guacamole and pico de gallo. Add your own chili powder for an extra blast. There is also a Mexican chop, which is similar, but contains corn and black-bean salsa and a savory chipotle dressing. FYI: This isn’t the chop you get at Pollo Tropical’s drive-through. The Moroccan version is another pleaser, with lemon couscous, hummus and feta cheese. The chicken is seasoned with ras el hangout, an aromatic blend of more than 20 North African spices. The idea came from a family friend in Morocco, said Stephens, who lives in Morningside. The whole mouthful is topped with garlic salsa and apricot dressing. Yowza! An Asian chop is in the works, as well as a Cajun one with dirty rice. My mouth is watering.

There’s a reason why the food tastes so good. “We believe in everything fresh,” says Stephens, who buys from all local purveyors. “We don’t have a lot of refrigeration – by choice.”