Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Metro - Feeling the Pressure

As the Fort Point neighborhood slowly, but surely, trudges through its transformation one thing has become very clear...

Metro Cafe, the stalwart of lunch in the neighborhood for the past few years, is feeling the pressure.

Fort Point hasn't developed a reputation for food... at least not yet. But who knows what the future holds. For the past 2 years, the dining options for lunch have been limited. There are 2 Metro Cafe locations, 1 Au Bon Pain, Marco Polo, Sienna's, Sleeper Street, Yada Yada, and Finagle a Bagel. (Yes, some might say Lucky's or Channel, but I leave them out because they are both going to cost you in excess of $10 per day to eat there.) Obviously a couple of these places are chains, and you know what to expect. But the others are all pretty much built on the same model. Quantity over quality, affordability (under $10/day) and a cafeteria menu board of selections that change daily, but pretty much recycle weekly.

This model has allowed Metro to become THE spot for lunch, as they out-do all of their competitors at offering quantity.

The problem is, quality is moving in on their territory. For the past year or so, Flour has built a strong customer base. People willing to spend an extra dollar for a high quality lunch are making a difference in the lunchtime culture. Yes the sandwiches are smaller, but you don't hear anyone talking about "shiney chicken" after eating at a place like Flour.

Over the past month or three I've observed that Metro has put themselves on notice. They have begun making an effort to introduce higher-quality ingredients (whether it be artisan breads) and they have also begun to diversify their menu more (offering things like noodle bowls). Yes, they still offer the tride-and-true staples of their menu, but the alternatives have certainly been kicked up a notch.

Hopefully the influx of finer dining establishments in our neighborhood continues to raise the bar for our lunchtime options... but maybe not to the extent that lunch costs more than parking. ;)

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