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Working Lunch: Brewer’s Cafe 

An affordable option provides some warmth and soul in Manchester.

click to enlarge The Exit 73 Veggie Panini at the friendly and comfortable Brewer’s Cafe in Manchester.

Scott Elmquist

The Exit 73 Veggie Panini at the friendly and comfortable Brewer’s Cafe in Manchester.

Do you have a lunch spot that just makes you happy? A place that hits you with a smile, and reminds you of all the joy and goodness in other human beings? That may sound like a ridiculously tall order for a sandwich shop, but Brewer’s Cafe brings it.

The friendly service, the soft music, the simple, comforting food and even the flyers pinned to the wall create a humble but uplifting warmth at Brewer’s Cafe that feeds the belly and the soul.

click to enlarge Brewer’s son Parker has his own candy stand. - SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist
  • Brewer’s son Parker has his own candy stand.

Vibe

Stories and photos pinned to the wall at Brewer’s introduce patrons to owner Ajay Brewer and his small son, Parker. Many of the press clippings are about community involvement and support. For example, earlier this year Parker raised money for his school by collecting sponsors for a 50-mile bike ride on the Capital Trail — he was 5 years old.

There is a small collection of toys and children’s books in the corner to welcome small guests, along with a child-height candy stand. The small tables and window counter encourage guests to interact, or at least swap a quick smile as they scooch by.

Inspirational quotes and work from local artists adorn the walls, along with flyers about community events like coat drives and concerts. This place feels deeply connected to its Manchester roots.

click to enlarge The Brewer’s Club. - SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist
  • The Brewer’s Club.

Menu

Brewer’s Cafe offers a variety of sandwiches, simple classics like chicken salad, veggie wrap and roast beef, many served on local Billy Bread. The chicken sandwich has a tangy pop from dried cranberries and Sriracha mayo. Hummus, grilled veggies and olives pack flavor into the Mediterranean veggie wrap.

The breakfast-all-day sandwich options are substantial and filling. Egg sandwiches include the Manchester with ham, egg and Swiss cheese, the Dogtown, with turkey, egg and provolone, or the Blackwell with veggie sausage. If you need it to feel more like lunch, add arugula and tomato for $1.

The juice bar offers an excellent fresh-squeezed lemonade, along with healthy mixes like Green Revolution, Stay Woke and Feel the Beet. Although maybe not the smartest working lunch option, Brewer’s offers several delicious coffee-and-bourbon drinks. Locally made doughnuts and baked goods round out the menu, including the best oatmeal cream pie I’ve ever had.

Workability

Settle in with your laptop and connect with the free Wi-Fi: Brewer’s is an excellent spot for getting some work done. A flood of natural light will brighten your mood. Small tables and counter spots are perfect for the solo worker or duo. The juice bar is remarkably quiet.

Because Brewer’s is small, it’s not the best place for a larger work lunch or meeting, but check out the catering menu. There are a few larger tables outside.

There are no booths, although there is a bench seat by the juice bar. Not all of the assorted chairs are comfortable enough for a long stretch, so don’t expect to camp out all day.

click to enlarge Barista Shirron Jones makes a latte. - SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist
  • Barista Shirron Jones makes a latte.

Speed

There’s not much room for a line to form, so it’s a good thing that orders move quickly at Brewer’s. There is no table service: Guests order at the counter, leave a name, then pick up their food when it’s called. The busing station has both trash and recycling bin, all too rare in nonchain lunch spots in Richmond.

This is a quick lunch spot for both eat-in or takeout, close to downtown via either the Ninth Street or Belvidere bridges. Street parking is easy to find in this still-growing part of Manchester, although ongoing construction sometimes blocks off side sections of the street.

click to enlarge SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist

Price

At $8 - $9 along with a side of fruit or chips, the lunch sandwiches are a decent size for the money and won’t leave you hungry. Fresh juice blends are $5.95 for 12 ounces.

The real value at Brewer’s is in the breakfast sandwiches, which cost from $5.75 to $7.50. Grab a breakfast sandwich, splurge on arugula and tomato, then add a day-old doughnut ($1) to eat big for less than $10.

Overall, Brewer’s Cafe is a welcome anchor spot that creates a warm neighborhood feel and adds soul to Manchester’s fast-growing development.

Brewer’s Cafe
1125 Bainbridge St.
Mondays - Fridays 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Saturdays and Sundays 8 a.m. – 7 p.m.
brewerscaferva.com

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