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Mickey's Cafe and Organics: where the police eat in St. Pete

He's a big guy with a long salt-and-pepper ponytail and a lilting accent that's hard to place (Greece by way of South Africa). Mickey Paleologos has been a fixture in downtown St. Petersburg for ages. In 2005, he opened Central Cafe & Organics, long before the word "organic" was bandied about with such fervor. He sold spinach-green wraps bristly with sprouts and bulging with hummus and crafted "cosmickey" cookies chewy with flaxseed and other good-for-you doodads. He sold the cafe at the end of 2010 in the midst of a divorce, but kept on with the cookies and such at St. Petersburg's Saturday Morning Market.

In mid March, he opened Mickey's Café & Organics in the Baubles & Bubbles jewelry store spot. The menu closely resembles that from the Central Cafe, with the addition of a full espresso menu and juice bar. As at Central Cafe, the fine print says that they source "local, organic ingredients whenever possible." Difference is, it's much more possible now than it was in the 2005 dark ages.

In the beverage case you'll find quaffs like Bruce Cost's organic unfiltered ginger ales and lovely organic iced teas and kombuchas. (Once Paleologos gets his liquor license, organic beers and wines will be added to the mix.) At the ordering counter, there's a small dessert case crowded with flourless (and thus gluten-free) macaroons, croissants and other baked goods ($2-$4). Place your order, grab your drink, find a spot at one of the handful of indoor or outdoor tables, and your food swiftly finds you (a boon to time-crunched lunchers).

There are two soups each day, one vegan and one not ($4 cup, $5.50 bowl): perhaps a puree of celery root perfumed with toasted coriander or homey, chunky lentil. For $7.95 you can opt for a soup and salad combo, and for $10.95 add a half a wrap and a small "cosmickey" cookie. From chicken salad to a really satisfying curried egg salad, wraps come packed with shredded carrot, red cabbage and romaine.

Chicken and tuna salad are given the same treatment, fairly scant on the mayo and studded with celery, pecans and dried cranberries, offered as wrap or salad. I found the salad route more exciting on a couple of visits for one reason: Mickey's housemade dressings are delicious, from a raspberry vinaigrette to mango chardonnay to chunky blue cheese. This last turns a "just green" salad — spinach, romaine, cuke, green bell peppers, avo, celery and sprouts — into a party.

For the observant diner, one thing becomes clear: The old saw about cops and doughnuts should be retired. For some reason, St. Petersburg's police force has found its way to Mickey's to enjoy a little tabbouleh, wheatberry salad or a postprandial Popcraft popsicle (a dynamic, all-natural fruit pops company based in Sarasota; $3.95). Cops turning in their crullers for cosmickey cookies? It's all part of Paleologos' master plan for downtown St. Pete.

Laura Reiley can be reached at lreiley@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley on Twitter. She dines anonymously and unannounced; the Times pays all expenses.

Mickey's Café & Organics

318 Central Ave., St. Petersburg; (727) 851-9832

Cuisine: Cafe

Hours: 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday

Details: V, MC, Disc., AmEx; no reservations; no alcohol yet

Prices: $5.95-$10.95

Rating out of four stars:

Food: ★★★ Service: ★★★ Atmosphere: ★★

Overall: ★★½

Mickey's Cafe and Organics: where the police eat in St. Pete 05/19/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 20, 2014 2:18pm]
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