Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Café closed (but blog continues)

The small café that inspired this blog, sadly, has closed after about 10 years of operation. Sadly. The trough of the economic downturn has reached our fair burg, forcing the owners to call it quits. The presence of a huge state university created shielding economic bubble, but finally the center on could not hold. The place attracted a business lunch crowd, but not so much dinner

The 50-year old stand-alone brick building with two large front windows on either side of the door, started as a beer joint/domino hall, and is owned by the descendents of the original proprietor. The dining room walls were chockfull with fishing artifacts: hooks, poles, a framed display of knots, nets, reels, oil paintings, pulleys. Neon beer signs provided a warm glow. The used wooden chairs and tables had been sanded and refinished to a gloss.

The kitchen was all stainless steel appliances, food prep areas, shelves, and sinks. This restaurant routinely scored 100s on health department inspections. The chef was meticulous about food safety and cleanliness.

Although the menu was roadhouse fare—chicken-fried steak, catfish, ribeye steaks, hamburgers, BLTs—the menu contained some surprises: crawfish etouffé and occasionally, seafood gumbo.  For special occasions, such as Valentine’s Day, the chef (grandson of the original owner) would whip up sublime entreés, such as fish in a white wine sauce. Everything was prepared from scratch: even the onion rings were meticulously cut buy hand and dipped in a house-prepared batter.

The chef/owner routinely employed waitstaff from a substance-abuse halfway house. All those I worked with were outstanding, smart, efficient, and hard-workers. It was a great place to work and, to my thinking, a cultural icon.

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