Sunday, February 21, 2010

Happy 4th Birthday, Cafe on Broadway!

I'm here at The Cafe on Broadway waiting to interview Harmony Johnstone-Reeser, the manager and chef. As always, she is one busy gal, so while I wait for her, I'm enjoying a delicious soy vanilla latte and a peaceful moment soaking in that lovely Cafe ambiance. It's chilly and drizzling outside, but here, I'm basking in the warm glow of lamplight and pleasant conversation all around me.

It's difficult to put into words, but The Cafe on Broadway embodies the best of what people love about coffee houses- comforting scents, coziness, great food, a sense of belonging and of course, delicious coffee. I'm listening to a group of nearby patrons who have already mentioned several times that "everything here is good." One girl ordered a macchiato (a double shot of espresso with foam on top) , and the group "oohed" and "ahhed" when it arrived in its dainty and sophisticated cup.

It's a peaceful yet energizing experience to be here. I'm on my own, loving some "me"-time, but I'm appreciating the proximity to others and hearing the conversations and lives going on all around me. I'm thrilled to take a moment to commemorate the Cafe's 4th Birthday. I know I speak for many when I say how happy I am to have it in my town!

WOMS: So, Harmony, tell me about The Cafe on Broadway's history.

HJR: We've been downtown for four years now. We started out using only a third of the building space. Part of it was leased to Main Street Siloam Springs. Over time, we kept growing and growing into the space, and now we use it all.

WOMS: I also had the good luck of catching Carolyn Robinson, part-owner of the Cafe (along with her husband, Rick). She filled in some details about the Cafe's origins:

CR: Rick and I had really developed an interest in downtown Siloam Springs. We owned the building, and we had an office space open up, and we decided to try something different. It was time for downtown to take off again. We love the old vintage buildings and Rick is really good at refurbishing. He did much of the Cafe renovation work himself, and back when he was renovating on the weekends, there were no cars downtown. Now look at it! We have the parks and trails a block away, Sager Creek meanders nearby, the theater is around the corner, and in addition to the successful businesses that were already here, we now have all of these great retail destinations, too.

We opened one side of the cafe with 16 chairs 6 tables. After a short time with a great first employee, Ben Vickery, we had the good fortune to find Harmony, who took our idea and ran with it. We wanted the food to be really good, but served in a timely manner. Our motto is, "Good Food, and Fast". We didn't want fried food, we wanted healthy options. Harmony used our menu ideas at first, but gradually introduced her own flair. Rick is a great cook, too and together they created an entirely original menu.

Later, we added the La Marzocco semi-automatic espresso machine- the Cadillac of espresso makers. We felt like that added a whole new dimension to the Cafe. We put a lot into the coffee side of things, training and equipment, and people flocked in. We started small, but each time we add new things, people embrace it and give us a great response. Initially, Harmony worked all by herself, and now we're up to 10 staff members.

In addition to achieving our goal of providing good food downtown, we find that we are also achieving another goal- we are a destination point for everyone. There's something at the Cafe for everybody. We feel really supported by the Siloam citizens- they've been there as the Cafe has grown and they've supported us every step of the way.

WOMS: Harmony, what is the signature meal and drink at the cafe?

HJR: Meal-probably the Monte Cristo Panini. Like most items at the Cafe, we try to put a healthy spin on it. It's not deep fried (like a traditional Monte Cristo sandwich), but the flavor is still excellent- and of course it's dusted with powdered sugar! Beverage- honestly, our cappuccino!

WOMS: How would you describe the "feel" of the cafe?

HJR: I would say that it is homey and comfortable. You can lounge around for hours. My vision for it is that even though we're just this small town cafe, I have traveled around the world for inspiration and ideas to make our place more inviting, and to focus on quality. I think we're at a place now where we want to simplify and focus on what we're good at. I think we're doing a good job of that.

WOMS: Tell me about some of your "regulars".

HJR: Angela- she started coming once or twice or day about two years ago, and now it's more like 5 times a day. We affectionately call her "Breve Angela" [after her favorite beverage]. She has a great personality and it's a treat when she comes and talks to us. We consider her a friend.

Mary- I met her at the Presbyterian Church church rummage sale, we started talking, and she asked me what I do. I told her about the Cafe and she asked if the Cafe had organic food. I said yes, so she stared coming almost every day for lunch. We became friends with her as well. She was so full of life. We threw a 90th birthday party for her- complete with balloons and flowers (from downtown). She was miffed at first but then seemed to really enjoy herself. She educated us about food- she loved knowing where food came from and focusing on health.

Dave- he comes every day for a cappuccino. He's so nice- we always enjoy seeing him and his wife. They even bought flowers for all of the staff on Valentine's Day.

Karyn-everyone that works here has fallen in love with her. She visits regularly with her two boys or on date night with her husband. She also comes here for alone time. One night, during KLRC's "Pay it Forward" campaign, the person ahead of her had left $20 to cover the next person's order. The lucky recipient was Karyn, but she's so great that she tried to get us to use it for someone that really needed it. We made her use it though, because it was her special night out on her own, and she deserved it.

There are lots of people like this that come in all the time. They're just like family to us. We know them by their quirks and their orders. Sometime we'll see them circling the block, and we'll get their drink started because we know they're just looking for a place to park!

WOMS: What has been your personal favorite dish?

HJR: That's so hard! I feel like once a week I make something I love. It's been fun to grow as a cook here. Zucchini-wrapped salmon comes to mind. It was really, really good. I only serve stuff that I like, and if I don't like it I don't serve it.

Oh wait, I know what my favorite was! Last fall, we had a whole week of menus celebrating Oktoberfest, and it was amazing! I researched lots of different German dishes trying to find things that fit in at the Cafe. One day, we made homemade pretzels, but the best dish was "Himmel und Erde" ("Heaven & Earth" in German) mashed potatoes- the best ones I've ever had in my life. That recipe made several more appearances throughout the holidays because it was the perfect comfort food. They were savory, but also had a little baked apple in them. Man, those were good!

WOMS: You are well known for trying lots of creative flavor combinations. In your experiments, have there been any fantastic flops? Or, things you were shocked went well together?

HJR: Yes. I'll start with the good one. All of our soups are homemade, and when we have leftovers, I'll experiment with mixing soups. That's when "Holy Mole" soup was born. It's chicken taco salad filling, our tomato basil soup...and chocolate.. in a pot! It's delicious! I came up with the soup, and Shelby, our baker, added the chocolate.

I also believe that "Feta makes it betta" -it just goes well with a lot of things!

Now the flop: we've had flavors not work out, but we've also had literal flops- like dropping a huge casserole or huge container of dressing. We have such a small kitchen, and while we are great at working around each other, accidents happen! The kitchen is about 10 x 15, maybe not even that. It's smaller than most people's home kitchens and we typically have 4 people working there at a time. We have a full-time baker, a cook, me and several baristas running around at any given moment.

WOMS: Describe a typical day at the cafe.

HJR: Usually, Shelby is in the back, scurrying around, stocking her cooling racks full of scones and turnovers. I'm usually running around figuring out what I'm making for lunch. In the morning especially there's a nice hustle and bustle of customers getting ready for their day. Next there's lunch, the busiest part of the day. People constantly in and out. Then there's the after school crowd. The afternoon and evening are like "study hall." We have free wi-fi and people like to come here to work on stuff. In the evenings we are sort of a "final destination" for people who have been out for the evening. They come here to unwind, have a pastry, and relax and still feel like they are "out."

WOMS: Tell me about some great Cafe moments.

HJR: She smiles wistfully and gets this far off look in her eyes.
Once, the circuit breaker blew, and the power went out on the whole block. I was trying to get people to leave, because we couldn't serve food with the power out, but everyone was perfectly content to sit there in the dark and finish their food. So bizarre!

Our first catering job was a wedding rehearsal dinner. It went off without a hitch, we had a great time, and we still get hugs from those people when we see them.

The last Christmas parade was really fun. We felt really unified with the other businesses downtown, like- we're here, we exist- it was fun to see all those new faces.

WOMS: Let's say you're stranded on a desert island, and you want to open a Cafe franchise. What one menu item would you absolutely have to have?

HJR: Cowboy Corn Chowder! I'd have to give it another name.... "LOST Chowder?" I'd just have to learn how to grow corn.

WOMS: Who are the people in your neighborhood? ..."in your your neigh-bor-hood?"

HJR: Most of our neighbors are also long-time customers who have been with us since the beginning. Like Joni from Joni's on Broadway, the City Barber Shop guys, and the folks at Baily Law Firm. Also, Trish Houston next door at Books on Broadway, Janessa at Advocating Massage, and Miriam and John from The Baby Habit.

WOMS: Describe some of great people the cafe has employed over the years.

HJR: So many...Shelby Lebeau, our full-time baker. She's such an asset, she's always thinking of something new which is essential for continued creativity at the Cafe. Stephanie Faddis [née Durkopp] was with us for a long time. It was so sad when she moved away. She was an amazing and hard worker. As was Ryan Ransdall. Although he left Siloam last year, he still manages to come back to the Cafe and pitch in. He was here over Christmas break, and he'll be working in March, too.

WOMS: You’ve recently expanded your food offerings to include signature Paninis. What are some of the flavors, and what has the reception been like?

HJR: People used to give us a hard time for not having Paninis available all day long. For us, it was a space issue- which is always our problem. We finally moved some stuff around in the kitchen, making room for a sandwich table, and Paninis became available all the time. Some of our signature flavors are: the Monte Cristo (mentioned above), the Lasagna Panini, the Pear & Gouda Panini, and the Italian Stallion- everyone's favorite. It has Genoa salami, ham, pesto, & provolone toasted on our yummy homemade Stonemill Bakery bread. There's also the amazing Sweet Potato Fluff Panini. Once I ran out of fluff, and I had to improvise with hot pink marshmallow "Peeps". The guy we made it for ate every bite and said it was delicious.

WOMS: Tell me about the catering aspect of the Cafe.

HJR: It's not a "typical" catering experience. We try to use fresh, local and organic ingredients whenever possible. What you get from us will be so good! For instance, we serve grass-fed beef from Walnut Grove Farms in Siloam Springs, and Dawn Denton, a Siloam Springs Master Gardener, grows fresh herbs specifically for the Cafe. We customize the menu for each event. We want it to special for them. You can get anything we make at the Cafe, but on top of that, I research new recipes based on what the client wants. For instance, I learned how to make carved rutabagas at a client's request. Each event is personalized. [At the end of our interview, Harmony was already hard at work on a catering event for that evening. She was making stacked chicken breasts with pesto, provolone and heart-shaped sun dried tomatoes for a Sweetheart Banquet. Wow!]

WOMS: I know that many Cafe recipes are closely guarded secrets. What are the recipes people are most eager to appropriate?

HJR: Our Tomato-Basil soup and Cowboy Corn Chowder, the Ranch dressing, Carolyn's Chocolate Cake, Shelby's scone recipe, and our Walnut Chicken Salad.

Now that the Cafe has reached this milestone, what does the future hold?

I'd love to see us expand beyond Broadway.

What an awesome thought! Thanks, Harmony!

Long-time customer Marianne summed it up best:
"Everyone has a 'third place'- your home is 'first', your workplace is 'second', and your 'third place' is the one you choose, the one you escape to and relax in. The Cafe is my 'third place'." Well said, Marianne!

The Cafe on Broadway's 4th Birthday celebration will take place the second week of March, Tuesday through Friday (March 9th-12th). Prepare for surprises every day, including a $4 special and birthday cake. Gift cards will also magically appear in to-go boxes, and under plates. I can't wait!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Valentine's Specials

If you're still wondering how to celebrate someone special in your life, here are some great ideas:

The Cafe on Broadway
They will have Valentine Cookies that can be gift wrapped with a bow and a Valentine's label. You can choose from: Heart Meringues, Chocolate Pastel Mint Cookies, Chewy Mocha Cookies, Jasmine Meltaways, Ginger Hearts with German quotes about Love, and Frosted Sweetheart Sugar Cookies.
On Saturday and Sunday they will offer a Love Panini with Chips or Orange slices for $7. You can also try a Cupid's Arrow or another special Valentine's Drink!

The Painting Place Studio & More
Their Valentine's Day special is a tall mug painted with a classic red heart, the sweethearts' names and the year, filled with candy- all for $5. The Painting Place Studio & More is located at 107 N. Maxwell. Hours are 10-4 Thursday-Saturday, or by appointment. Call 524-9530 for more information.

Broadway Flowers
Give Black Magic roses for Valentine's! Let them make your flowers extra sweet. As their thanks to you, when you order a dozen roses to be delivered during Valentine's week, they will include a heart-shaped box of candy with the roses! That's like two gifts in one! Call 479-549-3737 today to reserve yours. They will be open on Sunday for you last minute shoppers.


On Valentine's Day, they will be serving Osso Bocco for two- a tender, succulent veal dish from the heart of Italy. Special Valentine's pastries will be available as well. Also, on February 13th, Tim Stone and Friends will be back to play music all night long from 6:30 till ??? Come and dance the night away. Call now for reservations: 524-4411.

A sweetheart deal: 1 pizza, 2 salads, 2 drinks & dessert- only $18. Open for lunch Mon-Fri 11-2. Dinner hours are Mon-Thurs 5-9, Fri-Sat 5-10. For reservations or carryout orders, call 599-9488.