GREEN RIDGE — A new café has opened in Green Ridge, bringing a bright spot to a town that has suffered the loss of Simmons First National Bank and the Sonoco Products Co. this year.
Parkside Café, owned by Mike and Monica Johnson, opened two weeks ago and offers down home-style comfort foods such as biscuits and gravy, omelets, hamburgers, BLTs and grilled chicken sandwiches. They are also introducing a few specials such as a pepito sandwich native to Monica’s home, a city of 1 million in Barquisimeto, Lara, Venezuela.
The pepito sandwich was Thursday’s special and it is a combination of beef, chicken and bacon all fried together with a homemade, secret white sauce created by Monica.
“She hand-makes the sauce, and then (adds) Parmesan cheese,” Mike said. “They are just absolutely sumptuous.”
Mike, who has lived in Missouri 26 years, said he opened the café because he saw a need and he enjoys cooking. He noted that his wife has a degree in marketing and took culinary classes for three years.
“I’ve been in construction all my life, and it was time to get out of that,” Mike said. “The town needed a little café. They haven’t had anywhere to eat for several years now.”
He originally had a laundromat inside the property on North Main Street, but removed everything and decided to remodel the building for the café.
“We bought equipment, here, there, and everywhere, and here we are,” he added. “So far it’s been about what I thought it would be.”
The café is decorated in a homey style with antique kitchen gadgets and dishes plus a photo of Mike when he was 9-years-old next to a child’s red cowboy hat. Monica has a wall displaying memorabilia from her flamenco dancing days in Venezuela. She spent eight years at the Academia Sacromonte where she danced in theater productions.
Mike said the menu is simple, but features rural comfort foods.
“That’s our demographic,” Mike noted. “We’re going to have a hard time getting them to try this (the pepito), but some of them may. We try to offer samples.”
The couple plans to add more menu items as they go along and once they know which foods customers prefer.
“Everyday has a special,” Monica said.
“(Wednesday) was ham and beans, (Friday) will be chicken and noodles,” Mike added.
Plans are in the works to offer desserts. Monica said many people are asking about pies, so they plan to add it to the menu soon.
“Neither one of us have worked in food service before,” Mike said. “So we are kind of starting slow and ramping up, so that we get routines down, and get comfortable in the kitchen and find out what the palate is of the people, what they want to eat.”
At present the café is drawing in locals, farmers and nearby pipeline construction crews. Mike hopes to gain customers from the Katy Trail next season.
“There’s a trail head here,” he noted. “The DNR will list it on their website and maybe down on the bulletin board.”
Mike added that the café is more than a place to eat for Green Ridge residents.
“It’s not only just a place to come and get something to eat, ” he said. “It’s also a social gathering place, where they can sit down, drink coffee, if they are hungry they’ll order something to eat. For the most part, when people come in they’ll eat.”
As the weather cools off they are planning to add soup to the menu.
Green Ridge’s Parkside Café, 112 N. Main St., is open 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Specials are offered Tuesday through Friday; on Sunday only breakfast is served.
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 530-0289 or on Twitter @flbemiss.