Archive for the ‘Dining’ Category

Tasty but Healthy: Café Proves It’s Possible

September 20, 2010 9 comments
Author sitting with lap top

Writing my blog at Butterflies Café

When I venture out for a meal, I find comfort in going to a restaurant where I am known as a regular customer.  It seems the best of both worlds: the pleasure of venturing out combined with a safety net of familiar people and environment. These days, it is seems almost every week I take at least one meal at Butterflies Café, an intimate, casual restaurant with an accent on fresh, healthy food in Skippack. Now its lunchtime on a clear, beautiful day and I have ordered my favorite meal, a veggie burger.

My veggie burger arrives. For people who only know store-bought veggie burgers such as myself, the veggie burger at Butterflies is a treat. A store-bought veggie burger is flat as the earth was thought to be before Columbus set sail; the veggie burger at Butterflies is plump and rounded, like the world after Columbus or more precisely, like a real, homemade burger. Texture and taste satisfy. It’s made from fresh, locally grown natural vegetables, peanut butter, garbanzo beans and fresh herbs.

The veggie burger is the creation of proprietor and chef Jacquelyne Rennie.  At my request, she stops from her work to sit down and talk. Jackie has an authentic, no-nonsense personality; her earthy demeanor belies the tremendous pride she takes in her restaurant. To each customer who bothers to stop to take notice, she offers one-on-one service, seeking to meet as much as possible each individuals taste and dietary needs; an example of what I love best about Skippack; the revival of the interpersonal relationship between seller and consumer.

In the past year, as I have gotten to know Jackie, I have watched her venture, Butterflies Café, evolve. The restaurant’s interior is better organized and brighter, the menu keeps getting better. Jackie now offers programs on selected nights, such as cooking classes, ladies night, and live music. I feel personally invested in the welfare of this enterprise.

Jackie describes struggling through her first winter as a restaurant owner, learning which items sell and which don’t. She lists her mainstays: Veggie burgers, vegetable stir-fries, buffalo burgers, gazpachos, butternut squash soup, and more. Meals can be made complete with a delicious, unusual dessert such as dairy-free cheese cake, made from dates, avocado, cashews, agave, coconut oil and a few secret ingredients. (“This is the most delicious cheesecake I have ever had,” shouts my wife in delight, “and I am from New York.”)

Picture of Jackie Rennie

Jackie Rennie, owner and chef at Butterflies Café, soon to be called Jay Bee’s Café.

Before she owned a restaurant, Jackie worked for twenty years in the mortgage banking business. When the bottom fell out of the housing market, her employer closed its doors and she found herself looking for a job. She worked at a department store and a bank but neither were her calling. She is also a single mom, and needed an occupation that would accommodate her schedule when caring for her two sons ages 9 and 11.

During this time, Jackie discovered she had celiac disease, a digestive condition triggered by consumption of the protein gluten, which is found in bread, pasta, cookies, pizza crust and many other foods containing wheat, barley or rye. It was a turning point in her life. Jackie realized that there was nothing served in fast food restaurants she could eat; every type of fast food contains wheat.

As she became more conscious of her own diet, Jackie began to wonder why there wasn’t a healthier alternative to fast food. She thought of opening a restaurant that would offer a wholesome alternative to fast food. When an acquaintance warned against the idea, it gave her the final push she needed.

“When someone tells me I can’t succeed at something,” says Jackie, “Then I get motivated and go out and do it.”

No banks were willing to provide financing. Jackie found private funding on her own.

Today, Jackie is building her enterprise with a consciousness of sustainable living: She renovated an old building, the furniture is from local antique shops, and most of the food is locally grown and organic. She caters to people who have special dietary needs, such those with celiac disease, or nut allergies or who cannot tolerate lactose found in milk products. She is sensitive to the harmful effects dietary restrictions can have on a person’s social life. Many customers tell her that her restaurant offers them the first opportunity to dine out in years.

As I am talking to Jackie, two teenage girls come in and ask what items on the menu are gluten-free. Jackie points them to several selections.

Still, Jackie worries that her theme of healthy food may scare some people away. She is reconsidering her approach to promoting her café. She has already erased the word healthy from the sign outside her shop. She is going to make her establishment more like a friendly neighborhood joint, with stronger family appeal. She will continue to focus on serving locally grown and fresh foods. She hopes to educate people over time, but for now she wants customers to feel well fed and well entertained. She unveils the new name and new tag line to me and my blog readers. The new name is: Jay Bee’s Café. The tag line is ”Fresh Food, Healthy Vibe.”

My hope is that Jackie can find the commercial success she needs without changing her personal approach to serving food or undermining the connection between her life philosophy and personal experiences and her business. As I sit on her porch and watch people pass by, the delicious food, the warm and friendly environment, and the sense of individual identity reinforce the feeling that I live in paradise.

Note: Butterflies café is BYOB and offers free Wi-Fi. It is also a great place to hang out and read. Phone: 610-222-2111. Address: 4019 Skippack Pike. Open Wednesday thru Sunday.

Debby in front of chalkboard

My wife Debby in front of the menu board

Photo of a salad

Still life with salad

Categories: Dining, People