By Barry Dalton
The 54 Cafe and Catering, located 513 W. Hwy. 54, opened on Tuesday, March 2, in Vandalia, where the Spiced Apple Cafe used to be. Business has been good.
Just east of Abel’s, the humble café is on the corner of Oak and 54 on the north side. if you’re not looking for it, you’ll miss it. Owner and manager Bret Davis said business is doing well with just word of mouth.
It’s a family style restaurant open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays, and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. It offers in-house dining, carryout and delivery.
“We have a little of everything on the menu, from steaks and veggies to sandwiches, salads and wraps,” Davis said. “We also have a pretty nice pizza menu.”
There is also a child’s menu with everything that kids like including a personal pan pizza.
“We’ve had pretty good reviews so far and pretty positive feedback,” Davis added. Staff member Danyelle Pool concurred.
“There’s a slow period from 2 to 5, but otherwise it’s been packed in here,” Pool said.
The restaurant opened on a Tuesday and by Wednesday it already had regular customers.
“I’ve ordered three times already,” said Crystal Dunshee. “I ordered lunch yesterday and dinner, and I’m ordering lunch again today.”
Dunshee says the food and service are great and “fairly quick.” She had a buffalo chicken wrap with fries the first day she ordered. Her daughter said she really liked the chicken strips because they were homemade, not frozen. And she’s also happy with the portion sizes.
“My sister-in-law got a BLT, and it was so big she couldn’t even eat it all,” Dunshee said.
Davis said the cafe currently has about five staff members but is looking to hire more.
“There’s nice people that work here,” said server Courtney Cartee. “All the customers are really friendly.”
Cartee pointed to a display of some old photos on the wall of Oggie’s Place, a restaurant once owned by James and Rhonda Culver, who also owned the Spiced Apple Cafe. One of the photos was of Cartee’s mother, Tammy, who was a server at Oggie’s. The display also has a newspaper clipping with some really rad 1970s style “man perms” featuring a young Jimmy Culver cutting a ribbon.
Davis said he worked for the Culvers and bought the building for his new restaurant from them. He has 15 years of experience in food service, most recently for a long-term care facility, where he worked himself up from a dishwasher to a diet manager in seven years. He said he feels blessed by the support from his hometown that he has received so far.
“Because of the love and support from the community, we’ve had an awesome turnout, and we couldn’t ask for a better community to stand behind us,” he said.