Mystic - A former Pfizer Inc. researcher has given up previous work analyzing the effectiveness of life-saving drugs to pour her heart into an entirely different sort of enterprise, opening Kate's Café, a vegan and vegetarian restaurant on Broadway Avenue near the Mystic rotary.
Kate Straub's 500-square-foot café, which opened Tuesday next to Health in Harmony organic day spa, aims at filling a void created by the closing of the Puritan & Genesta health food store last year in downtown Mystic.
In fact, P&G's former executive chef, Gwenivere Lyon of Charlestown, R.I., is head chef at Kate's Café, bringing culinary influences that range from European to Asian to Middle Eastern.
"There's not a lot of vegetarian restaurants around, and definitely no vegan ones," Straub said. "You can get a salad, but people get pretty tired of salad and saying 'keep the cheese off the salad,'" Straub said.
Kate's Café offers a varied breakfast and lunch menu that features organic produce and fair-trade ingredients. A grab-and-go cooler includes wraps and salads, but a small seating area also allows patrons to lounge and enjoy something off the ever-changing menu that will boast fresh produce from New England farms.
The restaurant, previously home of the Citrus Juice Bar Café and Pronto Gourmet Express, also features Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Blue Bottle Coffee, a smooth and hearty java that required special training to learn to make. Kate's husband, Brian Straub, explained that the ritual requires a precise measurement of 29 grams of ground coffee, which is placed in a special filter before a barrista slowly pours hot water over it for 2 minutes and 45 seconds, allowing it to drip into a cup.
"It's the Ferrari of coffees," Brian Straub said. "We wanted to bring something a little different to the area."
The Straubs expect coffee to be a big part of the business, but they also offer organic Harney teas, pancakes, waffles, fruit parfaits, soy-based meatballs, vegetarian burgers and a wide assortment of gluten-free items for those with food allergies. They estimated the average bill would be $10 to $15 a person.
"It's just going to be really flavorful and really tasty," said chef Lyon, who is not a vegan herself.
The restaurant's ambiance is bright and homey, thanks to an orange-and-yellow color scheme and seating areas highlighted by old church pews and a former Puritan & Genesta bar. Outside, patrons are invited to relax on a small patio area equipped with umbrellas.
For Straub, a Mystic resident who left Pfizer in May after 18 years of analyzing data for the pharmaceutical giant, the switch to owning a restaurant hasn't been such a radical change. Both industries are highly regulated, she pointed out, and her experience analyzing data should help when she needs to tweak her business plan.
"It's good to work for myself and do something different," she said. "I'm not a corporate type of person."