Kelsie Hoover, manager of Cafe on Main and The Sweet Shop in downtown Columbus, holds two chocolate chip pies ready to go in the oven Tuesday morning. Hoover shares the pie recipe today with readers who are currently cooking more at home. Photo by: Jan Swoope/Dispatch Staff
April 22, 2020 10:39:24 AM
The hustle and bustle of dine-in lunch crowds may be missing these days at Cafe on Main in downtown Columbus, but one thing hasn't changed -- Manager Kelsie Hoover's positive attitude. As with all restaurants, Cafe on Main has had to adjust to a "new normal" since measures to battle the novel coronavirus restricted food service establishments to pick-up, drive-through or delivery service only. The eatery at the corner of Main and Fifth Street South has served lunch for years, but it had also recently added some evening hours.
"We were just getting used to it, being open some nights, having a live band, offering a different atmosphere than lunchtime -- and then COVID-19," said Hoover, 22. "We had to change our normal routine and adapt to this new environment."
The cafe and its adjacent Sweet Shop have long offered home-style plate lunches and a variety of cakes, pies and treats, plus a few frozen casseroles (more about those in a minute). They now offer much of that from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday through curbside service (662-241-4401), or for customers to pick-up inside. They are also temporarily stocking a small supply of hand sanitizer, protective gloves, antiseptic spray and a few other items.
Every Golden Triangle eatery needs community support throughout the current crisis, but even restaurants know we can't eat out every meal. That's why some, like Cafe on Main, are generously sharing one of their own recipes with readers who are doing more cooking at home right now.
Hoover wore a broad smile as she busied herself in the cafe kitchen Tuesday morning, demonstrating how to make a chocolate chip pie. The recipe is included today.
"This pie is fairly easy to make," she said, emptying a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips into a mixer bowl. "Just make sure to beat your eggs well for consistency for your pie, then you'll be fine. If you have a mixer, I would suggest using that, but if not, the old whisk and flick of the wrist will work, too."
Putting a piece of baked pie, still warm from the oven, into a small cast iron skillet, Hoover added dollops of whipped topping and drizzles of chocolate syrup for presentation.
"This is also really good topped off with vanilla ice cream," said the manager, who is originally from the state of Washington. She moved often with her military family but settled about seven years ago in Columbus, her mother's hometown. She's been with Cafe on Main for about a year and a half, starting out as a server.
"I love to serve people. I love to take care of people," she said. "I always wanted people to feel like they were taken care of, even if it's just to make sure their drink was always full and their food was nice and hot."
Other desserts available include whole coconut, strawberry, lemon icebox, cream cheese cherry, caramel pecan and key lime pies, among others, as well as a variety of cakes.
Casseroles (and more)
Desserts are far from the only focus at the cafe these days. Shelter-in-place conditions have ramped up demand for frozen casseroles by families stocking their freezers.
"We were making casseroles on a limited basis, but when dine-in ceased, we wanted to make as many as we could with what we already had on hand," Hoover said. "We had almost an overwhelming response, which was very nice of our customers. So, we expanded on our casseroles and soups."
A limited cafe staff increased output of foods ranging from frozen poppyseed chicken and chicken spaghetti to lasagna, meatloaf, cream-style corn, mac 'n cheese, sweet potato casserole, squash casserole and more. Other choices include taco soup, vegetable soup, red beans and rice, corn salad and chicken salad, among others.
Like all restaurants, Cafe on Main eagerly awaits news about eased restrictions on food service businesses.
"I'm definitely ready for this to be over with," said Hoover. "I really miss our customers and the people who work here. This has always been a family oriented place and they've always felt like family."
CHOCOLATE CHIP PIE
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) of melted butter
1 6-ounce package semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup pecans (optional )
1 unbaked pie shell
(Source: Kelsie Hoover, Cafe on Main, Columbus)
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.