Longbranch Café & Bakery was voted the runner up for best vegetarian-only restaurant in southern Illinois in the 2015 Feast 50. This Q&A was conducted with general manager Elaine Ramseyer.
Tell us about a few of the signature dishes served at your restaurant, and how they embody your work. Homestyle biscuits and gravy, huevos rancheros, hummus kalaya, falafel Friday and Puerto Rican black beans and rice all came to us through employees' family recipes. We’ve also been heavily influenced by world travels, in addition to the multi-cultural and ethnic backgrounds of our staff. Our touch is to make all our dishes with vegetarian, non-GMO fresh ingredients.
What have been some milestones in your career so far? Completing a bread baking apprenticeship at Gottessegen Bäckerei, an anthroposophical bakery in Dortmund, Germany, fulfilled a dream. It was astonishing when the head baker shared his bread cultures and recipes with us, which are regulated by German law! Because of his generosity, our bakery actually offers authentic German sourdough bread, not only to our own customers, but to our sister business, "The Town Square Market,” just down the street.
Clearly your work has resonated with diners – what would you attribute this to, and what does it mean to you? We're the archetype of a cafe. Great homemade food, kick-butt pastries and gourmet coffee drinks served in a relaxed hip atmosphere. If we weren’t in the Midwest, you could have easily run into us in the Village of New York City or the streets of Central Europe. The Longbranch is “Bohemian” enough that you could put your feet up, yet sophisticated enough to serve gourmet meals. On top of that, we're very value-driven, and people can feel and taste it! This means everything to us.
What do you hope to see happen next in the local food scene, and why? More local, organic farm-to-table! We would like to lead the charge on this!
Whether it’s developing a dish or an entire food or drink menu, where do you get your inspiration? What inspires you and motivates you to do the work that you do? We're inspired by building community and by what our employees, farmers and customers bring to our table. Whether it's Aunt Mildred's white pie recipe, monthly barista contests, a trip to Italy that nails our pizza or a baby's first food – and it's organic carrot juice – we respond to the world as it shows up to our door. This makes us feel alive and connected.
What’s next for you and your work? We will continue to grow our organic and non-GMO offerings. Our dream is to be a true local, organic farm-to-table cafe. We're on our way, and yes, there's still road ahead.
Longbranch Café & Bakery, 100 E. Jackson St., Carbondale, Illinois, 618.529.4488, longbranchcafeandbakery.com