Angels Creek Cafe – Consistency & Confidence On The Menu
“Pick food you like to eat so you can cook it how you like it, so it tastes good.”
The ladies of Angels Creek Cafe are modest and relaxed as we sit in the cool cafe one summer afternoon. The doors are closed, the lights are off and the chairs are stacked on the tables. Jen has got her arms on the counter and is learning about the new POS system from one of their vendors and I distract her with questions about their history, inspiration and plans for the cafe.
If you haven’t met them yet, Kay and Jen are the nicest people to talk to. They have plenty of ideas and opinions, but they won’t talk your ear off either. They embody a sense of confident, laid back hospitality – this is who you want cooking up your food and pouring your coffee when you sit at the counter half awake for breakfast on a Monday morning.
These are exactly the right people to be running the downtown cafe in Angels Camp.
Formerly Sue’s Cafe, The Angels Creek Cafe has quickly revived to become a breakfast and lunch staple – well currently THE consistent staple of the downtown food scene. As another downtown business owner, I admit I eat there at least 3-4 days a week for one meal or the other and I’ve never had one thing I didn’t like. Their most popular dish is the “Chuckwagon” breakfast – a combination of some breakfast favorites that you should definitely plan to try. My employees tend to like the breakfast burrito with gravy on the side, but my personal favorite is the breakfast sandwich with bacon on sourdough – and I have them add avocado. It’s like a grown up grilled cheese with a California twist and it hits the spot every time! Oh, and bacon of course. Any time I ask for a substitution or addition, they do it happily if the ingredients are something they carry in the kitchen.
Jennifer, who was a truck driver by trade and happened to meet Kay in Angels Camp in 2000. Kay, a born and bred Calaveras local joined Jen in the trucking trade in North Dakota where the oil boom kept them busy working 7 days a week, 14 hours a day for 14 week stints for several years. When they came back to Angels Camp for a visit one summer and went to find breakfast, they noticed that Sue’s wasn’t open and they quickly started a conversation with her about the possibilities of working out a deal to take it over. A handshake deal was made and the ladies went back to North Dakota to give notice, then immediately moved to Angels Camp to take over the cafe in April of 2015 – their first restaurant management experience. “We thought it would be a fun opportunity, so we took a leap of faith, but we didn’t really know what we were getting into.”
“We figured it would be a casual cafe with a few people trickling and out, we had NO idea it would be as busy as it has been. We picked food we liked to eat so we could cook it the way we knew how, so it would taste good and people would enjoy it. We really just kept it simple.
I’m not a cook, I just cook. Don’t ask me to cook you a lobster, I’m no chef.”
The success they have had with the cafe has everything to do with the consistency of the quality of their food. It also has a lot to do with several other cafe’s closing recently, something both of them wish hadn’t happened “This town needs more restaurants and more variety, we hope some other places open up soon, we wouldn’t mind the break either.” Since Jen is the cook and runs the cafe, the consistency come from her own management of food preparation. She’s brought on more help, the busier they have become, but she trains them herself in the kitchen to do things the exact same way.
I ask them about their plans for the future, and remember that they also just bought the corner bar, Claussens’ at Raspberry and Main. Kay is managing the bar, Jen is managing the cafe but they both insist that they work so harmoniously together and can’t imagine life any other way. It’s really refreshing to hear. What is the goal or dream here for the cafe and bar? “Well, we are happy doing it and can’t imagine stopping now. People rely on us and recognize us in the community. We wouldn’t want to walk away and leave that vacancy. Plus I just love to feed people – probably 97% of the people who come through the cafe are happy that they did.”
Their customers consist of mostly locals, repeat customers and now a lot of tourists who know they are open consistently are coming back regularly too when they are in town. We all know restaurant work is a lot of work – but these two have proven that if you have consistency and discipline, a friendly face, food that tastes good, an open sign and a lot of pluck, there are definite possibilities to be had here in Angels Camp.
What types of restaurant do you think would do well here? I ask them. “A micro-brewery“ is their instant simultaneous answer. Angels Camp needs a micro-brewery, an ice cream shop, a sandwich shop or somewhere you can get good soups and salads. Let’s get some variety folks!”
How do you want people to think of Angels Creek Cafe? “We want people to know there is a friendly place they can come to get really good home cooked food that is made with love. As long as the people of Angels Camp are happy I’m here, I’ll be in here cooking.”