Restaurant in familiar spot hopes to host familiar faces

Geoffrey White wants his cafe on South Perry Street to be the sort of place where everybody knows your name, and that probably should not be a problem.

White, who opened the Perry Street Cafe with his wife, Debbie, in November, is armed with a friendly, upbeat personality that makes getting acquainted simple.

And his cafe has been welcomed quickly by the historic neighborhood, he said. “The local people have been very receptive. We’re really pleased,” White said while taking a brief break at the cafe.

“Every month so far has been better than the last, and that’s been in the winter, too. I can’t complain,” he said.

Their cafe got off to a busy start, White explains, as he and Debbie were married, honeymooned in his hometown of San Diego and returned to quickly get their business up and running.

The location on the southwest corner of Perry Street and 10th Avenue has a food-service history, most notably as Gertrude’s Black Forest Deli, which operated there for 11 years. “I just hope to have as good a reputation as that place had,” White said.

The building has been empty for about two years, and some updating has been done. The dining area is bright and airy. Two interior walls are exposed brick, and the ceiling is about 12 feet high.

Three layers of Sheetrock were removed to leave bare brick walls.

The other walls are a light, neutral color, and various photographs and prints, some historic, are displayed.

Booths line the side of the rectangular room and tables for four are placed down the middle. The cafe seats 65 people.

White said he brought his own equipment into the kitchen. And he spends a lot of time there. “I do 90 percent of the cooking – well, 99 percent, since nothing goes out of there that I don’t know about.”

The cafe is open six days a week, and the Whites “work side by side” on some long days. “I come in two, maybe three hours to prepare before we open. And then we’re here after we close.

“People ask when we’re going to serve dinners, and I say about 85 hours a week is all I can handle,” he laughed.

The Whites advertise serving breakfast all day, and they take pride in it. “That’s what we do best,” White said. “If someone wants a hamburger at 9 a.m. or breakfast in the afternoon, I just consider that an opportunity.”

And White wants his employees to share his enthusiasm. “You just have to make it fun to come to work,” he said.

The cafe’s menu lists half a dozen “scrambles” and as many omelets along with the usual breakfast meats and pancakes. “And we serve home fries, which we prepare ourselves,” White said. “Everything we can make from scratch we do.”

The lunch menu includes deli and grilled sandwiches, sides of macaroni and potato salads, hot beef and turkey sandwiches and turkey pot pie, plus homemade soups. Add to that a variety of large salads, ranging from club to stuffed avocado.

As busy as they have been in recent months, the Whites want to be involved with the community, he said. They were hosts of dinner at the cafe recently for all guests at the Ronald McDonald House.

You can bet the visitors will know their names.

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