Behind the Blue Door
By Helen Dauka
Photos by Julie Cajigas
The parking lot is full, but you’ll find a spot soon; people seem to be coming and going at a steady pace. You walk through the bright blue front door. That’s how you know you’re in the right place, since the outside of the building is unassuming and the only small sign says “Bakery.”
Inside, the lobby is a step away from the dining area; a step to the left is the bakery case. It’s as cozy as the smile from the waiter that will seat you. But first, someone from the kitchen is passing out samples of the cinnamon sticks to everyone waiting for a table.
There’s a certain type of excitement at the Blue Door Café in Cuyahoga Falls. With new specials that change every day, you’ll always be surprised by the menu choices. But the reliability of the food to please your taste buds leaves you with a sense of comfort that it’s never going to be a bad type of surprise.
Despite the crowds of chattering customers, you’ve already parked, been seated and have your drink ordered in close to 20 minutes. You probably could have already ordered your meal too, but the menu has so many new specials, it’s hard to choose. On any given day, depending on the special menu, you may be deciding between dishes like wild caught scallop eggs Benedict with Nueske’s bacon, frisee, wild mushrooms and hollandaise; a croissant French toast with a roasted banana and caramel butter, Fechelin chocolate, toasted pecans and fresh banana segments; or Berkshire Pork confit over house made potato pierogies with duck fat braised red cabbage and an apple compote.
There’s no need to worry though, any choice you make will be a delicious one, guaranteed.
Take a look inside the Blue Door in this exclusive Cool Cleveland Photo Gallery.
The Blue Door Café started as a micro bakery in 2009, but has since evolved into a restaurant offering a unique spin on the traditional breakfast/lunch menu. The food is what most Akronites would classify as gourmet, but in a comforting, delicious, affordable sort of way.
The bakery portion of Blue Door churns out fresh breads and pastries on a daily basis, assuring that what you choose from the case is freshly made and delicious. In addition to their daily bread, which is announced on Facebook each morning, and usually includes fresh ciabatta, brioche and sometimes pan au levain, or what we might call sourdough, visitors can also purchase to-die-for brownies, croissants and scones.
New for 2013, owner and pastry chef Michael Bruno has decided to start serving finer pastries and desserts in the bakery. After the café’s Christmas break, guests were treated to five layer chocolate mousse torte and chocolate three ways — as a mousse terrine with berry preserves, as a brownie and as a chocolate truffle. If you follow on Facebook, you can even see photos of the baking process and the goodies for the day. Stop by at lunch and pick up a fresh loaf of bread for dinner or pick up dessert. The bakery even takes orders for holiday pies.
But, don’t get stuck at the bakery case though, because the food is really something special.
What makes the Blue Door Café’s cuisine unique? Well for starters, the Blue Door favors organic fare. The chefs strive to use local ingredients but when local isn’t an option, the staff will go to ridiculous lengths to make sure that their ingredients are still fresh and healthy. For example, the ham used in the croquet-monsieur is imported from Italy.
The chefs at Blue Door get their seafood through a program called “Sea to Table.” Sea to Table partners with local fishermen from small-scale sustainable wild fisheries. The chefs can tell you exactly where and what time their seafood was caught and know that it will be in from the port and at the Blue Door Café within 36 hours of being caught. Now that’s fresh!
As far as veggies and fruits, owner Mike Bruno has even been known to travel to Brunty Farms during the summer, flashlight in hand, and handpick vegetables from the farms. If he doesn’t see the ingredient he wants at one farm, it’s on to the next to find exactly what he needs for his dishes.
Even a cup of joe is special at the Blue Door. The coffee, supplied by Angel Falls Café of Highland Square, may not be grown locally, but it is roasted locally. The Blue Door Café found another way of putting their own spin on it by having them roast their own blend.
The quality of the staff is just as exceptional as the ingredients. Executive Chef Jim Pintiello came from the downtown Akron restaurant Crave. Together, the culinary team of Jimmy Pintiello, Valerie Miller, Michael Smith, Sara Carter, Dustin Malpasso and Michael Bruno make meals that could easily cost $75 at other restaurants for an average cost of $15.
Because the menu is made up of ingredients that are fresh according to season, the menu is always changing. The Blue Door Café features a different special every day. If you check Facebook in the morning and see a special you can’t wait to try, you might want to change your lunch plans, because though specials often return for a few days, working with such fresh ingredients, there’s no guarantee it will hang around.
The best dish on the menu? For manager Wesley Brechbiel, that’s one of the hardest questions to answer. Wesley says their French toast will make you second-guess all other French toasts. But he says the customers come back for the specials that make the menu so diverse.
Though Julie (my photog) and I have sampled a number of dishes, one of Julie’s favorites was a recent incarnation of French toast on the special menu. Dripping with decadent blood orange brown butter, this incarnation of the breakfast standby was created with a flaky, layered croissant, sun dried apricots, a creamy Marscapone cheese and a crunchy almond streusel.
Julie was lucky enough that they had kept it on the special menu for several days, so she could make it in to sample it. Sometimes items on the special menu remain for a week, other times for only a day or two.
According to Wes, some of the best specials are served on the weekend when they know they’ll be busiest. But don’t be intimidated if you see a line out the door. There’s never more than a 10-15 minute wait. For newcomers, seeing a full lobby or parking lot could mean picking a new place to eat, but if Wes sees a look of hesitation in your eye, he tries to let people know the service is quick.
Before Wes joined the team at the Blue Door Café, he was a bartender at 120 Hudson. His interest was piqued with the Blue Door from customer referrals. After eating there a few times, he realized he wanted in. Just as Wes was about to ask about a position, owner Mike asked him to come work at the Blue Door Café’. It’s been a culinary match made in heaven since.
Those hoping to get a bite to eat around dinner may be in luck, too. The Blue Door Café has a Supper Club in the works for early 2013. Customers will get to eat a course-out dinner. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for more information.
The Blue Door Café is located at 1970 State Road, Cuyahoga Falls, OH 44223 and is open Weds.- Sun. from 7AM to 3PM. Look for the full parking lot and, of course, the blue door. To learn more about the Blue Door Café and Bakery and to get the inside scoop on their latest specials, like them on Facebook at The Blue Door Café and Bakery.
View the Cool Cleveland photo gallery here.