Last updated: July 24. 2013 2:41PM - 461 Views

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Ryan Scott Ottney

PDT Staff Writer

The redevelopment of Second Street checked one more storefront off its list Monday with the opening of Garage Cafe.

Located at 609 Second St., in Portsmouth, Garage Cafe gets its name from the building which once served as an auto garage. The vacant building was purchased by Paul Yost and Francesca Hartop, of Yost Engineering — also on Second Street — to use partly as additional manufacturing space.

“We were trying to figure out what to do with the front half of the building, and the people in our office always thought that with the university being there, there would be more food options near the university and we didn’t see that happening quickly. We just decided we wanted a place to go for lunch and we’d like some different menu items,” Hartop said.

She said the menu features unique items and ingredients she discovered while traveling and visiting other restaurants.

“There’s no American cheese, or that kind of stuff, here. There’s feta cheeses and chevre cheeses; kind of high-end cheeses,” Hartop said. “We have a whole line of very upscale sandwiches with sun dried tomatoes and portobello mushrooms. It’s a nice blend of unique flavors with an eye toward fixing things relatively healthy.”

The breakfast menu includes a variety of bagels and spreads that Hartop said was a good way to wake up. Hartop said the signature menu item at the Garage Cafe is the Garage Cafe Salad, with strawberries, onions, pistachios, chevre cheese and a raspberry vinaigrette.

“The souffles that we do, we use a lighter bread. So instead of being a heavier souffle it’s like a lighter, fluffier souffle. So people don’t have to feel quite as guilty having one,” she said.

With a background heavy in engineering, Hartop said this is their first foray into food service.

“It’s been a little bit hectic, but we’ve got a really good crew. It’s mostly Shawnee students and a lot of them have food service experience. It’s been really nice working with some of them to help us set things up,” Hartop said. “(Monday) was our opening day, and nobody threw food at us, and nobody yelled at us. We seem to be getting thumbs up on the food so we think it was a pretty good first day.”

But their love for engineering is still very obvious at Garage Cafe, with quirky robot murals and Rube Goldberg-like robot figures decorating the inside.

“I like a restaurant that has a personality of its own,” Hartop said. “We didn’t want it to seem like a burger and fries place, which is what I usually associate with a garage thing, so we decided to turn it into a tinkerer’s robotics garage.”

The restaurant is open 7 a.m. until 8 p.m., seven days a week (closed this Sunday for Easter). More information, along with photos and a complete menu, is available online at www.garagecafeoh.com.

Ryan Scott Ottney can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 287, or rottney@civitasmedia.com.

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