Open for business

When Caf Brul opened its doors for the first time more than two weeks ago, it did so quietly at first.

We just took the paper off the window one morning since we wanted to be sure that we werent going to be

Shortly after word spread that Caf Brul had opened its doors in downtown Vermillion, curious diners began arriving to sample the new restaurants cuisine. Owners Jim Waters and Monica Iverson are discovering that people are now coming back to enjoy their business atmosphere and good food. (Photo by David Lias)

bombarded, and that we were going to be ready so our first impression was going to be decent, said co-owner Jim Waters. It was quiet for about two hours, and then the word kind of got around. Then lunch got busy, and dinner got busier, and its pretty well been busier each day.

Co-owner Monica Iverson added, I think we expected a lot of curiosity, and were hoping that the people who are coming in who are just curious will really enjoy the food and the atmosphere, and come back again. So far, weve been seeing that.

Located at 24 W. Main in the former location of the Coffee Shop Gallery, Caf Brul is the culmination of a dream of both Waters and Iverson.

Waters worked as long-time manager of Mr. Smiths in Jones Food Center, while Iverson is the owner of Cakes by Monica. Both were interested in expanding, so when the building went up for sale in December, they decided to collaborate.

I thought it made perfectly good sense, because we had worked together for the past eight years anyway at Jones Food Center, Waters said. And so, we both knew we were both workaholics. We both knew we were both driven by detail, and we are particular in our products, servicing and taking care of the customers.

The roles each fill in Caf Brul overlap to a certain extent, Waters said.

They cross over, because I bake and do pastry also, and she has a background in food service. It was basically a good partnership, he said.

Between what I know about the baking and the pastries and what he knows about the cooking and the menu, neither of us can really take a day off until we have some help trained, Iverson added.

Caf Brul employs approximately 40 people and serves food Waters describes as a kind of fusion.

Kicked-up American and kicked-down European is what I like to call it, he said.

The menu consists of two categories: Country and City.

Under the first category, diners are likely to find items like hot beef sandwiches and hamburgers, while the second features such dishes as croque monsieur and croissant sandwiches.

An all-day breakfast menu is available on Sunday, Waters said.

Iverson said some dishes already have been singled out as local favorites, including the Monte Cristo sandwich.

Ive heard we have one of the best ones around, and that theres one other shop in Sioux Falls that serves it, but they only serve it one day a week. So its not an easy sandwich to find, she said.

Caf Bruls grilled cheese sandwich featuring Muenster and gruyere cheeses also is a hit.

Weve had some people come in and say they dont know what kind of cheese it is, but its the best grilled cheese theyve ever had, Iverson said.

The menu also features desserts such as crme brule and crepes, and will be expanded in the future, Waters and Iverson said.

Weve got the cogs working, Waters said.

Before Caf Brul could be opened, some renovations needed to be made. With the help of family and friends, Waters and Iverson raised the ceiling, resurfaced the bar, installed a fireplace, redid the kitchen, put in a decorating room and installed a new roof, among other things.

We did a lot more renovating than we planned, so all things considered, it actually went fairly quickly. I think it seemed longer because we wanted it to go faster, Iverson said.

The only thing we didnt do ourselves was the actual electrical and plumbing (work), Waters added.

Caf Brul continues to be something of a family affair, with Waters wife Heidi working as unofficial personnel manager and Iversons husband Dwight helping out with bookkeeping.

Monicas parents have helped a lot, her sister and brother-in-law have helped a lot. (So has) my daughter, Waters said. Before we opened, my mom made us lunches every day during construction. Shed call us up and say, Lunch is ready, and wed come and pick it up.

Waters said neighboring businesses have been fantastic throughout the process.

We got flowers from just about every business downtown welcoming us and thanking us for being part of the downtown community. Its been pretty inspirational in that way, he said.

Iverson said she thinks the success encountered by Caf Brul is an encouraging sign for Vermillion businesses.

I think there is enough business and interest for people to try all the restaurants in town here, so I dont see why it should be competition necessarily, she said. Sometimes youre in the mood for Mexican and sometimes youre in the mood for a good steak. And so, I think theres enough room for everybody.

Waters and Iverson have worked long hours to get Caf Brul up and running, apart from this past Sunday, when they closed for Easter.

That was actually my first day off since Christmas, Waters said.

But Iverson who continues to run Cakes by Monica with the help of her long-time baking and decorating team said theyre glad to be so busy.

Were really happy to be open, and we really appreciate all the patronage that weve had from everyone local and out of town, she said. Were excited to keep serving, and we plan to get better.

Caf Brul is open daily from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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