Tuesday, July 17, 2018
Business

Mom's recipe box is the inspiration for the menu at Eli's Cafe

SPRING HILL — The motto at Eli's Cafe, "All Food Made from Scratch," isn't spoken idly.

"No truck brings it in the back door and puts in the freezer," boasts owner Eli Sherman, a veteran restaurateur who had established two bar-and-grill emporiums in his native Long Island before moving to Florida in 2003, with another launched and sold in Pasco County.

His new breakfast-and-lunch stop is centrally located to a couple of big-box stores in the Shoppes at Spring Hill, off U.S. 19, adjacent to Timber Pines.

Sherman said when he sampled various restaurants in the area in his search for a new eatery slot, "no place was there 'made from scratch,' nothing fresh, nowhere like Mom used to cook."

With his mother's recipe box in hand — some of Grandma's recipes therein, as well — he opened the doors in February to platters of French toast concocted from fruit-and-spice breads baked in the cafe's kitchen, batter-dipped french fries cut from fresh tubers and sausage gravy stirred from the seasoned drippings of just-seared pork.

Such are among customer favorites from the generously sized menu, from which breakfast may be ordered all day. "I'm a breakfast kind of guy," says the beefy owner.

Yet, he recognizes a variety of gastronomic desires. "For people who work, some want a smaller portion — one egg, one slice of bacon," said Sherman, 56.

For them, a breakfast special is available: $1.99 from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m.

At the lunch hour, perhaps the weightiest selection on the menu is the "Kitchen Sink," which piles bacon, ham, green peppers, onions and French fries into and onto an omelet, ladling sausage gravy over it all — $7.99.

Corned beef and pastrami fixings dominate the sandwich and platter lunch offerings. Phone orders are accepted for takeout.

As Sherman mused over what could be the house specialty, wait staffer Kathy Howell, wiping a table across the room, hollered: "Corned beef hash."

Sherman nodded with a smile, for two reasons: First, the homemade hash, whose ingredients never encounter a can; second, the help's ongoing interaction with all comers and the pleasant, feel-like-family air they generate. It's remindful of Mel's Diner, without the grease. (Yes, grits are on the menu.)

"They're always kibitzing with customers," Sherman said of his staff of six. "I manage like a V. I'm the bottom; they're the top. By giving them everything they need, you get what you want," happy employees who bring customers back.

"Once you're here, you become one of the family," he declared.

Some regulars have made Eli's a place to bring their groups: "13 guys, women's clubs, a book club, community village meetings," Sherman said.

"One (regular customer) wanted to come here for their wedding breakfast," Sherman said. "They did. We had a lot of fun."

Sherman's dad, Barry Sherman, 83, is the cafe's "ambassador," holding down a rush-seated chair at the stylishly appointed six-slot quick-serve front counter.

"He greets everyone who comes in," his son said, and directs groups to the 15-table dining room.

New tables and chairs, clean paint, a wood laminate floor that is regularly steam cleaned, and a vase with a faux flower at every table refresh the environs of the Italian restaurant that was formerly housed at the location.

Overall, Eli's is more homelike, more homemade, than diner.

"If you walk out of here hungry," Sherman said, "I didn't do my job."

Contact Beth Gray at [email protected]

By Beth N. Gray

Times Correspondent

SPRING HILL — The motto at Eli's Cafe, "All Food Made from Scratch," isn't spoken idly.

"No truck brings it in the back door and puts in the freezer," boasts owner Eli Sherman, a veteran restaurateur who had established two bar-and-grill emporiums in his native Long Island before moving to Florida in 2003, with another launched and sold in Pasco County.

His new breakfast-and-lunch stop is centrally located to a couple of big-box stores in the Shoppes at Spring Hill, off U.S. 19, adjacent to Timber Pines.

Sherman said when he sampled various restaurants in the area in his search for a new eatery slot, "no place was there 'made from scratch,' nothing fresh, nowhere like Mom used to cook."

With his mother's recipe box in hand — some of Grandma's recipes therein, as well — he opened the doors in February to platters of French toast concocted from fruit-and-spice breads baked in the cafe's kitchen, batter-dipped french fries cut from fresh tubers and sausage gravy stirred from the seasoned drippings of just-seared pork.

Such are among customer favorites from the generously sized menu, from which breakfast may be ordered all day.

"I'm a breakfast kind of guy," says the beefy owner.

Yet, he recognizes a variety of gastronomic desires.

"For people who work, some want a smaller portion — one egg, one slice of bacon," said Sherman, 56.

For them, a breakfast special is available: $1.99 from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m.

At the lunch hour, perhaps the weightiest selection on the menu is the "Kitchen Sink," which piles bacon, ham, green peppers, onions and French fries into and onto an omelet, ladling sausage gravy over it all — $7.99.

Corned beef and pastrami fixings dominate the sandwich and platter lunch offerings. Phone orders are accepted for takeout.

As Sherman mused over what could be the house specialty, wait staffer Kathy Howell, wiping a table across the room, hollered: "Corned beef hash."

Sherman nodded with a smile, for two reasons: First, the homemade hash, whose ingredients never encounter a can; second, the help's ongoing interaction with all comers and the pleasant, feel-like-family air they generate.

It's remindful of Mel's Diner, without the grease. (Yes, grits are on the menu.)

"They're always kibitzing with customers," Sherman said of his staff of six. "I manage like a V. I'm the bottom; they're the top. By giving them everything they need, you get what you want," happy employees who bring customers back.

"Once you're here, you become one of the family," he declared.

Some regulars have made Eli's a place to bring their groups: "13 guys, women's clubs, a book club, community village meetings," Sherman said.

"One (regular customer) wanted to come here for their wedding breakfast," Sherman said. "They did. We had a lot of fun."

Sherman's dad, Barry Sherman, 83, is the cafe's "ambassador," holding down a rush-seated chair at the stylishly appointed six-slot quick-serve front counter.

"He greets everyone who comes in," his son said, and directs groups to the 15-table dining room.

New tables and chairs, clean paint, a wood laminate floor that is regularly steam cleaned, and a vase with a faux flower at every table refresh the environs of the Italian restaurant that was formerly housed at the location.

Overall, Eli's is more home-like, more homemade, than diner.

"If you walk out of here hungry," Sherman said, "I didn't do my job."

Contact Beth Gray at [email protected]

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