Friday, December 15, 2017
Business

New owner of Little Lady Cafe reaches out, entices with home cooking

BROOKSVILLE — Almost hidden in plain sight, a little downtown dining spot is drawing in new customers through a Facebook campaign while continuing to dish up breakfast and lunch to a line of regulars who have a year's acquaintance with new owner Rory Steele.

This month, Steele bought, with silent partner Brent Gaustad, the Little Lady Cafe, which the Brooksville native managed for 14 months. The previous owners opted for retirement.

Across Broad Street from the Hernando County Government Center, the 49-seat barn-red cafe is tucked into the rear of its plot, an easy miss for passing drivers. The cafe's small parking lot fronts onto the street. The parking is a plus, Steele said, while other downtown eateries complain about limited street-side parking.

To inform prospective customers who might have missed Little Lady, Steele has ramped up the cafe's Facebook presence.

"Social media is the way to go," Steele said. "People are always on their phones."

She pointed out the cafe's 1,106 followers on Facebook, with "41 just this week," she said. "If I get 10 percent (of those) coming in each week, then I've reached them."

And yes, she said, those online followers are translating into diners.

Aside from garnering new customers, county government employees are a mainstay.

"They walk in, and we write up their ticket," Steele said. "We know what they want."

When courts are in session, jurors' lunches are ordered from Little Lady. Also, "We're with Back the Blue," she said, explaining that the cafe caters to law enforcement workers.

Then there are night-shift workers, punching out at 6 a.m.

"They come in for dinner at breakfast time," Steele said.

The cafe's breakfast and lunch menus are served all day.

What brings in customers?

"Everything is homemade," Steele said. She started baking fresh bread and muffins at the age of 8 or 9 with her mother, to help feed her six siblings.

Now an entrepreneur at age 34, she admitted, "I don't get to cook as much as I used to."

Still, the cafe builds dishes from her recipes and those of head cook Dan Wisniewski, a 12-year veteran of the cooktop and Steele's "right-hand man."

Steele said customers' leading choices are "definitely, the country-fried steak and pressed Cuban sandwich."

The fried, thin-sliced sirloin beef is hand-breaded with . . .

"Can't tell you," she said with a grin and a shake of her head. The recipe is secret.

"We sell 20 or more Cubans a day," Steele said.

With meats that are hand-cut off the slab at the time of a customer's order, the sandwich is fresher tasting. It's concocted on authentic Cuban rolls from the famous La Segunda Central Bakery in Ybor City.

"We were nominated last week" — one week into her ownership — "for the Cuban Festival in Ybor on April 1 and 2," Steele said.

From Wisniewski's recipes, a favorite of his and diners is the cafe's mac-n-cheese, a baked dish with American and cheddar cheeses, no flour added.

It's the top tuck-in choice for the half-pound stuffed burger.

Sturdy fare aside, Steele said the cafe is "in the process of adding lighter, fit menu items, more wraps and salads. We do veggie-egg white omelets."

Also coming: the addition of an outdoor patio, upping seating to 70.

A rare cohesiveness rather than competition exists among the several restaurants in downtown Brooksville.

"We all work together," Steele said. "We help each other out. We swap, run out, borrow. We buy locally when we can."

Similarly, the eateries share customers, she noted.

"If we don't have what they want, I'll send them to where they can get it," she said. "We share the wealth."

Contact Beth Gray at [email protected]

Comments
Fueled by indulgence and machismo, restaurants are a hotbed for sexual harassment

Fueled by indulgence and machismo, restaurants are a hotbed for sexual harassment

When Brenda Terry was 16 and living in St. Louis, she was a hostess and food runner at a sports bar where female employees wore cute, little cheerleading skirts. One night, she said, a patron grabbed her crotch. She ran to her management team and the...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Pigs can be therapy animals too. So can horses and rats and cats and llamas and … (w/video)

Pigs can be therapy animals too. So can horses and rats and cats and llamas and … (w/video)

Shrieks of laughter echoed off the walls of the hospital as Thunder the mini pig flopped onto his side and the children huddled around him, scratching his pink, hairy belly. He and his wet-nosed partner, Bolt, drew patients in wheelchairs and bandage...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Vology landlord challenges property tax assessment

Vology landlord challenges property tax assessment

LARGO — Eight months after paying $10.15 million for the office building that houses IT services company Vology, a New York company is suing the Pinellas County Property Appraiser and Florida Department of Revenue contending its $5.5 million tax asse...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Taxpayer subsidies of Tampa golf courses are on the rise as struggles continue

Taxpayer subsidies of Tampa golf courses are on the rise as struggles continue

TAMPA — For the half of the year that Harry Nichols lives in Oldsmar, he plays 18 holes several times a month at Rocky Point Golf Course. On a good day, Nichols said he shoots close to par on the Dana Shores course. And if he’s really lucky, it’ll on...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Florida’s $1.1 billion Hardest Hit Fund winding down after some hard knocks

Florida’s $1.1 billion Hardest Hit Fund winding down after some hard knocks

In 2010, Florida was in the throes of an unprecedented housing crisis. One in every eight homes was in some stage of foreclosure. Today, the foreclosure rate is one in every 83. Because of that enormous drop, Florida’s Hardest Hit Fund will s...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Report: Rich will get still richer unless policies change

Report: Rich will get still richer unless policies change

By ELAINE KURTENBACHTOKYO — Global inequality has stabilized at high levels in recent years, a report said Friday, despite gains among the poor in China and much milder disparities in incomes and wealth in Western Europe. The World Inequality Report ...
Updated: 12 hours ago
How the Disney/Fox deal will shake up Hollywood

How the Disney/Fox deal will shake up Hollywood

Associated Press NEW YORK — After years of tremors, the earthquake that had long been predicted finally shook Hollywood. Disney’s deal to purchase most of 21st Century Fox ends the era of the "Big Six" major movie studios, toppling one ...
Published: 12/15/17
St. Petersburg’s Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement set to be complete in 2019

St. Petersburg’s Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement set to be complete in 2019

ST. PETERSBURG — The Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement, under construction since 2015, is scheduled to be complete by the summer of 2019.The five-story, 137,100-square-foot building will house businessman and collector Rudy Ciccarello’s...
Published: 12/15/17
Obamacare enrollment ends today, but some can get an extension

Obamacare enrollment ends today, but some can get an extension

Today is the day that open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act will close for most people. But those affected by the slew of hurricanes that pummelled Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico and other states earlier this year can take advantage of a two-week ...
Published: 12/15/17
Pack your bags: 107.3M Americans to set holiday traveling record

Pack your bags: 107.3M Americans to set holiday traveling record

A record-breaking number of Americans are expected to travel this holiday season.The American Automobile Association projects that 107.3 million Americans will pack their bags and travel more than 50 miles by planes, trains, automobiles and other mod...
Published: 12/14/17