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Friends Specialty to take over Cafe at Fellows Riverside Gardens - The Vindicator

The Garden Cafe at Fellows Riverside Gardens will reopen to visitors next month with some big changes to the restaurant that overlooks Lake Glacier.

A new name and menu are among those changes.

The cafe, previously operated by The Georgetown, is now The Friends Specialty at the Garden Cafe after Friends Specialty was awarded a three-year contract for the cafe in December.

Friends, a coffee-and-tea shop owned by married couple Mitch Lynch and Patricia Tinkler of Salem, has locations in Salem and downtown Youngstown.

The Georgetown’s 13-year run as the provider at the cafe came to an end when the park system’s leadership began thinking about a change. When The Georgetown’s one-year contract for 2014 expired, Friends was chosen to rent the space, which is inside the D.D. & Velma Davis Education and Visitor Center.

Friends was the highest bidder.The owners offered $1,200 in rent per month plus 6 percent of gross sales.

The Georgetown offered $1,000 in rent per month and 5 percent of gross sales.

Though money was a consideration, “it’s also the proposal they gave us of what they have to offer,” said Keith Kaiser, Mill Creek MetroParks horticulture director.

“Everything we do at Fellows Riverside Gardens has to connect people with plants,” he said.

Friends, he thinks, will do just that.

“We’re trying to make the focus be the lake and the woods and the flora,” Lynch said. “When you’re eating here, we want you to be enjoying that.”

Lynch also plans to make connections between plants featured in the gardens and menu items. For example, the cafe might have a special coffee blend that represents the gardens and a tea that uses spices featured in the gardens.

The approach to food is another way they plan to connect people with plants, Lynch said.

Lynch and Tinkler emphasize the local, the fresh and the healthy in making their products.

As such, the cafe’s menu is getting an overhaul. Lynch was not ready to share any specific menu items — they are still being tested, he said — but he explained his approach.

Lunchtime staples such as soups, salads and sandwiches will remain, but the way these are sourced and prepared will be different, Lynch says.

“It’s an emphasis on the plants — a menu that represents the ‘garden-to-table’ [approach],” he said.

Lynch gets all of his ingredients from local producers such as Iron Roots Urban Farm, The Bread Chef and Lady Buggs Farm, among many others.

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