|The staff at Eat
Smart Cafe is excited to offer healthier alternatives to
fast food, introducing some customers to quinoa, aioli and
chutney, among other ingredients. All who work at the
restaurant are involved in the kitchen, including (from
left) employee Eric Karius, manager Matt Spek, and manager
OCONOMOWOC - A lot of thought goes into the changing menu at the Eat
Smart Cafe at 1416 Summit Ave. in Oconomowoc, but there are still
some things that the staff considers no-brainers.
Joshua Mansour, a
manager and chef at the restaurant, said ingredients should be fresh
and local - and that the finished product should not leave customers
feeling bad after consumption.
A blend of
creativity and simplicity also goes a long way. For example,
cranberry apricot turkey wraps share the menu with chocolate chip
cookies made using a recipe handed down from Mansourís grandmother.
Mansour sat down
with the Enterprise on Tuesday to discuss the recipe that has led to
two years of success at the Eat Smart Cafe.
ENTERPRISE: What was the impetus for creating the Eat
Smart Cafe? And what is its philosophy?
MANSOUR: The owner
got tired of eating a small hamburger from a fast-food restaurant
that would leave him feeling lethargic the rest of the day. He
wanted an alternative to the chain restaurants, where customers
might not know where the turkey in their sandwich came from.
Mansour says fresh, healthy ingredients go a long way
toward leaving the customer feeling full, without feeling
ENTERPRISE: What is your own personal buy-in to
MANSOUR: It was
habit-forming to eat fast foods when I was growing up. For busy
parents with multiple children to feed, it was often the easiest
When I moved to
Boulder, Colo., though, the only fast-food restaurants were on the
perimeter. I ended up going to amazing restaurants that offered
Iíve always been
aware of what I was putting into my body, but it was difficult to
find the right things. Iím a runner, and couldnít eat fast food
before going for a run because I knew Iíd feel like a rock.
Now that Iíve been
working here, I read every label when grocery shopping. It takes a
little bit longer, but Iím confident in what Iím bringing home.
ENTERPRISE: What are some customer favorites?
turkey panini with onions and tomatoes is a big hit. The breakfast
burrito is filling and nearly three times as big as what youíd get
at a fast-food restaurant. People like the chicken avocado salad.
Iíve eaten that almost every day this week.
ENTERPRISE: With a name like Eat Smart, customers
probably come in with questions. What questions do you get?
MANSOUR: They ask
what is ďEat Smart;Ē they come in thinking it implies health food -
with zero fat, but thatís not necessarily the case. Itís just good,
fresh food that will leave you feeling good. Nearly everything is
cooked in-house, with the exception of the soups, which come the
Soup Market. We do things in a healthy way. We donít microwave
plastic, for example, because it ends up leaching right into the
food. These are some of the rules fast food should be following, but
Customers also ask
about some of the less familiar ingredients in their food, such as
quinoa, aioli and chutney.
So that they can
answer these questions, the staff must try anything that they are
ENTERPRISE: Who has been coming to eat at Eat Smart?
Is it just for health nuts?
wouldnít say everybody who comes in is a health nut, but they are
health-conscious - our clientele is pretty smart. We are getting
staff from the hospitals and nearby businesses, high school seniors
and everybody, really.
ENTERPRISE: What role does feedback play?
MANSOUR: Our staff
of five is encouraged to bring their recipes in. We arenít afraid to
experiment. We tried to make a chicken barbecue panini, but it
didnít pan out. We replaced it with the Buffalo chicken panini,
which is a customer favorite.
Customers are also
encouraged to fill out the comment cards on every table. We get
about 15 to 20 per day. People kept saying we needed plants. Though
we had purposely avoided plants, we were eventually able to find
plants that really fit with the atmosphere. It was a good
Eat Smart a franchise? If not, do you have plans to expand?
MANSOUR: It is not
a franchise, but we could expand in the next two years. If we were
to expand it would be to Waukesha, Milwaukee or elsewhere in the
southeastern Wisconsin market.