As if jumping the hurdles of finding the right space, obtaining permits and making desired renovations wasn’t enough for Judy Hysek’s restaurant move, there has been the added stress of illness, little things going wrong and nailing down final details that pushed back her opening date, she says.
“Renovation was a huge part of it. We had to do a lot of electrical work, we got COVID in the middle of it. So that held us back,” Hysek said during an interview with The Batavian Tuesday. “It’s just a comfortable space that's a little bit different than anything else in Batavia. You know, I had a Pinterest vision in mind, and I didn't want to copy it exactly. But we got the vibe down that I wanted. I'm really happy with the way things have turned out.”
Her place, Eden Cafe & Bakeshop, has been settling into its new home at 242 Ellicott St., Batavia for about a month now since moving out of Eli Fish Brewery on Main Street. Her vision unfolded in colors of cream and rosy melon, light olive green and two shocks of cobalt blue from the wall artwork made of recycled plastic Domino sugar bags.
A possibly stereotypical description, perhaps, for a plant-based eating spot, but there is a light and airy feel upon entering. The light cream and melon furniture features a row of booth seating along the wall, with light oak-colored chairs on the opposite side. Flat tan baskets with bold black designs hang on the walls behind while similarly hued light covers — featuring what seem to be leaves that form a circular fixture — hang overhead.
Was her theme tropical? Apparently not, she said, though it emanates a slow-down vacation-type vibe, especially with the cluster of green plants and boutiquey seating in front of two large windows in front.
“It's not really what I was going for. I was just thinking like, boho chic,” she said. “Something not terribly trendy.”
For those who aren’t familiar with Eden Cafe, it offers a plant-based menu with a twist on some old tried-and-true dishes. There are cauliflower wings, breaded, baked to order and served with mild to hot wing sauce or a house-made sweet maple mustard or Cattleman’s Gold. Cauliflower is the new darling of the food industry, and cauli wings, as they’re called, offer a meaty-like bite with seasonings and a sauce.
There’s a selection of burgers — made with a Beyond Meat brand patty that Hysek said comes “really, really close” to the real thing — served with grilled pineapple, homemade pickled onions, teriyaki and mayo, or with a more traditional lettuce, tomato and French’s fried onions. There are also house-made chipotle black bean and chickpea patties, crunchwraps, salads, bowls and Eden’s popular carrot dogs.
Hysek’s original idea was to go more upscale with her new location, but customers threatened a boycott. They demanded her crunchwraps — the Southwest includes a black bean patty, seasoned rice, lettuce, tomato, onion and chipotle ranch — and carrot dogs.
Served in the size of a typical hotdog and marinated in a combo of liquid smoke and aminos with a piquant sauce flavor, grilled and served on a bun (homemade and perfected by Hysek’s father), it does replicate a chewy, smoky grilled hotdog. Want something adventurous? Try the Picnic, topped with a mix of house-made mac salad and crunchy potato chips, or the Sassy featuring homemade sweet maple mustard, pickled jalapeños and fried onions. People love the mac salad, she said.
Hysek hasn’t always been a vegan. It wasn’t until 2015 that she made the gradual transition after realizing that animals are animals, no matter whether a chicken or pig or her pet dog, she said. She had gotten some chickens in order to have fresh eggs, and the Batavia resident fed them every day. She started to make an association with them as living creatures, and how their body parts were something she had been eating.
"I was feeling them on my hands. I would feel them growing and I felt like, I finally made the connection and admitted, ‘Oh, that's a breast right there. Yeah, the drumstick that I like eating. And then I looked at my Chihuahua … so I stopped eating chicken. And then I stopped eating pork and beef and fish, and eventually just kind of went right into veganism.”
“I think people would be surprised at what a good meal they could get, and please their palate even if they're not vegan or vegetarian,” she said. “I think if you have an open mind that you should find something that you really enjoy.”
She has a loyal following, and many of those customers will bring newcomers to try out the meals. Others will come to check out the plant-based options for lunch, dinner and/or dessert, she said.
“There was definitely a need for something like this in Batavia. I think there is a community for people who want to eat healthier or more plant-based foods,” she said. “And then I think there's definitely a crowd that's coming in and actually willing to give it a try.”
Nicole DellaPenna is the head chef and manager, and there are prep and line cooks, plus a baker, to take care of demand, Hysek said. With an entrepreneurial spirit ever since she was in elementary school, Hysek started out collecting and then selling pencils and paper to her siblings. She has grown up to operate her first brick-and-mortar establishment, she said.
“Our volume has definitely increased since we left (Main Street); it's fantastic,” she said. “I was kind of, it's going to go either way, we have no idea how it's going to work out, and we're really happy with the (outcome).”
Eden Cafe & Bakeshop is at 242 Ellicott St., Batavia. Hours are 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday for dining in or take-out. For more information, call (585) 815-4487.
Top photo: Judy Hysek, owner of Eden Cafe & Bakeshop, at her new location at 242 Ellicott St., Batavia. Cauli wings, carrot dogs, lemon meringue pie and strawberry salad are just some of the many plant-based dishes awaiting hungry diners.
Photos by Howard Owens.