A pig and a rooster walk into a cafe: Marion designer opens new eatery

Oct 11, 2014

With Kate’s Simple Eats, designer and entrepreneur Kate Ross is bringing her creativity to the kitchen.

Simple, comfortable and slightly nautical, Ross’s says her new café is an extension of her own home and the design aesthetic in Dean Ross Home, the adjacent shop she opened with fellow designer Phoebe Dean Perry last year.

“It’s about having people in your home and feeding them and having a comfortable environment,” she said.

The idea for the café came through Dean Ross Home where customers often came in asking where they could get a bite to eat.

“I saw a need for not only a restaurant, but a restaurant in the village where people can congregate and hang out with friends,” Ross said.

She believes having more shops in the village area will help to make Marion a destination.

“What we really want to do is create someplace where people can get off the boat, where people can come to town, and find someplace to eat,” Ross said.

Though she has no prior food service experience, Ross decided to make the leap to restaurateur last spring. Construction began soon after, and the café opened its doors in mid-September with a menu of sandwiches and salads inspired both by the meals Ross cooks for herself and her favorite restaurants in her hometown, Buffalo, New York.

“I love to cook. I like to feed people more than I love to cook,” she said.

The menu has interesting flavor pairings and fresh ingredients, locally sourced when possible. Two weeks in, many customers have already declared their favorite menu item to be the pear, brie, spinach, caramelized onion and fig spread sandwich.

“People are freaking over that,” said Ross.

While the menu wasn’t too difficult for Ross, coming up with a logo to represent the café proved difficult. Friends recommended a nautical theme, but Ross said, “I wanted to keep it farm and food oriented.”

Looking at her boyfriends’ feet, tattooed with a pig and rooster gave her an idea.

“There’s an old sailing superstition that if you tattoo a pig and a rooster on your feet and you go off to sea that it brings good luck to avoid a shipwreck,” she said.

The animals were once stored in crates on voyages, and in the event of a catastrophe, they often survived since the crates floated.

The superstition turned into the café’s logo, which features a weather vane with a rooster standing on top of a pig.

“It really brings the nautical story to it but has a very farm look to it as well,” she said.

Sandwiches served in mini crates, chair seats covered with old sails and an outdoor area shaded by an awning made of sailing fabric bring the theme together.

The décor also connects well with Dean Ross Home, and the café’s proximity to the interior design shop isn’t coincidental. Although, Kate’s Simple Eats is Ross’s own venture, she wants to integrate it into the shop by serving food and drinks in the same plates, glasses and mugs that are available in the store.

“I’m trying to create an experience. A lot of what you eat on you’ll be able to walk in front and purchase,” Ross said.

Moving forward, Ross plans to add soups and comfort food to the menu as well as gluten-free bread. She may also open a few nights a week to draw in Tabor Academy students.

For now, the rooster and pig will greet guests from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Kate’s Simple Eats is located at 148 Front St.