Sweet new home for Sweet Meadow Café: Popular Salisbury restaurant will move to the Bernhardt building

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 14, 2014

By Katie Scarvey   

For the Salisbury Post

Say it isn’t so! The last day of operation for the Sweet Meadow Café on West Innes Street – a beloved Salisbury institution – is Dec. 21.

But fear not, faithful Sweet Meadow fans. A bigger and better Sweet Meadow is opening just around the corner in the old Bernhardt Hardware building in the 100 block of North Main Street.

If things go as planned, the new Sweet Meadow Café will be up and running in mid- to late January.

“The renovation is just tremendous,” says owner Heather Teeter, who began considering a move last year when she heard one of her regular customers, Bryan Wymbs, talking about his recent purchase of the Bernhardt building with his business partner, Chad Vriesema. Teeter floated the idea of Sweet Meadow as a tenant.

“Our initial plan was not necessarily for a restaurant (in that space),” Wymbs said. But partly because he’s such a fan of the café – he’s eaten there at least once a month for the past 10 years, he says – Wymbs was open to the suggestion.

Central Piedmont Builders is doing the renovation.

The move makes sense. The current Sweet Meadow Café, which opened its doors in 1987 under the ownership of Marilyn Harrison, has outgrown its space. Staff served Sunday brunch to 106 people recently—and had to turn away 30 more. The new location will offer seating for 70 or more, as well as a brick patio area with additional seating.

Patrons will be able to enter from the front or the back, with access from both the parking lot and the street.

No huge changes are in the works. “We’re maintaining our quirky, intimate atmosphere,” Teeter says. “We’re maintaining our menu and our vegetarian and vegan friendliness. We like what we do. We just want to grow it.”

The café has so many diehard fans of its signature dishes that the menu will remain the same, says Teeter, who plans to bring her creative energy to bear with the daily specials. Teeter’s priority has always been serving “real food” – nothing from a mix. And that definitely won’t change.

The café’s farm-to-fork approach will also remain a priority. “During the growing season we get nearly 100 percent of our produce from local farms,” Teeter says. “I would love to get all of my ingredients locally sourced.”

One change for the café, which currently serves beer and wine, will be the addition of what Teeter calls  “a big boy bar.” Don’t expect trendy, blender drinks.

“We’re going retro with the cocktails,” says Teeter, a plan that Wymbs applauds. “Our niche will be classic old cocktails.” Think brown derbies, whiskey sours, Manhattans, sidecars. (Teeter has good memories from when she used to muddle cherries and oranges as a girl for her grandmother’s old fashioneds.)

“I think that what Heather’s got going and what she’s planning to do is really exciting,” says Wymbs, who adds that the restaurant’s strong track record and faithful clientele make customizing the space a less risky proposition than it might otherwise have been.

The restaurant will create several new full-time positions and five or so part-time positions. Teeter is happy to have restaurant industry veteran Sean Sindle coming aboard as the front-of-house manager. Fans of long-time Sweet Meadow employee Richie Mutz will be relieved to know that he will be making the move. Teeter will begin accepting resumes in January for additional staff.

The distinctive spirit that defines Sweet Meadow will continue to prevail at the new location. “We are going to take all of our funky, eclectic weirdness with us,” Teeter says, including the mismatched tables and chairs, the cobalt blue bottles in the window, the sunny yellow color scheme, the Sam Rigling painting and even the old piano.

“That’s a lot of history to carry, even just around the corner,” Teeter says.

At the new place, Teeter is planning a hallway gallery – connecting the front and back dining rooms – that will feature local artists. Sweet Meadow has long been artist-friendly. The restaurant used to host Black Cat readings on Thursday nights, with poets, fiction writers and singer-songwriters sharing their talents in the intimate space.

Teeter has many fond memories from Sweet Meadow’s current location, but not everything quirky about the place was charming – like the lack of central air.

Teeter is thrilled to be getting a brand-new kitchen and environmental controls that will provide air conditioning during the summer.

“That’s huge, right there,” says Teeter, who notes that some patrons admitted avoiding Sweet Meadow during July and August because they just couldn’t take the heat, which hovered at 87 degrees on the hottest days.

The new Sweet Meadow will have expanded hours. Lunch will be served Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Dinner will be served Wednesday through Saturday from 5-9 p.m. Sunday brunch hours will be extended, from 11 a.m.-3 p.m.  The restaurant will be closed Mondays.

Teeter is extending an invitation to anyone who has ever worked at Sweet Meadow, from its beginnings in 1987 to now, to meet between 2 and 3 p.m. Dec. 21 at the restaurant for a group photo.