Table Talk

New downtown cafe has fresh fare, social mission

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RYAN M.L. YOUNG/THISWEEKNEWS
A sandwich board sign helps mark the entrance to Freshbox Cafe's location in Trinity Episcopal Church on the southeast corner of Third and Broad streets in downtown Columbus.

Building on the momentum of its catering outfit, Freshbox Cafe opened this week in downtown Columbus.

General manager Lauren Wilson said the 25-seat cafe will compete for the busy downtown lunch business with fresh sandwiches, salads, soups and a rotating line of desserts.

"We take pride in making everything fresh every day," Wilson said.

But a few things separate this cafe from the abundance of other restaurant options in the area. One is its location, in the basement level of Trinity Episcopal Church, 125 E. Broad St.

"We know the location can work because it's worked in the past," said Wilson, referring to its days as The Place to Be, which has since closed.

Freshbox Catering got its start in 2010 and quickly grew an extensive and diverse clientele, from corporations to sports associations.

Its mission was to help transition homeless people into jobs. Along the way, it adopted this saying: "Feed your appetite, nourish your community."

Freshbox, a nonprofit social enterprise, is working with Faith Mission and National Church Residences to find associates for the catering business and cafe, both of which are owned by Lutheran Social Services.

"The goal is to put them in a three-step training program and get them back into the workforce," Wilson said.

Starting a restaurant can test the most faithful of entrepreneurs. But with competitive prices, healthy fare and a mission of helping people, Freshbox Cafe will do well, she said.

"It's something we've wanted to do for a while," Wilson said. "The bottom line of what we do is grow our mission."

The cafe is open 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays. For more information, call 614-859-9416.

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The transition from Easy Street Cafe to Kraft House No. 5 will begin after Mother's Day.

George Stefanidis sold the Powell restaurant about a month ago to his nephews, Louie and Michael Pappas.

Louie Pappas said they will close the cafe after brunch on Mother's Day, May 11, and transform the space from a laid-back neighborhood eatery to a modern gastropub.

"Along with that, the space will have that urban rustic look to it," he said.

Among the changes: The draft beer list will double to 20 and feature several local craft breweries. He said the place will offer signature cocktails, made with homemade tonics, bitters and other ingredients.

Chef Marcus Meacham, formerly of Bodega, is in charge of the menu. Pappas said customers can look forward to mussels with frites, shrimp and grits, hamburgers made with freshly ground beef and a daily rotation of small plates.

Powell seemed like a good fit for the brothers, both of whom graduated from Olentangy High School, Louie Pappas said.

"We grew up here," he said. "A lot of our friends are still in the area."

Both men also grew up in the restaurant business. Their father, Tommy Pappas, owns Tommy's Diner in Franklinton, where Michael Pappas still works.

Louie Pappas started Milo's Deli and added a catering outfit. He outgrew the original Milo's in Franklinton, but opened two more delis -- one each in the Statehouse and Crosswoods -- and has another on the way in the Busch Corporate Center.

"This is the first project my brother and I first worked on and we wanted to do something different than we do day to day," Louie Pappas said.

Meanwhile, Stefanidis said he has his hands full with the original Easy Street Cafe in German Village and Red Brick Tap & Grill in Merion Village.

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