Lindsay and John Cheesebrew were faced with a decision that no one should have to make.
The owners of Bird + Cleaver, 1603 N. Wells St., were watching the temperatures dip, COVID-19 cases rise and business slow. Operating the restaurant became more and more risky – the risk of COVID exposure and the effect it would have “if we continued to operate in such a compromising way.”
“Having to choose between being unsafe (maybe sick) and possibly lose it all, or socially responsible and possibly lose it all, isn't something anyone should have to do,” Lindsay Cheesebrew says.
Last week, they made the decision to close the restaurant for the foreseeable future.
The restaurant had shut down temporarily Oct. 17 to have its staff tested for COVID-19. It was the first time they had a non-scheduled closure since the beginning of the pandemic. However, the “likely scenario of attempting to handle multiple shutdowns, when the entire industry is already struggling to keep up, was too much.”
Bird + Cleaver opened in 2018, after years of catering, special events and pop-ups. The food was approachable and vegan-friendly, with dishes such as Nashville hot chicken.
But for the Cheesebrews, Bird + Cleaver was more than the food.
“Dining at Bird and Cleaver is about the whole experience; it's about the space, the service, the presentation and level of hospitality that you get every time you walk in the door,” Lindsay Cheesebrew says. “It is extremely disheartening having to compromise any of these in order to follow all necessary protocols – both mandated and self-imposed.”
The small restaurant, like many others, faced financial challenges with regulations imposed during the state's reopening plan and social distancing guidelines. The Cheesebrews were trying to make it work with fewer tables and a smaller customer base while trying to provide the restaurant and staff with a steady income.
“Restaurants can both be seen as essential, because they provide food/sustenance, as well as a luxury that can easily be omitted from daily life, by others,” Cheesebrew says. “This isn't exactly a recipe for success, and longevity, let alone something you can plan for.”
Betty Shuman is in the kitchen of 1019 Coliseum Blvd. E., scooping up a mixture of eggs and vegetables into a mini muffin tin.
It's a new variation on the quiche bites that she plans to have on the menu at the Divine Encounter Cafe, which will open Saturday. It has broccoli, almond flour, cheese and – a surprise – blueberries. It might be an unusual choice but the berries will add a burst of flavor, sweetness and texture.
The menu at Divine Encounter Cafe will feature breakfast and lunch items. Some will be healthful but all will be nourishing – to the body and spirit, Shuman says. Breakfast menu has a yogurt parfait and avocado toast alongside shrimp and grits and bacon and eggs. Quinoa bowls are among the lunch selections, as is the Preacher's Cobb Sandwich. The sandwich is made with grilled chicken, bacon, romaine, avocado, feta, tomato and egg.
Divine Encounter Cafe will have kombucha on tap, as well as coffee drinks.
The cafe is a dream – quite literally – for the DeKalb High School graduate who grew up in the foster care system. Shuman says she woke up from a difficult night's sleep with the idea, which she saw as God leading her down a new path.
Her faith has helped her in the planning process, she says, from networking with local ministry leaders to finding the location – the former Sunrise Cafe near Coliseum and Parnell Avenue.
Hours will be 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Shuman hopes to use the cafe for outreach events in the evenings.
Kids get doughnut
Rise N Roll Bakery is offering children a treat this weekend, while supporting Blessings in a Backpack.
The bakery, which has two locations in Fort Wayne, will offer kids in costume a free doughnut Friday and Saturday.
There will also be spooky caramel apples for sale at the 511 E. Dupont Road location. Sales will benefit Blessings in a Backpack, which helps provide food for children over the weekend when they aren't being fed in schools. The Kiwanis Club is providing the apples for the event.
No purchase is required for children to receive the free doughnut.
There is a no-contact option for visitors to the Dupont location. Pre-order by calling 338-2588 and go through the drive-thru.
• Chicago-based Giordano's opened its doors Tuesday. The restaurant, 10040 Diebold Road, will have limited hours through Friday. Beginning Saturday, it will be open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.
• Fort Wayne Vegan Restaurant Week will begin Monday and go through Nov. 8. There are nine restaurants participating in the event, including Trubble Brewing, Savery Vegan Grill, Full Circle Barbecue and Umi. For menus and more information, go to FortWayneVeg.com.
The Dish features restaurant news and food events and appears Wednesdays. Fax news items to 461-8893, email email@example.com or call 461-8304 at least two weeks before event or desired publication.