Cafe Ramona a fresh idea

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 10, 2007

What do you get when you cross a registered dietician with a southern chef? Caf/ Ramona, of course.

Nestled upstairs in the Greystone Center office complex, Ramona Mainess-Anderson&8217;s caf/ offers southern favorites with a healthy approach.

Instead of vegetables loaded in bacon fat, Ramona&8217;s vegetables are prepared without help from pig products. Ramona explained, &8220;Most of our vegetables are steamed. The greens are cooked slowly. We use lots of spices, fresh onions and garlic and lots of herbs to season them, but no fat.&8221;

&8220;This is probably one of the best things that happened to 280,&8221; said Marylyn Pettit. &8220;They&8217;re here to help you, and please you, and serve you and they take pride in their food.&8221;

A native of Birmingham, Ramona begins every morning preparing her vegetables, which are always the freshest available. The oil she uses to lightly fry fish and chicken is specially shipped and contains no trans fat.

The dishes are your basic &8220;meat-and-three&8221; combination, featuring entrees such as roast beef, baked and fried chicken and even homemade vegetarian patties.

The recipes are all Ramona&8217;s own, with some of her talent passed down from her mother, who catered as a hobby during Ramona&8217;s childhood. Ironically, she said, &8220;As a child I didn&8217;t enjoy cooking, but I loved art. And I found that in cooking I could be just as creative with food as an artist on canvas.&8221;

Now, Ramona continues to express her love for art through Caf/ Ramona, which is decorated with several art pieces and exhibits up-and-coming local artist in an art show once a month. The caf/ also offers local musicians the chance to perform at Sunday brunch or special occasions.

Playing host to local artists is just one of the ways Caf/ Ramona reaches out to the Highway 280 community.

&8220;We wanted it to be a place kinda like in the old days,&8221; Ramona said. &8220;When you went to the corner store and you were like, &8216;Hi Mrs. Smith.&8217; That&8217;s what we envisioned when we came here, a place where neighbors could come and meet or their kids could come. Where it was laid back and you didn&8217;t feel a sense of urgency to rush out.&8221;

Besides being a refuge for busy workers and families, Caf/ Ramona practically pampers guests with their customer service. Ramona&8217;s dedication to serving patrons stems from her childhood as well, where the whole family performed community service and Saturdays brought friends from all over the city for lunch.

An emphasis on serving others is obvious everywhere at Caf/ Ramona, from the attentive staff, elegant d/cor to Ramona&8217;s interaction with customers.

&8220;It&8217;s the same type of service you would expect at a four-star restaurant,&8221; said Russell Chappell, manager at Caf/ Ramona. &8220;It doesn&8217;t matter if what we serve a person thinks is low-end, we still have the highest service we are trying to achieve.&8221;