Sleepy Bee Café
A row of hand-blown glass artworks hanging on the wall inevitably prompts a smile: They resemble slices of toast with grinning faces. The display perfectly captures Sleepy Bee Café’s menu and aesthetic— in fact, its very purpose: to serve healthy, delightful food with a side of artistry, a sprinkling of sustainability and a generous pinch of whimsy.
Think of a daytime restaurant (breakfast, brunch and lunch), and a family-focused one, at that, and you might imagine large portions of food that’s more comforting than it is good for you. Not at the Sleepy Bee. Chef Frances Kroner has crafted a seasonal menu of good-for-you yet satisfying comfort food favorites using wholesome local and organic ingredients. Kroner serves meats from Kentucky’s Marksbury Farm, dairy products from Snowville Creamery just east of Cincinnati, honey from Carriage House Farm, plus local bread, maple syrup, eggs and Amish poultry. The kitchen sources organic and local produce through two small distributors, Green BEAN Delivery and Ohio Valley Food Connection.
Owners Dr. John Hutton, a pediatrician, and Sandra Gross, an artist, already had deep roots in Cincinnati’s Oakley neighborhood (they co-own a beloved children’s bookstore, Blue Manatee
, and an art workshop/gallery, Brazee Street Studios) when they set out to open a cafe in 2013. The Oakley location saw rapid success, wowing an audience of savvy locavore diners, fitness buffs who appreciate the sensible menu offerings and parents who love the healthful yet kid-friendly dishes.
A year later, the team opened a second location in Blue Ash
(plans call for a third café downtown). Like its sister, it’s a casual, comfortable space the community has embraced. “John, Sandy and I all really like spreading our mission,” Kroner says. “It feels good to be able to share this kind of food with more people.”
Connecting Farm & Table
In the farm-to-table equation, it’s often the ‘to’ that’s challenging. Chefs have a hard time finding local ingredients in the quantity, availability and consistency they need. So Cincinnati chefs have taken creative steps to source locally. For his Montgomery lunch spot, Fond
, chef Ethan Snider relies on relationships with growers that he built while selling his gourmet hummus at farmers’ markets. Chef Stephen Williams of locavore-focused Covington restaurant, Bouquet
, brings that same emphasis to his new quick-service deli, Son & Soil
. And the new Ohio Valley Food Connection transports produce and meat from local farmers to area restaurants.
Written by Bryn Mooth.