For Randy Waclawski and Patty Hickman, serving up food to hungry customers at The Dish Café in Traverse City is a labor of love. Though 50- to 70-hour workweeks have been the norm since purchasing the café eight years ago, their enthusiasm hasn’t waned.
“We love to see people enjoy our food,” said Waclawski.
That love translates into The Dish’s flavorful menu, which features freshly made sandwiches, salads, soups and quesadillas. And in the morning, there are six different kinds of breakfast burritos and an oatmeal bar.
Waclawski says being in the middle of a busy downtown means that the business has grown through the years.
“There’s more foot traffic downtown.
The more places, the more people,” he said. “Especially Union Street. It’s really built up – Union Cantina, 7 Monks, House of Doggs.”
Hickman says they take pride in knowing and taking care of the downtown workers who populate the nearby buildings. “We never realized how many people are working on the second and third floors downtown,” she said.
She and her crew know those regulars don’t necessarily have a lot of time for lunch, so The Dish staff makes them a priority.
“That is our main focus,” she said. “We work really hard to make sure our locals are taken care of.”
As for the restaurant itself, it has an open and inviting interior, filled with framed art. Halved stainless steel colanders serve as wall sconces.
Even in the midst of winter, the décor and earth tones mixed with moss and spring green at least give the illusion that spring is around the corner.
“We work really hard to make sure our locals are taken care of.”
Crunchy, fresh salads and wraps are popular, featuring traditional items like a chef or tuna salad. There are also more exotic choices like the Asian noodle, with rice noodles and carrots, cucumbers and cashews. Wraps feature a variety of meats and cheeses, often with condiments like lime dill ranch or curry-sesame dressing.
Café sandwiches are served on grilled homemade honey wheat bread. The Dish’s grilled ciabatta sandwiches use ingredients like smoked gouda cheese melted over roasted portabella mushrooms or guacamole, cheddar, and red onion with bacon and honey smoked turkey.
Then there are the specials: Taco Tuesday. Chicago-style Italian beef on Wednesday. White cheddar macaroni and cheese Thursday. And on Friday, Cuban sandwiches.
The breakfast burritos start with scrambled eggs and add a variety of meats and cheeses, while smoothies are available in a host of fruit flavors, with add-ons like soy protein, greens or yogurt.
TC’s Favorite salad lives up to its name at The Dish, with its dried cherries, walnuts, and gorgonzola cheese. Not far behind is the Dish Bistro salad, with sliced green apples, mandarin oranges, walnuts, and gorgonzola cheese. Both are served on a bed of green romaine and leaf lettuce and finished with zesty orange-ginger vinaigrette.
Hickman says the most popular wrap is the Grumpy, with kalamata olives, feta cheese, tomatoes, artichokes, red onion, roasted pepper hummus and lemon parsley vinaigrette. And it’s popular for a good reason.
“Our Grumpy wrap has tons of flavor,” she said. “It’s my absolute favorite from our menu.”
The quesadillas are also a top choice.
The Arizona features chicken, avocado, homemade salsa, havarti cheese, and rice, while (go)Green offers a singular blend of flavors with pesto, broccoli, spinach, tomato, onion, blue cheese and cheddar cheese.
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Waclawski and Hickman first joined forces when they worked at Hattie’s, the former high-end restaurant in Suttons Bay. When the opportunity arose to purchase The Dish, they jumped at it. They’re the third owners of the café, which was originally opened by Trish and Jeff Wiltse, owners of Firefly, Bubba’s, and The Kitchen.
Whether it’s purchasing the ingredients for their menu or preparing it, they take pride in doing things locally and hands-on.
“We make sure everything is done here – the chicken is cooked in-house,” said Waclawski. “We incorporate as many local ingredients as we can.”
Salads start at $7.07, sandwiches at $4.71. A cup of soup is $2.59. Quesadillas start at $7.31, though some varieties are available for less as half quesadillas. Breakfast burritos start at $2.83, the oatmeal bar at $2.59, and smoothies start at $3.54.
The Dish, located at 108 S. Union St., is open Monday through Friday 8am-6pm, Saturday 9am-6pm, Sunday 9am-4pm. Phone (231) 932-2233. For more, go to thedishcafetc.com or visit its Facebook page.