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Green House Cafe

Al Parker - March 2nd, 2006
Wally Green has a simple philosophy to explain the success of The Green House Café, the popular downtown Traverse City eatery that recently celebrated its fifth year in business.
“One mistake that restaurant people make when they first put together a menu is that they include items that they like,” explains Wally, who owns and operates the restaurant with his wife Joy. “We’ve worked hard to produce items that the public likes.”
And Wally understood that one of the things that the public really likes is soup. He knew that Stone Soup was a restaurant in this same location and that it was a success for years.
So, much to the delight of their customers, Wally and Joy decided to emphasize soups. Every day, diners have their choice of eight different homemade soups to ward off the winter chills. Chicken noodle, broccoli cheddar, baked French onion, vegetarian garden vegetable, and chili are available each day. Three others are offered on a rotating basis. In the summer, they offer a variety of cold soups, such as gazpacho. They sell a lot of soup to takeout customers – by the cup, bowl or quart.
The Green House Café is open for breakfast and lunch. The breakfast fare is pretty standard with eggs, biscuits and gravy, omelets and griddle goodies, including buttermilk pancakes and French toast. Every day Green bakes fresh pastries from scratch, including a variety of “big-as-your-head” muffins that are a meal alone.

Traverse City Native
Born and raised in Traverse City, Green worked at Sugar Loaf on and off for about 10 years before moving to the Detroit area. He and Joy returned to Northern Michigan when they bought the Fife Lake Inn that overlooks Fife Lake.
They were on vacation in Mexico in 2000 when they learned that The Green House Café location was available. It had been home to several restaurants over the years, including Stone Soup, Stone Soup II, and Finestrata. Old-timers may remember it as the site of Walter’s Shoes.
The Greens made the decision to open their Front Street eatery and had an interior designer help with the soothing two-tone green interior. Five palm frond fans lazily whir overhead and move the air just enough to keep customers cool in summer and warm in winter. An impressive collection of underwater photographs taken by Wally adorns the walls. (See related article.)
In an unusual design, the kitchen of the 65-seat restaurant is right at the front door. It gives Green a chance to great customers personally as they enter and leave. They have a cadre of regulars who stop in at least once or twice a week.
“Downtown em-ployees are the heart of our business,” Green says. “But we draw a lot of different folks. For example, we get a lot of retirees who come in.”

Relaxing Atmosphere
An authentic maple floor and lattice work section dividers give the restaurant a relaxing Caribbean or Florida Keys-style atmosphere. It’s the kind of place where you wouldn’t be surprised to see Jimmy Buffet in a corner booth chomping down on one of Green’s special grilled TC Reubens, stacked with lean corned beef, a special blend of kraut, dried cherries, and provolone.
Their other signature meal is a Green House Salad, which features penné pasta marinated in a citrus blend, then tossed with fresh baby spinach, dried cherries, walnuts, mandarin oranges, and topped with citrus chicken.
Like most restaurant owners, Wally’s typical workday is 12 hours or more. He and Joy have five other staffers to keep the place running smoothly. “We really like it,” he says. “I can’t imagine having more fun. We get to meet great people every day.”

The Green House Café is located at 115 East Front St. in Traverse City. It is open Monday thru Friday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Café is closed on Sunday. For more information, call (231) 929-SOUP.

How About a Salad and a Side Order of Art?

Wally Green has been able to combine two of his longtime hobbies – scuba diving and photography – in giving The Green House Café its unique atmosphere.
Both Wally and his wife Joy are certified Master scuba divers who escape to warmer climes together to pursue their diving adventures. Usually they head to Mexico, but they’ve also had great trips to the Cayman Islands and Hawaii.
“We’ll be closing the restaurant during spring break to head back to Mexico,” says Green, who began taking underwater photos on one of their trips. “Diving is like walking on the moon. When you’re down there, you’re in somebody’s else’s territory.
Luckily, Green’s photographic skills enable diners at the Green House Café to enjoy a bit of that strange territory.
He has vividly recorded trips to underwater caves in Mexico, preserved the delicate beauty of brightly colored tropical fish, captured the elusive image of a poisonous rock fish, and more. His photographs adorn the walls of the Green House Café in 8x10 or 16x20 formats, all matted, framed and available for sale. For more information, call Green at (231) 929-SOUP.

  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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