February 17, 2019

Rose and Fern

The little neighborhood eatery that could.
By Lynn Geiger | Jan. 19, 2019

Armed with a vision and a menu, Becky Tranchell knew it when she saw it. She lives just a short distance away on Lincoln Street, and both she and her neighbors had been longing for a neighborhood café they could walk to.
 
“I’d always wanted to do a small place, with a small menu,” said Tranchell. “I love doing breakfast and lunch.”
 
A SPACE OF HER OWN
 The space, part of Potter’s Bakery on E. Eighth Street in Traverse City, was operating as an event space for the bakery when Tranchell approached owners Mike and Kathy Potter early last summer about her idea.
 
The one thing she didn’t have, however, was financing to back it up. So, the long-time business owners came up with a creative solution for the aspiring entrepreneur: They hired her. After briefly running Potter’s deli out of the space, she was then given the opportunity to debut her own menu in late September. The Potters bought the food and received all of the profits from the operation; Tranchell assumed no risk while seeing if she could build a customer base.
 
“Within three weeks, I had regulars,” she said, and work began in earnest toward the ultimate vision — establishing her own venture and all the risk, and reward, that comes with it. That dream came true last week.
 
The space has been renovated with the talents and after-hours work ethic of family and good friends. True to her neighborhood vision, the café is named for the two streets it sits between. Big and bold fern wallpaper lines one wall. Bench seating and small tables fill the space. A cozy and intimate living room vibe is what Tranchell is hoping for, with floral prints, pastels, plants, and shelves decorated with favorite things.
 
LOCAL FOOD, FAR AWAY FLAVORS
Tranchell, a graduate of NMC’s Great Lakes Culinary Institute (GLCI), worked in the restaurant industry in California and as a personal chef in New York before moving back to Traverse City in 2012. She worked in the industry and also as an adjunct instructor at the GLCI before this opportunity came along. In a nod to her alma mater, four of her six staff members at Rose and Fern are current GLCI students.
 
The Rose and Fern menu offers just six items for breakfast and six for lunch (all available all day), but with an incredible amount of variety.
 
“My goal with the menu is you can bring your dad and your weird vegan cousin to eat here at the same time,” Tranchell said.  
 
Tranchell buys her produce from Lakeview Hill Farm in Traverse City. Now in the deep of winter, that means copious amounts of beets, squash, potatoes, and winter greens. Whatever she gets, she likes to make full use of it. For example, when carrots come in, she uses the green tops for her chimichurri sauce or pesto. All the meat on the menu is Michigan-sourced, including Louie’s Meats in Traverse City, Michigan Turkey Producers, and Dearborn Market.
 
“I want to feed my community with the food my community grows, but bring in flavors not from here,” she said.
 
Those flavors hail from the Middle East and include tahini, toum — a creamy Lebanese garlic sauce — labneh (a strained yogurt) and zhoug (spicy cilantro sauce).
 
Tranchell also makes good use of her neighbor on the other side of the wall; Potter’s makes the English muffins, baguettes, and focaccia she uses for her sandwiches.
 
While the menu will change regularly to keep it fresh and reflect what Tranchell can get locally, regulars who have already found a favorite can rest easy. The $5 All American, an English muffin breakfast sandwich with Louie’s maple sausage, egg, and sharp cheddar, topped with a secret sauce, quickly staked its claim as a menu staple. As did the Morning Missile, a breakfast burrito with maple sausage, egg, black beans, Utz potato stix, feta, pickled red onion, and toum chili sauce, $9 (also available with no meat for $8).
 
For lunch, the Basic B turkey sandwich has become a crowd favorite. For the more adventurous flavor seeker, visitors can try the Butternut Za’atar, with tahini, toum, and lemon kale on pita; the Yemen Beet with labneh and zhoug; or the curried egg salad. All sandwiches are $8 and can be turned into a brown bag special with chips, cookie, pickle, and drink for $11.
 
AND NOW, COFFEE!
As of last week, much to her neighbors’ delight, the long-wished-for coffee bar is open. Jeff Brown of Stockist Company is roasting the beans onsite. A mug wall — similar to what you might find at your neighborhood brewery — offers old-school coffee mugs for purchase. Snag one for $50 and receive drip coffee for $1 with free refills for life.
 
Monthly dinners are also on the menu, starting with a festive and fun Valentine’s Day event and a “sous vide and smoke” dinner in March. Tranchell said the dinners will feature everyone from local chefs and home cooks to culinary students. Watch for details on the ticketed events.
 
Rose and Fern Café is located at 910 E. Eighth St. in Traverse City. Open 7am–2pm, Monday through Saturday. Parking is available behind the building. Follow on Instagram and Facebook. (231) 947-5125.

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