Seward Cafe now open until midnight, serving wine and beer
Seward Cafe collective members raise a pint.
Julia Merle-Smith courtesy Seward Cafe
Fans of the Seward Cafe's granola ethos, colorful walls, and sprawling patio have long been disappointed by its breakfast-and-lunch-only offerings (and hours). But for the past week, people passing by the cafe's spacious Franklin Avenue corner lot have had to double take: Yes, there are lights on inside past 3 p.m. (actually until midnight, six days a week). Yes, those people are eating from an all-new dinner menu. And yes, they're drinking wine and beer.
"So far at night it's been overwhelmingly positive," says Nils Collins, the longest-standing member of the 13-to-15 person collective that owns and runs the cafe. "Every day more people stop in who are surprised that we're open, or who have never been here because they work 9 to 5."
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Between internal discussions and city zoning and licensing approval, the changes that kicked off March 8 have been in the works for nearly a year and a half.
The night hours aren't entirely new territory for the 38-year-old cafe, which is the oldest collectively run restaurant in the country: Until the mid-'80s, it sold wine and beer, and dinner continued until the mid-'90s. But for the past decade-plus, the well-loved institution has closed at 3 p.m. on weekdays and 4 p.m. on weekends; the new hours nearly double the amount of time the cafe is open.
With the expanded hours comes a menu that's more than egg scrambles and pancakes. Dinner offerings so far include already-popular items like a shredded barbecue chicken sandwich, a plantain plate, roasted beet and goat cheese salad, mac 'n' cheese, and tacos.
Meat options are locally sourced, and vegan alternatives to meals like a vegetarian burger (topped with cheese curds and mushrooms) or a bratwurst are made in-house.
Then there's the beer and wine. The cafe has three beers on tap -- Summit EPA and Unchained IPA, and 1554 from New Belgium Brewing, plus Crispin cider. Non-tap offerings include Bell's Two Hearted Ale, Lagunitas, and Hamm's tall boys, as well as nine types of wine.
Introducing a brand-new menu and schedule has come with some hiccups. Such as: The cafe has run out of beer before it's been able to order more.
"We have to get a whole other refrigerator unit for beer," Collins explains. "We're really used to our breakfast crowd, but not our dinner crowd yet, so we don't really know how much we're going to sell of these things. It's a whole new endeavor for us."
But Collins says the transition is exciting. "For me, the most interesting thing is being able to work different hours and create new shifts, and there are new ways of interacting with our customers," he says. "And serving beer is wonderful. During the happy hours there's a nice sense of community."
As it enters its second week of night hours, Seward Cafe will continue to tweak its after-dark personality (which also features dim lights and lit candles). Next up: pulling out some tables and opening up the space for shows and performances, the first of which is Thursday.
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