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Archive for Saturday, April 23, 2005

Restaurants cater to breakfast crowd

April 23, 2005

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Breakfast lovers, whether partial to homestyle cooking or vegetarian omelets with egg whites, have long enjoyed the variety of local cuisine.

How do the various restaurants and bakeries in Lawrence survive?

It's all about finding a niche and a target demographic of customers.

Todd Babington, owner of First Watch, 2540 Iowa, said his restaurant was known for personalized service.

"What makes us special is that we attend to the special dietary needs of anybody," Babington said. "Egg whites only, no sugar, we can make French toast with no sugar. We have multiple items on the menu that are low carbohydrate."

Babington also said the restaurant was known for getting people in and out in 45 minutes, something it couldn't have done with a downtown location.

"People that work downtown eat downtown, but parking is a problem downtown," Babington said. "We believe we have the best location because growth is to the west and everyone has to pass us to go to all these shopping places."

Katie Kutilek, general manager of Wheatfields Bakery, 904 Vt., said the unique environment was a main reason people kept coming back to the downtown bakery.

"One of the reasons we're so popular is because you can come in and get something to go or you can hang around and drink organic coffee," Kutilek said. "We have lots of regulars - whole families, couples who meet their friends. It's a social scene as much as a restaurant."

Wheatfields also boasts something that no other restaurant in the area has - a wood-fired oven from Spain. The 25-metric ton oven is built into the building and is used to create artisan breads. Kutilek said the oven was one of the reasons the restaurant wouldn't expand in the near future.

"We have such a small kitchen here and we're somehow able to feed hundreds of people with a six-burner stove," she said. "But our oven isn't going anywhere. Someone from Spain came over and built it for us and we can do something that no one else in Lawrence does."

A nationally known name is what draws customers to the International House of Pancakes, 3102 Iowa.

"We're a breakfast house and probably have a lot of choices," said Donnia Ray, IHOP general manager. "People come because they know our name."

Ray also said business had increased each time new stores went up on the south side of town. Business has increased at least 35 percent, she said.

With new places such as A.B.'s Coffee and Crepes, 17 W. Ninth St., popping up and local favorites such as Milton's Coffee, 920 Mass., busier than ever, early risers will continue to have plenty of options on their breakfast menu.

Kansas University journalism student Ashley Bechard can be reached at 832-7254.

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