If I ever go missing, if you ever think I’ve disappeared, one place you might find me is roaming through an antique store on the main street of a small historic town, searching for a treasure of the moment. It might be a jadeite measuring cup from the 1940’s, pink depression glassware with a very thin and delicate lip, or, my most recent find, a pair of porcelain Chinese soup spoons with the palest of blue designs. Following, before, or in the middle of my scavenger hunt, there’s always lunch in a cute café, which I’ve already chosen, of course, before I ever even leave my house. I call it having a “Paula Day”. Imagine my delight when I was recently invited by one of my friends to go on such an outing. It was fun to learn that other girls have their own “Paula Days”. “Then we can have lunch at Sweet Café,” she quickly added, noting her pre-chosen restaurant selection for that day.
Even though it was my first visit to Sweet Café, I had already heard good things about it from several local folks. Sweet Café opened in March, 2010, and is located in an 84 year old building on Market St. in Downtown Cinton, right in the middle of their many antique shops.
We quickly find a table for two in the small space, and immediately I see a gorgeous salad with huge, plump blackberries going by us. “That’s my salad,” I think to myself and find it listed on the menu as their New! Black and Bleu Salad with mixed greens, blackberries, pecans, and bleu cheese crumbles.
You’d be hard pressed to find an East Tennessean who doesn’t like blackberries. It’s built into our DNA. It’s partly the thrill of the hunt – making our way through tall grass, maybe climbing up the side of a hill, always having to be on the look out for snakes, bears, chiggers, ticks, and sharp briars to attain the supple, succulent, alternately sweet and tart fruit. Of course you can always hear a tale from some of the old timers about how their parents sent them out to pick berries and advised them to “Not come back until you have enough for a pie”. They may have tired of this sport, but that generation always seems to know where to find a blackberry patch. During blackberry winter they watch for the blooms, and take great pride in being able to guide youngsters to a respectable blackberry patch. And as the cunning Br’er Rabbit infamously exclaimed, most of us were, “Born and bred in the briar patch!”
I paired my Black and Bleu Salad with a half of the Southern Egg Salad Sandwich and a glass of Pineapple Tea. My friend also chose the half sandwich option, but with a cup of soup to warm up a chilly day, and a different choice from the many flavored teas offered at Sweet Café. “Let’s add this,” I say, and point to one of the side items – Pecan Cream Cheese Ball with Crackers. Sweet Café was pleasantly reminding me of tearooms I have visited.
But owner Cinnamon Kennedy doesn’t think of or promote Sweet Café as a tearoom. “We took away the tablecloths to take away a tearoom image,” she tells me. “We offer 50% hot sandwiches, and 50% cold sandwiches,” Cinnamon continues, noting how she evens out the menu to appeal to both men and women. The menu lists Hot Grilled Panini Sandwiches, Mike’s Grilled Cheese Combo, and the “Ultimate Man” Club, which Cinnamon added at the urging of her husband who told her, “Every man wants to eat a club sandwich.” We laugh a little at the differences in men and women’s eating habits, as Cinnamon tells me more about the menu.
“We serve fresh food, nothing frozen or canned. I won’t serve subpar, plain food, or something that I wouldn’t eat myself,” Cinnamon emphasizes. “If it costs more, we’ll just charge a little more. Chicken Salad is our signature item,” she says of their bestselling rotisserie chicken salad. They also offer wraps, homemade soups, and, of course, a multitude of sweets such as pies, cakes, brownies, and chocolate covered cherries, strawberries, and pretzels. Cinnamon’s Dad makes the soups and all the sweets and has been right there offering his support and encouragement since day one. “He loves to cook, he thinks it’s fun, he thinks it’s funny,” Cinnamon affectionately says of her Dad. “Both my parents instilled a strong work ethic in me, and I work very, very hard. I learned from my Dad, he would say, “All you have to do is try,”” she reminisces.
Prior to opening Sweet Café, Cinnamon spent 8 years running a wedding flower business. Then the economy changed, and she also wanted to spend time with her 5 year old. Knowing she wanted to do something with food, and be able to make some money, Cinnamon opened a catering business out of her garage. She took fliers and samples to 15 or 20 businesses, and by the end of the day, had 2 orders for the next day. She did box lunches and party trays for a year.
Then, business owners on Market St. in Clinton began to approach Cinnamon, asking her to open a café. They realized having a restaurant nearby would keep shoppers around the Downtown area longer. She knew it was a daunting task, but had an overwhelming feeling that, “If I don’t do this I’m going to explode!” She used money from her tax return, a credit card, and members from her church gave her furniture to get started. Her initial goal was to do 50 lunches a day. The first day they did 43, and the second day they did 50.
When asked about her inspiration for Sweet Café, Cinnamon has no doubt, and makes it perfectly clear, “It was God.” She had been asking to be a vessel for God, and sees her business as a way to, “Be a ministry to God, and to try to honor Him and be a light in the darkness. My goal is to do something very special for God. We pray for our community and our customers.” Her menu proudly states that Sweet Café has a Comfortable Christian Atmosphere. “And that’s what we are,” Cinnamon simply says, “We’re…A Sweet Café.”
This year Sweet Café was voted Best Café in Anderson County by the Clinton Courier. The café is open for lunch Tuesday thru Saturday til 5:00, and is closed Sunday and Monday. They do accept reservations, and offer evening private parties, custom menus, catering, party trays of sandwiches and sweets, and delivery to Clinton, Oak Ridge, and Knoxville. Also contact them for information on ordering for your holiday parties.
So here’s your assignment – go find a good friend, and go out and treat yourselves to a “Paula Day”, or, just a day of your very own.