Five Loaves and a Couple of Fishes
SOUTH DAYTON,NY- When Gretchen Gage, Annette Puleff and Krissy Sercu met in the parlor room of a charming home in the center of South Dayton to begin a woman’s Bible study group, they did not know that their faith-leaning intentions would lead them to opening a restaurant.
It did, and it is “The Mustard Seed”. Perhaps, as Krissy Sercu implied, the restaurant name is a reference to the Biblical mustard seed that when sown, and grows, it shoots out “many great branches so that all creatures may lodge under the shadow of it,, as the Bible says.
The shadow of The Mustard Seed could be the shaded steps you walk up as you come onto the porch of the front entrance door, giving one the feeling that you are not necessarily at a restaurant but are the dinner guest at a home. The foyer is the check-in reception area. Thank you notes, letters from pleased diners and cards of appreciation decorate the woodwork like Christmas trimmings. “Thank you for the delicious chicken-wrap salad,” says one in careful handwritten words.
The main dining room, formally the living room of the large house, is located to the right. The tables are small but are sufficiently amble to seat plenty. The tablecloths over them are welcoming; the chairs traditional. The food, in a word is delicious.
There is a fireplace with mounted bookshelves to either side. The floor-to-ceiling double hung windows present a gracious and well-lighted atmosphere to a gracious dining room reminiscent of an older architecture. Antique frame photographs of the owner’s family are proudly exhibited.
“My father owned a Greek restaurant,” recalls Anette Puleff, “but I never thought that I would ever own a restaurant,” she said as she points to a picture displayed on the wall. She says that when the idea of a restaurant first came up during the initial woman’s Bible study, they thought of a small café. “Now we have a six-page menu,” Annette exclaims.
Annette spent about twenty years in social work before beginning The Mustard Seed restaurant. She has rendered that career experience into the mission of the restaurant. “We contribute about ten percent of our earnings back into the community for social service,” she states. The restaurant owners provide aid to those in need in the manner of heating bills, college student assistance, and general care for others.
Those notions bring to mind the shade of the mustard tree. At Christmas time there is a tree in the dinning room. “And there’s always plenty of gifts under it for others,” Annette says. When they are able, the restaurant owners help special kids attend a Christian summer camp.
The Mustard Seed purchases from local vendors. “We know all our vendors on a first name basis,” says Krissy Sercu, one of the three woman owners. “We buy from farmer’s markets in the area,” she adds. The restaurant also tries to buy and serve “as many organic products as possible,” Krissy said after she seated two diners and handed them a menu. The customers could have selected seating outdoors on the side patio, but chose the dining room inside. They have taken a table on a Thursday mid-afternoon which is one of ten; the other six tables are occupied.
The woman orders the “Cowabunga Ciabatta", a roast beef, green pepper sandwich served on homemade bread. The man orders the “Texacano Burger”; a hamburger made of grass-fed, hormone-free beef. The burger is hand-packed and is generous. It is served on a sunflower seed bun and it takes two hands to hold it. Two fresh tomatoes like large, red sand dollars garnish the center of a green bed of dark leaf lettuce. French fries, crisp and not oily mound at the side.
The Mustard Seed also provides for many specialty menu requests. The restaurant has gluten-free pizza dough. “We are also looking into dairy-free dinner rolls,” says Annette. “We make several of our own breads from organic flours, and we make our own desserts from the best ingredients available.”
On the way out of The Mustard Seed there are several photographs of “The Hoot and Holler Hatter’s Club”. In the picture are a dozen women gathered outside on the front porch of the restaurant wearing large, bright-red hats. They smile and give a thumbs up -the international hand sign for an enjoyable time well spent.