We recently exited the era when corporate chains were constantly trying to get consumers to buy into the “fake authentic” atmosphere of their restaurants. You would see “American casual” restaurants with walls full of real and re-created visual nostalgia. Italian restaurants trying to mimic the family style Italian restaurants of a half century ago, which themselves were trying to fake an even earlier ethnic dining aesthetic.
Corporate chains have gone more minimalist in this era—often looking like they ordered everything from IKEA. But they are constantly trying to fake what is commonly called a third place. A third place is a physical, usually public space, that can be considered a “home away from home.” Not the office and not the home. A place where you socialize or do things in public. Libraries, parks, churches and museums are free third places. Bars, coffee shops, and bookstores are third places where you socialize and buy stuff. Free third places are almost endangered these days, as so much of our lives have become monetized by the second.
The Meriwether Café in downtown Leavenworth, Kansas can be described as a third place that encapsulates the social good of third places. While it’s a restaurant, coffee shop and gift shop, it’s also a space where you can take the kids, meet up with a date, take some time to read the newspaper, or have a public coffee klatch with friends.
When Dining Companion #2 and I visit Leavenworth for errands, the Meriwether Café is one of our favorite spots for lunch. I’ve had lunch at the Café 4-5 times over the past couple of years. Our favorite entrée is their Falafel Platter, but on our visit last week, we opted for other entrees as the Café was out of falafel. I had the Roasted Vegetable Sandwich and Dining Companion #2 had the Asian Cabbage Salad.
The Roasted Vegetable Sandwich is a tasty combination of roasted seasonal vegetables, honey herbed ricotta spread, balsamic reduction, basil coulis, and ciabatta bread. I think the version I had may have had mushrooms, eggplant or squash. I would have this again. Had the macaroni salad for my side, which had sour notes, like maybe a pickle was involved. I really liked it.
The Asian Cabbage Salad features shredded green & red cabbage, avocado, orange, slivered almonds, and crispy noodles. My companion liked it, although they noted that the noodles were hard to chew for an older person. The salad was large—enough to take home half.
The Falafel Platter, which is normally our go-to lunch entrée, features falafel balls with carrot hummus, fattoush salad, tzatziki, and pita. This platter is consistently good. This may not sound like the fanciest of lunch entrees, but I appreciate it when restaurants have solid vegetarian and vegan lunch options.
The Meriwether Café has breakfast available all day, which includes a breakfast burritos, bagels with options, and a big selection of in-house made doughnuts. Lunch menu features several sandwich platters like the Wild Bill BLT, Turkey Avocado Wrap, and The Expedition (turkey, bacon, provolone, sun dried tomato pesto, and more).
The Café is also a coffee house with a full coffee and tea menu. Haven’t tried any of their drinks, but will do so on our next visit.
The Meriwether Café is more than just a restaurant and coffee shop. It’s like a contemporary general store with merchandise for sale in multiple rooms and levels. Most of this merch and goods are from local partners. Goods include candles, jellies and jams, nut butters, toys, candy bars, jewelry, stationary and notebooks, and a large collection of Midwest-themed t-shirts.
Leavenworth has a wonderful community asset in the third place that is The Meriwether Café. I just wish that we had a place like it in my neighborhood!
The Meriwether Café, 702 Cherokee Street Leavenworth, KS 66048