Story last updated at 11/4/2009 - 12:22 pm
SITKA - Having decided to open a café together last fall, Amelia Budd and Amy Kane had much to accomplish. One of the first tasks was naming the place, and they agreed on The Larkspur Café.
"We liked bird names," Kane said. "Then we looked it up in the bird book, and it wasn't there," Budd continued. They turned to the Internet.
"It's a beautiful flower actually, and we also found it was the name of a radio project in Britain during World War II," Kane said.
With the potential imagery of "radios and flowers and imaginary birds," they kept the name.
Radios are especially apropos considering the café's location in the 1909 Cable House, historically the terminus of a telegraph wire connecting Seattle to the Alaska territory and now the home of Sitka's Raven Radio (KCAW). When the station decided to build a recording studio on the wheelchair-accessible first floor of the building, they advertised for business proposals for an eatery.
With their bid accepted, Budd and Kane scrambled to pull everything together for a March 2009 opening. The radio station refinished the original fir flooring and furnished tables and chairs. Kane and Budd say the community of Sitka provided much of the rest, donating everything from time and labor to an industrial stove and pots and pans.
"It's been really fun for people to come in, get served coffee in their mug and sit in a chair that they donated," Budd said.
"Because Amelia knows everyone in the community, and I had worked in the trades, we came up with all sorts of equipment once we started asking around," Kane said.
Kane rebuilt an espresso machine and they scoured yard sales and thrift stores not only to stretch their limited funds but also to reduce waste and upcycle items already available in town.
This local focus carries over to their food philosophy. Kane runs the kitchen and sets the daily chalkboard menu, using as many local and regional ingredients as possible.
"It's not just more economical," Kane said. "It's better food."
They buy seafood directly from local fisherman when possible, adding the vessel's name to the menu listing. They also serve locally-roasted beans from Sailor's Choice Coffee, fruit preserves and kelp pickles from Simple Pleasures of Alaska and as much produce as possible from the Sitka Farmers Market during the summer. Their food waste is composted and returned to local gardens.
Seating on the expansive back deck features views of the water and O'Connell bridge and is perfect for a sunny Sunday brunch with mimosas while the cozy interior encourages you to sit for a while. Kane and Budd wanted a versatile place where people felt comfortable.
"It's a place where you can come get a glass of wine, but you can bring your children too," Budd said. "Or just read the paper and have a beer," Kane added.
With one side of the café wired to the recording studio (which is to be completed this winter), live performances can be recorded and broadcast with the station's equipment.
On the other side of the room, an ornate and detailed painting of a Larkspur Radio hangs above a long wooden table. Kane and the painter of the piece, Bryan Bach, worked together on a fishing boat a few years ago.
"One day I caught him in the engine room doing a beautiful watercolor of the engine," Kane said. When she saw the picture of the radio unit, she knew Bach could transform it into art.
Just as they improvised with their army radio bird name, Budd and Kane pooled their limited serving, baking and bartending experience to create a sustainable restaurant that utilizes local resources, involves the community and most importantly provides consistently tasty meals.
The Larkspur café is located at 2 Lincoln Street, Suite 1A in Sitka. Find them online at http://www.larkspurcafe.blogspot.com/ or on their Facebook page.