by Tom Perkins
The tiny downtown Royal Oak space from which Cacao Tree Cafe operates doesn't hold a standard kitchen, therefore the options on its menu are limited to raw dishes.
Of course, that fits in the vegetarian/vegan restaurant's mission, so lunchtime bustles and it's a favorite spot for those looking for a meatless midday meal. But people want something a little heavier during winter or at dinner, and the limited space precludes much expansion.
Likewise, The Clean Plate in Shelby is a popular spot, and Clean Plate/Cacao Tree owner Amber Poupore's catering business is in greater demand as she continues spreading the vegan/vegetarian gospel. Not only does she do traditional catering, she also does corporate events at which she introduces people to real vegan cooking. But there's only so much she can do out of a kitchen shared with The Clean Plate.
"We're turning down catering jobs, but we can't take on anything else until we get in this kitchen," Poupore says, noting that her daily task of making produce fit in her kitchen feels a lot like a game of Tetris.
At Cacao Tree and Clean Plate the changes will mean more hot items and comfort food-type dishes like casseroles, lasagna, and stir fries, some which will be exclusive to each restaurant.
Poupore says she's awaiting final approvals, but, if all goes well, she could be in her new kitchen within two weeks.
"Really, it's just laying the foundation to continue in the same direction we’ve been going," she says.