ELLIOTT — A new family group has re-opened the cafe on Main Street in Elliott, and they held a grand opening Wednesday.
The group took over running the cafe after Josh Martin announced in December that he would no longer run it. The building and some kitchen equipment is owned by the village of Elliott, and the building is connected to Elliott’s town hall. The village board leases the space to cafe operators.
Before their opening, the group took the first part of January to firm up menu options, become licensed and pass the county’s health inspection.
The cafe’s new name gives a clue to the above-mentioned family connection. Triple H Cafe is operated by three people with the last name of Hennessy. John Hennessy, 46, and wife Wendy, 45, are 50 percent of the operation, while John’s ex-wife, Mellissa Hennessy, 44, is the other 50 percent.
As John joked, they came up with the name before learning it is the "handle" for professional wrestler Paul Levesque.
One might think the trio to be an odd combination until hearing John and Mellissa speak about their very amicable split and sharing costs or efforts of raising their three children. John remarried more than 20 years ago, and he has one daughter with Wendy. The blended families also have a long history of participating amicably in family get-togethers.
The three operators, plus John and Mellissa’s daughter, Amber, 25, will provide the cooking and wait staff labor. Melissa and Melvin resident Amber will mostly work the daytime hours.
Like previous operations, the cafe will open at 5 a.m. for breakfast. Lunch availability will begin at 10:30 a.m. to accommodate local grain-elevator workers and truckers. In addition to various sandwiches, there will be daily and homemade entree and soup specials.
The group knows that being in a farming community, the cafe’s service needs to be prompt. In addition, the daily special will be available "within minutes," John said.
Daily specials will include the family’s often-requested recipe for Southern-style chicken and dumplings with honey cornbread muffins.
Other specials may include homemade chicken pot pie and various casseroles, including beef goulash. The day’s soup is homemade, too.
Hours of operation include three evenings
Breakfast and lunch will be served Monday through Saturday, with breakfast beginning at 5 a.m. and lunch from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The menu plus the lunch special will also be available in the afternoon and evening, from 4 to 7 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Since many area residents are at daytime jobs, the Hennessys hope the evening hours will be convenient for couples and families.
Being open on Mondays and having evening hours are both major changes from previous cafe operations there. The Hennessys chose to limit their evening hours to three days, however, so as not to compete with Tuesday’s chicken night at Schooney’s in Roberts or on the Fridays whenever the Elliott Amvets host their steak, chicken or fish dinners.
Menu options are plentiful
The breakfast menu includes a variety of egg dishes, including "John’s Big Breakfast." It also includes pancake, French toast and waffle options. In addition, there is a breakfast egg-and-sausage sandwich plus biscuits and gravy. Some items are available as half orders.
The lunch menu features a variety of burgers, including a savory-looking mushroom-and-Swiss burger. There are also plenty of other types of sandwiches. The evening’s sandwich menu and daily special will be the same as during the day.
The sandwich menu includes at least one interesting specialty, the "Elliott Burger." It’s a 1-pound burger designed to serve four and cooked to order. John said County Market in Gibson City is custom-baking large buns to fit the special burger.
Both the breakfast and lunch menus feature children’s selections on the reverse side. Four dishes are named for Hennessy grandchildren: the "Rayney Day" sandwich, "Noah’s Piggy Pancake," "Carter’s Chicken Nuggets" and "Xavier’s Grilled Cheese."
The dessert menu currently consists of a variety of cheesecake flavors, but the trio plan to add cake and pie as desserts in the future. Desserts are creatively served on a miniature pie tin.
Some interior additions
The trio maintained the previous farm-style decor of the cafe by purchasing it from Martin, but they are adding holiday and seasonal accents to the walls. The current Valentine’s Day decorations offer a nice spot of red among the earth tones and complement the red and black buffalo-check vinyl table coverings.
The pallet-wood walls and tin accents are a holdover from the decor of Angie Rouley, who operated the cafe as the Blue Fish Cafe prior to Martin’s Meatin’ Place opening there.
In addition to holiday accents, the cafe’s interior now has a full door between the dining area and kitchen, plus a sideboard-style table for the daily soup and any buffet-type service like taco toppings. Both items were made of wood planks from a building on Melissa’s family farm.
The question of whether the cafe will take on catering has been asked, and for now, the answer is "no." John said, however, that if someone wants to order any day’s special for family- or small office-sized takeout, they can do so by calling the cafe three days in advance. Individual takeout orders are available daily.
Plans for longevity of ownership
None of the three are counting on the cafe to be their sole source of income — a fact they hope will result in a long tenure for operating the small-town cafe. They also have a loyalty program — one punch is earned per meal, and a total of five punches will result in 30 percent off the patron’s next meal.
John will continue as a mail carrier for the Gibson City Post Office, while Wendy will continue her postal clerk position in Gifford. Mellissa lives on a farm near Fairbury with her mother. Mellissa was formerly a manager for Meatheads Burgers & Fries in Normal.
The group is hopeful, though, of attracting a steady and larger clientele with their variety of offerings and daily specials, similar to when the cafe was operated by Rouley as the Blue Fish Cafe.
To encourage the cafe to be a gathering place, free Wi-Fi is available to customers, with the password displayed near the cash register.
More information is available by calling the cafe at 217-749-2423 during business hours or be emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The cafe also maintains a Facebook page with photos and descriptions of menu items.