Wade Padgett and Kendall Padgett-McEuen, out of work since coronavirus restrictions closed Carruthers Restaurant in March, have long followed a Paleolithic diet, while their friend, Andrea Mazzarella, has espoused the health benefits of juicing.
The departure of another coffee shop in Mazzarella’s Astoria property, the Odd Fellows Building, before the pandemic ratcheted up allowed the friends an opportunity to partner on the Green Door Cafe, where they hope to fill everyone’s dietary niche.
“We’ve all been in the service sector for longer than anyone can remember and thought that this town is finally ready for an accessible restaurant where people can eat with impunity and feel comfortable about what they’re putting into their bodies,” Padgett-McEuen said.
The 10th Street cafe, festooned with plants and other floral decorations, caters to gluten-free, paleo, vegan and vegetarian dietary restrictions. The cafe offers coffee, teas, smoothies and the fresh-pressed juices Mazzarella said have helped her through health issues, along with various vegan and gluten-free sides and baked goods.
Padgett devised a small, malleable menu that as of Saturday included entrees like Korean short rib tacos, Filipino ceviche and a cauliflower rice stir-fry.
“One of our big sellers has been a bacon-cauliflower chowder that doesn’t contain any dairy or gluten or potato,” he said.
The cafe is tucked in just below the Astoria Arts and Movement Center. The building was recently painted a fresh coat of dark lilac purple and night flower red, the paint paid for through a partnership between the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Benjamin Moore & Co. honoring the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage and women-owned properties.
The cafe replaced Downtown Coffee Shop, which Kristina and Richard Afornorpe ran for several years before closing for personal reasons earlier this year. Mazzarella, a local real estate agent who purchased the Odd Fellows Building with her mother, Nancy Mazzarella-Tisch, and friend Jessamyn Grace West, was renovating and looking for a new tenant.
She wanted a place to get cold-pressed juices after the Pink Elephant Juice Emporium in the John Jacob Astor Hotel Building closed. She knew her friends had been thinking of opening a food cart before deciding they could help each other.
Padgett said it was stressful opening a new restaurant but a relief to get back in the kitchen after so many months of unemployment.
“It felt good for my health to finally get back to doing something,” he said. “There just really isn’t any work for the service industry right now, so I guess just doing it for ourselves was good once we got going.”
Limited by social distancing restrictions to a couple of tables inside and out, the Green Door has mostly been focusing on to-go sales, but hopes to grow into a cozy, European-style cafe. Mazzarella said the restaurant’s model weirdly fits the current reality, starting small before figuring out what sit-down dining will look like.
“Obviously, it feels like a weird, risky thing to do in the middle of a pandemic when so much is uncertain,” Mazzarella said. “But, I don’t know, I feel like if we can make it through this first winter, we can probably make it.”