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Eat Right: Q&A with Matt and Lindsay Tewanger of Cravings Cafe

 Shelley Mann Eat Right: Q&A with Matt and Lindsay Tewanger of Cravings CafePhoto by Walker Evans.
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Cravings Cafe first came onto the scene as a teensy cookie shop in Italian Village. It has since evolved, morphed and relocated, and now it’s a cozy cafe in Downtown Columbus. We talked with owners Matt and Lindsey Tewanger about that evolution and what it’s like to work with a spouse.

Where did you and Matt get the inspiration for Cravings?

Matt and Lindsey: We are inspired by what we like and where we like to hang out. It has evolved organically over the years. Basically, we are just trying to create a place that we would like to eat and hang out on our day off.

We like to think of our food as indulgent Midwest comfort food. As for the decor, we are inspired by our own home life. In fact, a lot of the plants and art were once in our house—the plants are a lot happier in the awesome light that we have in the shop!

We tend to like earthy, cozy vibes, which we hope that we have conveyed in the cafe—wood, brick, greenery, old elements of our 100+ year old building. We play music that we listen to in our free time and choose employees that are people that we like to hang out with. We want our customers to come in and feel like they are at a friend’s place.

What are some of your favorite ways the restaurant has evolved over the years since you opened?

Matt: I love that we have gone from exclusively making baked goods, to a bakery that had a few savory options (both when we were on Third Avenue), to now, a full cafe that happens to have some awesome sweets. We have more freedom than ever now, which is inspiring.

Lindsey: Since my focus is on the front of house, I love the way our decor has evolved, but also stayed the same. When we moved into the new space, we brought a ton of decor with us from Third Avenue—the Tree Table (our first table ever, which came from a slab of wood we found in the garage), the pipe shelving that we made, a lot of the other tables, etc.

Over time we have collected lots of cool pieces around Columbus. The giant mirror used to be in Big Rock Little Rooster in the Short North, all of our benches were from the Clintonville Co-Op, I “rescued” and rehabbed all of our chairs from Jen Marlatt of The Table, and a lot of our artwork is from Columbus artists (like our prints from Dino Nemec). I love when someone asks about a certain part of the cafe, as there is a great chance that there is a story behind it.  

What’s it like working with your spouse owning a restaurant?

Matt: Great! How cool is it to work with your wife on an ever-evolving project? It helps that we share 95 percent of the same philosophy and vision for the cafe.

Lindsey: It is pretty cool that we can make adjustments as they are needed—we talk about the cafe all of the time. Which brings up a negative: sometimes it is really hard to stop “talking shop.”

What are some of your favorite seasonal specials right now?

Matt and Lindsey: We are in that time where spring is almost here, but not quite, but it is still exciting. Just last Friday, we looked out and saw that chives were growing in the garden, so they showed up in the special on Saturday. Spring produce is right around the bend. We grow what we like to eat, so you will see a lot of green beans, fresh herbs, radishes, and lettuces on our upcoming menu. Ramps and morels are fun in the spring, too.

Matt: For me, asparagus, smoked ham, and goat cheese screams Spring, so expect to see that incorporated into a special.

Lindsey: It is still a bit away, but we are bringing back our Mother’s Day Lobster Roll Brunch, which was always a ton of fun in the old space.

What’s your favorite new restaurant in Columbus?

Matt and Lindsey: There are lots of places that we WANT to go, but haven’t made it yet… Veritas, Service Bar, and South Village Grill are the standouts. We are going to start planning ahead. From our experiences none of them are “spur of the moment” places, which tends to be our style right now.

Preston’s is killing it. We went last week for tons of food and it was all spot on—Matt and Catie know what they are doing. We discovered Smoked on High last fall and were instantly in love. Amazing food, a cool old building, and great conversation with the owner—love it! We got carryout from NE Chinese on a whim and it was great. Happy to have them so close to our home in Clintonville.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not at the restaurant?

Matt and Lindsey:  We do a lot of hanging at home with our dogs Levon and Graceland. Especially with the weather breaking, there is nothing better than chilling in the backyard with neighbors (Mike and Amy are the best!), dogs, beers, and some meat on the grill.

When we have a little more time, we try to kayak or hike down in the Hocking Hills as much as possible. On the rare long weekends, we love to escape to Michigan, Virginia, or North Carolina. Anytime we can involve live music in our time off is a huge bonus—seeing Greensky Bluegrass two nights last weekend was good for the soul!dine-originals

Dine Originals Columbus celebrates, supports and promotes the culinary diversity that locally owned and operated member restaurants contribute to the identity and culture of our city. The nonprofit group is committed to strengthening the local economy and enriching the community through education and charitable partnerships.

Dine Originals Week restaurant week runs March 19-25! As part of the city’s originals restaurant week, enjoy prix-fixe menus at Dine Originals independent restaurants. Find menus at dineoriginalscolumbus.com.

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