With a warm smile and enthusiastic tone, Eddie Osborne greets customers at Cafe Thyme.
“Hi folks, have you eaten with us before?” he says.
Every single customer is greeted this way when they enter the cafe at Powell Gardens, a restaurant that does not fry or microwave their food.
Osborne, owner of Darn Good Food LLC, operates Cafe Thyme as an independent contractor.
He said there’s a quote in the food service business that says, “A great service can save a bad meal, but a great meal cannot save bad service.”
Osborne said this is exactly how Cafe Thyme operates – on great service from the initial greeting to interacting with customers while their orders are being customized and checking in on them once they have been seated.
Osborne said another part of this service is making food to order.
“Instead of people getting what I want to give them on a salad or a wrap, they get to choose from approximately 20 toppings,” Osborne said.
Guests can enjoy a range of fresh options from soups, salads, wraps and more. They can also watch the employees put every ingredient into their meal.
“Most, but not all, of the produce that we use comes from the garden, the Farmers’ Market or my brother’s garden,” Osborne said. “Powell Gardens has the United States’ largest edible landscape.”
Customers enjoy the variety and taste.
“I love it,” said Carla Ligon, Cafe Thyme patron. “Everything is fresh and it’s delicious. They have a great varied menu.”
Osborne said the menu is vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free friendly, and there is no added salt to dishes.
Cliff Fuller, Cafe Thyme employee, said his job is all about making food people want to eat and maybe introducing them to something a little different.
He said Cafe Thyme is unique because of the people who work there.
“Eddie’s personality comes through the whole restaurant,” Fuller said. “He’s interested in people – all kinds. He just wants to give people good, interesting food.”
Fuller said they have a small menu but they have varied specials. Tomatoes are one of the main ingredients, which is why they have a different flavor of tomato soup each week.
The fresh produce comes in a Community Supported Agriculture box from Powell Gardens.
“We get the CSA box from the garden every week. Cooler season crops are coming in,” Fuller said. “We get lettuce, other greens – chards, kale, broccoli – sweet peppers, a few eggplants and a head of garlic or two.”
The garden itself is a short walk from the restaurant.
“When I get a chance and I have some herb that I particularly want to use, I can walk down with a pair of scissors and a little basket and snip herbs or get a few this or that,” Fuller said.
Most of the time, he is not the one getting the ingredients.
Fuller said a lot of the gathering is volunteer labor. They have gardening staff, but for harvesting, Powell Gardens looks for volunteers to help.
Osborne said Cafe Thyme and Powell Gardens gives a lot to its guests and volunteers by supplying fresh food, great service and good connections.
“I don’t think that Cafe Thyme and Powell Gardens has changed my life, but it has enhanced it,” Osborne said.
Cafe Thyme is open 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily through October. In November, the cafe will only open on the weekends.
For more information, visit https://powellgardens.org/visit/plan-your-visit/cafe-thyme/.