Next-door, rooftop gardens supply super-local produce for Café Osage

Café Osage

BY PATRICIA CORRIGAN, SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH LIGHT

A lot of St. Louis area restaurants take delivery of locally grown and produced foods. At Café Osage, the staff picks fresh greens and vegetables from a garden across the street, and herbs are harvested from the roof garden above the restaurant. 

Now, that’s local. 

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Café Osage shares a building with Bowood Farms at 4605 Olive Street in the Central West End. John and Connie McPheeters, who have owned Bowood Farms in Clarksville for 20 years, own and operate the restaurant along with family members. Since Café Osage opened in May 2008, the emphasis has been on seasonal, organic and locally produced ingredients.

David Guempel has served as chef since the restaurant opened. The former owner of Zinnia in Shrewsbury, Guempel started his career at Duff’s in 1976, and then moved to Balaban’s before buying the now defunct Zinnia. The garden at Café Osage impresses Guempel.

“You would not believe how much produce comes out of that garden,” says Guempel. “We grow 23 different kinds of tomatoes, six different melons, five kinds of peppers, three kinds of cucumbers, several kinds of beans and lots of garlic. The list takes up double columns on two sheets of a legal pad.” In addition to produce from the 120-by-80-foot garden, some greens and root vegetables are grown all year.

“Last year, we had more produce than we could use, sell in the garden center or give to employees to take home,” adds Guempel. “It was amazing.”

Also amazing is the level of versatility exhibited by Chef Guempel. “It is always interesting to have the gardener walk in the kitchen with a basket of green beans or radishes or cucumbers or massive quantities of some other vegetable that is suddenly ready,” he says. “That does tax one’s creativity and spontaneity.”

Guempel notes that he always tries to think ahead about what’s coming from the garden. “You hope some vegetables will come in simultaneously so you can use them in unison,” he says, “but you are always at the mercy of Mother Nature.”

Café Osage is open for breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea. For details, see www.bowoodfarms.com and click on Café Osage.