Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sweet Peas Cafe Restaurant Review

Owner Danielle Pastore

Three cheers for Sweet Peas Café in downtown Dunedin, just off of Main Street on Virginia Lane.
Tears are usually involved when I take my two children—a five-year-old and a three-year-old—out to eat. They don’t want anything on the menu. They want to get up and roam around. They are only distracted for two minutes by the standard crayons and paper kids’ menus typically doled out to youngsters.
That’s because most restaurants don’t cater to families, and even if they claim to, they don’t really. Often families are ushered into a booth in the back of the restaurant so as not to disturb the other diners, and they eat their greasy meal quickly so they can get out the door before there is a total meltdown. And when my kids were babies, I noticed, with scorn, that many bathrooms didn’t even have changing tables. On a handful of occasions, I had to put paper towels down on a dirty floor to change my baby’s diaper. And, likely, the restaurants only have kid-menu options like chocolate milk, hotdogs, and macaroni and cheese, and nothing for the kids to do, unless it’s—gasp—an iPad or some kind of electronic tabletop game, which is not ideal in this age of organic-eating, superfood-loving, anti-helicopter, anti-media parenting.

Dreamy Pancakes

Enter Sweet Peas, described by owner Danielle Pastore as not kid- or family-friendly but “parent-friendly.” The little red bungalow with a yard shaded by oak trees offers organic, homemade, hearty dishes for breakfast and lunch, like the bacon, kale, and tomato sandwich with house-made honey-mustard dressing, served on wheatberry bread. For breakfast, one of the menu items is a porridge that can be served with fresh or dried fruit, organic flax, organic cream, and/or brown sugar. Or there is a less-healthy-but just-as-delicious option: the steaming stack of organic pancakes drizzled with warm maple syrup, which is what I (and my girls) choose for our Sunday-morning visit. Breakfast is my daughters’ favorite meal, so I was happy to learn that it was served all day. Both breakfast and lunch dishes are prepared by head chef Mike Webb, a graduate of the California Culinary Academy.

Fair Trade Coffee

We arrive just as the restaurant is opening, at 9 a.m., and eat indoors, in the restaurant’s quaint dining room. We take the spot near the front windows, with a large coffee table and wing-back chairs. We eat hungrily, licking our fingers clean, and then move outdoors to the play yard. I finish my Java Planet coffee—“the only organic, Fair Trade roaster in the Tampa Bay area”—and watch as my girls dance through the bubbles emitting from a bubble machine, move on to play with sidewalk chalk, and then play pretend (“mommy and baby”) in the playhouse, which is a replica of the restaurant. They are happy: I hear them giggling as they dart around under the large canopies of the oak trees, and I am free to relax.


As I sip my coffee, I chat with Danielle, who tells me that the restaurant is the recipient of the Green America People & Planet Green Business Award, which “recognizes businesses for their dedication to a green economy.” So Danielle can now use the money from the award to add a full-fledged garden to her 1,600-square-foot, North American Butterfly Association (NABA)-certified butterfly habitat. She also invites me to come to one of their weekly events, like the child CPR class or family yoga class. I tell her that, regrettably, I can’t go because I have to work. But I appreciate that Sweet Peas both supports and enriches the community by hosting events that appeal to new moms (like breastfeeding workshops), parents devoted to healthy living (organic, gluten-free, and non-GMO foods), and families attending local schools (like the nearby Waldorf school).

Kids' Table

I excuse myself to go to the restroom, and Danielle offers to keep an eye on my girls until I get back. I’m happy to find that there is indeed a changing table— a changing pad atop a dresser— which I find home-like, comforting. When I get back, I tell her that I will leave her alone, that she is free to get back to her customers. I take a deep breath and savor the calm and the respite from the heat. This is a good start to my morning: I will leave refreshed, which (hopefully) means I will be more patient with my kids for the rest of the day, which, I know, is what they deserve, and they are doing what they do best: play. In fact, when I perused Sweet Peas’ website the night before, I saw that its slogan was “Eat, Play, Love.” And for me and my girls, that’s as it should be when you go out to eat as a family, and for us, on this lazy Sunday, that’s just what we’re doing.


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