Thursday, May 9, 2013

Millie's Cafe brings back Polish, Croatian food to KCK

Posted By on Thu, May 9, 2013 at 10:48 AM

Stephanie Springer -- former teacher, pastry chef and caterer -- has a burger and pastries for you.
  • Stephanie Springer - former teacher, pastry chef and caterer - has a burger and pastries for you.

Stephanie Springer's vivid red lipstick is the same shade of red painted on the woodwork inside her new restaurant at 553 Central in Kansas City, Kansas. The unassuming frame building, which was occupied by Sophie's Deli for nearly three decades, has been given a new life this week as Millie's Cafe & Catering. Springer named the business after her late grandmother, Millie Favac Springer - a native Croatian who spent most of her adult life in Strawberry Hill.

Springer will be serving her grandmother's recipes, including povitica and stuffed cabbage rolls, at the little diner, which had a soft opening last night. The restaurant's primary focus will be solid, down-home kinds of dishes like spaghetti and Italian sausage, chicken-fried steak sandwiches and a big selection of burgers, including the Strawberry Hillbilly: a bacon cheeseburger topped with two onion rings and barbecue sauce.

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Springer, 38, studied at Johnson County Community College before getting her real, hands-on culinary training under a French chef at the Carriage Club: "He was a real old-school chef, a tough taskmaster who shamed his cooks into doing things properly," she says. Springer later worked at Andre's Confisserie Suisse and the now-defunct Crossroads bistro, Zin.

The former tenant of the building, Betty Kolenda - one of the movers and shakers of the annual Polski Day festival in Kansas City, Kansas - has warned Springer that her lunch business will be hectic.

"She also told me that I have to put a pickle on every plate," Springer says. "So I've started making my own homemade pickles."

The current Millie's menu features three salads, a half-dozen burgers, a meatball grinder and a Philly cheesesteak. The Polish and Croation dishes will be offered as daily specials, although house-made Polish sausage will be a regular menu item.

"Betty Kolenda told me that I had to bring back Croatian and Polish food to this neighborhood," Springer says, "for the young people moving back to the area who can't make it for themselves."

For the first month, Springer plans to be open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and offering breakfast service at a later date.

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