Monday, January 31, 2011

The beatnik goes on at the Great Day Cafe

Posted By on Mon, Jan 31, 2011 at 11:32 AM

The Great Day Cafe uses Italian bread -- and egg custard -- for its French toast.
  • The Great Day Cafe uses Italian bread -- and egg custard -- for its French toast.


When Greg Tugman was downsized from his job at the Lawrence-based document-scanning company Vangent last year, his wife, Sandy, saw the writing on the wall. Her teaching job at Baker University wasn't all that stable, either. And then Greg couldn't find another corporate job.

"So I told Greg that it was time to open our cafe. It had been a dream of ours for years," Sandy Tugman says.


Three months ago, the Tugmans took over the space at 7921 Santa Fe Drive, in downtown Overland Park, the site of the former breakfast-and-lunch restaurant called the Red Bench Cafe. They kept many of the Red Bench recipes. "Mostly the salads and sandwiches," Sandy Tugman says. "They were very popular."

click to enlarge FC_Great_Day_sign.jpg
The cafe serves breakfast all day: French toast -- made with Farm to Market Italian bread soaked in a cinnamon-egg custard -- and eggs with toast, hot oatmeal, and a smoked-salmon plate that has proved to be one of the most popular dishes on the menu. "We go through four huge slabs of salmon every weekend," Sandy says.

The dining room is painted in shades of peppermint green and grape-soda purple, and there's a performance area where Greg Tugman -- who plays clarinet, saxophone, flute and guitar -- does a show every morning and afternoon. You'll recognize him immediately: He wears a beret. In a different time and place, you might have called him a beatnik.

The Tugmans are baby boomers, so I asked Sandy if there had been an intentional move to give the Great Day Cafe a 1960s coffeehouse feeling, right down to the original -- and not all of it outstanding, I'm sorry to say -- artwork on the walls.

"Oh, God, no," she says, laughing. "There was no method to it. We just brought a lot of stuff over from our home."

The Tugmans are getting a lot of customer requests for gluten-free and dairy-free dishes, so Sandy has been tinkering with recipes. She has already improved the daily soups on the menu, making sure that there's always one vegetarian potage available.

The Great Day Cafe is open seven days a week, from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday. Musician Annemarie Timmons -- who used to play the accordion at the long-defunct Emile's on the Plaza -- is featured each Wednesday at noon, and a local ukulele club, the Ukesters, performs every third Saturday from 1 to 3 p.m. 

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