Sweet potatoes rule at the Sweet Potato Café.
From starters to salads to entrees to desserts, spuds dominate the menu at this nearly two-year-old Stone Mountain restaurant.
Owner and chef Karen Patton said it was her love of sweet potatoes and their many nutritional properties that resulted in her making them the focus of her first eatery. But that’s just the beginning. Next door to the restaurant, Patton maintains a garden filled with eggplant, peppers, heirloom tomatoes, okra and an assortment of herbs that change from season to season. That’s where she picks some of the ingredients for her dishes.
“Rarely do I open up a can of anything,” said Patton, who is obviously proud that when she talks of farm to table dining she really means it.
“Everything here is done from scratch,” she said, adding that even her hummus and vinaigrette are made on site.
Patton, 62, a native of Yonkers, N.Y., isn’t one of those culinary people who’s long dreamed of opening a restaurant. The former law firm secretary said she loved cooking for friends and decided to go to culinary school so she could get into catering. However while at Atlanta Tech, her vision changed. She decided that a restaurant would be the way to go and her niche would be fresh and healthful meals.
On her current menu are sweet potato hummus, four varieties of loaded sweet potatoes, a selection of paninis with sweet potato salad or sweet potato fries or regular fries, a smoked gouda bbq burger made with grass-fed beef, stuffed chicken breast with spinach, beet salad, roasted sweet potatoes and orange salad and more. Among the most popular dishes: fried green tomatoes and grilled salmon.
Patton said her strategies for preparing healthful dishes include using olive and canola oil, avoid heavy breading and controlling the use of salt.
“Even though we do do some frying, we don’t do a whole lot,” she said. “We try to think about the healthier approach to what we are doing.”
Offerings change seasonally with heartier fare during the cooler months such as a sweet potato shepherd’s pie and chicken stuffed with apples and cranberries, which will return to the menu in October.
Patton runs the restaurant along with her husband Darrell and son Sean.
Although it’s been a challenge opening and operating a restaurant during a recession, Patton said, she’s determined to ride the ups and downs.
“The first year I was learning something each and every day,” she said. “What makes me feel good is when I have people come into the restaurant and tell me how happy they are that I am here and how proud they are of me and they hope I succeed.”
The Sweet Potato Café is located at 5377 Manor Drive, across the street from ART Station. Live music is played during dinner hours on some Fridays.
For more information on the café, go to www.thesweetpotatocafe.net.
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