Maintaining a profitable restaurant is a complicated, almost mystical combination of good food, reasonable prices, timing and luck. Just three months in, Midtown Café seems to be figuring it out. The owners, Culinary Institute of America graduate Daniel Serafini and his partner Jason Cancro, are determined to make their eatery one of the success stories.
“Crowd-pleasing,” Serafini said of his vision. “We listen to our customers and try to give people what they want.”
Opened in January, the Midtown Café vibe is a more café than Midtown. Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days a week, the daily menu starts at $2.50 for a bacon egg and cheese sandwich, and stops well short of $10. Try the loaded Cobb Salad or Steak Caesar for $8.50, or the sirloin burger, which at $5.50 is perhaps the best bargain in town.
The restaurant’s location serves Serafini’s ideal well. Located on White Street in the shadow of Western Connecticut State University’s campus, college students can wander in and enjoy fresh meals at prices comparable to their meal plans, along with free Wi-Fi internet access. Despite targeting the college student body, Cancro and Serafini calculate co-eds compromise just 30% of their customers.
“We definitely welcome college students,” Serafini said. “But we don’t want to stop there. We want to cater to the community. We have live jazz on Thursdays, car shows planned for Spring Fridays, even an outdoor eating area; this place is made for outside dining.”
If the long-term aspirations of growing the business suffer something of an identity crisis, the menu and flavors never do. House made Yukon Gold potato chips complement all specialty sandwiches, including Midtown’s version of the Cuban. Theirs comes pressed on brown mustard glazed Panini bread and brims with roasted pork and cured ham. Swiss Cheese and a lively half-sour pickle complete a commendable sandwich at $6.99.
The wine world touts a rating system known as QPR(quality to price ratio). Applied to restaurants, it would be difficult to imagine a restaurant doing better than Midtown.
“There is a plan to everything,” said Cancro. “We feature Bagelman breads and bagels, and Cassone rolls; we do not skimp on ingredients.”
With such commitment to quality and prices this affordable, it’s no wonder 500 Facebook friends have been singing Midtown’s praises.
On my first visit, a college couple with calculators and a side of the beer battered French fries of the day sat amongst a local bar and grill owner and a clearly content mother and son. As the latter’s meal was coming to an end, Serafini swooped by their table to flame torch their gratis creme brulee.
The woman summed up her Midtown experience: “The last time I had creme brulee like this was at Tavern on the Green,” she said.
Even Serafini did a double take. He laughed before joking, “Hey, they are no longer in business.”
“Maybe they stopped serving creme brulee,” she said.
The Midtown Café is located at 172 White Street in Danbury. Call to order ahead at (203)791-1119. Their hours are 7am to 9pm, Monday through Saturday, 7am to about 6pm on Sundays.