I’d been in the building countless times. I mean, I grew up around here, so of course I’d stopped in fairly often in the late summer and early fall while walking around Downtown Cape, for an ice cream and a nice little stroll down memory lane. But these days there’s something very different about the little Soda & Ice Cream Shop in the ole’ Spanish Street Mercantile building.
I noticed the change before even crossing the street. Potted flowers and herbs graced the sidewalk along the large front window with a very inviting family sized wooden picnic table amongst them. Through the large glass door I could see a big chalkboard that had Spanish Street Farmacy written across it. What a clever name for such a fun little eatery! I looked down at the mat placed just outside the doors. It read “Welcome” and I believed it.
Happiness just seems to live here...
As I entered, a young couple held the door open for me as they were leaving with mounding colorful ice cream cones and broad smiles that were completely contagious. In fact, once I was inside I noticed everyone seemed to be infected. Happiness just seems to live here and spreads to everyone who comes through the doors creating one of the most light and pleasant atmospheres I’ve encountered so far during my adventures here in the 573.
My eyes darted around the room and I started to understand where some of this mood might have been created. Beautiful wild flower bouquets, bundles of drying herbs, and several rustic and intriguing antiques were everywhere I looked. Just like stepping back into the past, I was filled with nostalgia, wonderment, and a sense of peaceful calm I haven’t felt in years. Even the uniforms donned by the young staff and the music drifting through the air seemed to be in on the spell, sending me back to a time I never even had the good fortune to experience for myself live and in person...until now that is.
Much to my surprise I was greeted at the counter by a sweetly familiar face...Mercy Green! Last time I saw Mercy, she couldn’t have been more than 8 years old, and she had come to offer her mother and I a piece of cornbread she had made from scratch from grains she harvested and ground herself during one of our social visits. Now here she was, all grown up and running the front of this lovely shop, taking down orders from customers while her brother, Titus whipped up a couple milk shakes right behind her.
Absolutely adorable and thoroughly impressive, Mercy has really only changed in height, but wow what a change, has it really been that long? Seeing both of them here it was pretty safe to assume that this was now A Green Family establishment, but I had to find out for sure!
“Oh my goodness! What are you doing here?!” I exclaimed. “Are your parents the new owners?”
A true old fashioned market...
“Yeah. They bought it last November.” As Titus dug out more ice cream for another milkshake, Mercy gave me the scoop on the shop. A farm to table restaurant and market, all of the meats, produce, and other ingredients are sourced locally from the Mennonite Farmers Market, Lick Creek Farms, and some of the surrounding area farmers and riverfront markets. A true old fashioned market themselves, they stock fresh produce, herbs, canned goods (in old fashioned glass mason jars), and honey all grown, raised, harvested, and preserved organically and locally.
I glanced over at the display cases and counters as another customer approached ready to order. That’s when I noticed the fresh baked goods. Blueberry Bundt cake, Zucchini Black Walnut Cake, a picture perfect Blackberry Pie, and…
“Coconut Cream Pie please.” I heard the woman behind me tell Mercy, “One piece for here, and another to go.”
'Man, I hope I get to try that before it’s gone!' I thought to myself.
Too late! By the time that thought had passed the two ladies behind her asked for the last 2 pieces. It must be amazing because it seems to be in high demand! I’ll definitely have to come back to try it out. But there’s no time to mourn the creamy coconuty goodness now, already the first dish was coming out!
A loaded homemade bun spilling over with fresh green leafy romaine lettuce, a black bean patty and melty pepper jack cheese all drizzled with a subtly sweet yet savory aioli sauce with Roasted Potato Fries and homemade ketchup, the Black Bean Cheeseburger was quite the picturesque meal. Filling and satisfying with a tasty sneaky heat that warms your whole body long after the bite has dissolved, it took me an embarrassingly long amount of time to notice that there was no meat on this sandwich. That’s right, the Black Bean Cheeseburger is a vegetarian sandwich with the “burger” being made completely out of black beans, crushed, seasoned, and grilled to be a new and healthy plant-based alternative to the classic cheeseburger.
...yes, carrots on pizza...
Next up was another table favorite. I’ve seen a lot of pizzas in my time, but this one was definitely a first for me. Hand-tossed homemade crust, topped with a homemade sauce, locally sourced sausage, Amish mozzarella cheese, and Giardianera (Italian pickled vegetables including onions, peppers, zucchini, and carrots...yes, carrots on pizza, and it’s pretty darn good!). Garnished with large fresh leaves of Genovese Basil, this pizza was just as beautiful as it was tasty! The blend of flavorings were exciting, and had all of us reaching for more.
To wash everything down, Mercy made us an intriguing blended herbal tea that she aptly named Herbal Bliss. Chamomile, lavender, rose, lemon balm, and raspberry leaf all in a utopian blend and garnished with a small sprig of Blue Spice Basil, mixing flavors and sweet emotions alike making it indeed taste and feel like Herbal Bliss.
...a perfect old fashioned milkshake that really hit the spot...
For dessert, we had to try one of those amazing milkshakes I kept seeing go out. Titus whipped us up a delicious homemade Mint Chocolate Chip milkshake. Creamy and smooth, thick and wonderful, with a light and fluffy sweet whipped cream on top, and garnished with a fresh sprig of mint, it was a perfect old fashioned milkshake that really hit the spot.
Last, but certainly not least, was a slice of the Zucchini Black Walnut Cake I had seen up by the counter earlier. Dense, moist, and sweet this cake had a taste that took me back to Grandma Cakee’s Christmas Zucchini Bread, only with the added bonus of a decadently sweet homemade cream cheese frosting, a dollop of homemade whipped cream and soft roasted black walnuts throughout. It was nice rounding out my trip to the past with that old familiar stroll down Memory Lane, but it would be nicer to stroll with an old friend, and catch up.
“Is your mom here today?” I asked Mercy hopefully.
“Not today, but I’ll tell her you said hello.” She said kindly.
I did, however, get to catch up with her mother later that day. We talked about our families and updated each other on our latest projects and she was nice enough to fill me in on all of the tasty details behind their Farmacy.
An amazing family from Bollinger County Missouri who truly understand the meanings behind farm-raised and homemade, the Greens have some incredible insight to home, health, and happiness.
I love that this is a family-owned & run business. Can you tell us a little more about your family?
We're a large rural family that likes gardening, cooking, and especially eating! Having been involved in the local farmers market scene for the last ten years, we have a real passion for the sustainability of local food farmers, we consider our friends...and we want to do something about it. We wanted to give another way to support local farmers to the community...a farm-to-fork fast-casual restaurant. Serving just good simple foods, no artificials, made from scratch, healthy..something that local farmers could be honored by. We felt it was time for us to try something together like this as a family and felt led to think about, explore, then pursue this opportunity.
How did you end up here on Spanish Street, what drew you to this location?
We developed a relationship with Charlie Bertrand (owner of Spanish Street Mercantile) while being vendors at the Downtown Cape Riverfront Market (for about 6 years). Charlie had gone through several ventures in his ice cream shop and was looking to have someone new take his ice cream shop and run with it, take it to another level. We had been onlookers to Charlie's ventures at the ice cream shop and we both decided we were ready for our family to give it a shot.
Mercy told us that when you first started the shop you mostly served soup. Can you tell me about opening the shop and how it's grown since then?
We started as Spanish Street Farmacy last December. Focusing on local ingredients (and the farmers who produce them), we started making our ice cream with milk and cream sourced from an Illinois dairy. We fixed up the 1930s vintage Stanley Knight soda fountain and began making our own artisan sodas using our own homemade syrups. Meanwhile, we baked cookies, cakes, and pies---all from scratch---really concentrating on the beverage and dessert menu. To address our guests' need for a luncheonette, we later added a daily soup, a grilled cheese sandwich, then more unique sandwiches, burgers, salads, a blue plate special, a Saturday brunch menu and pizza. We want to keep it as simple and fresh as possible, yet with enough variety, someone could eat lunch or dinner here every day. As we've added to our menu, and as word has spread around, we've grown very quickly over the past six months. For the warm Cape reception, we're very thankful.
The Black Bean Burger is quite a tasty sandwich! It's also really unique. Tell us where you got your inspiration for this awesome sandwich and the rest of your menu.
We purchased a couple of hundred pounds of locally grown, chemical-free black beans from a farmer-friend, and we had a book, Steeped by Annelies Zijderveld, and found our first basic recipe for inspiration. Our black bean burger has gone through many iterations since then and has become one of our best sellers. What is available from local farmers seasonally is what our inspiration draws from.
I love all of the beautiful herbs, flowers, and dried/canned goods displayed all over the store. Do you sell the dried herbs and canned goods too? And can you tell me a little more about the herbs you have, are they simply healthy/enjoyable eating or do some have medicinal benefits...are some used for Holistic medicine?
Herbs are an important part of our life. We grow and use quite a bit in our family. We're able to use these herbs in our cooking, our sodas, our flower bouquets, and as simple home remedies. Like hibiscus (roselle)...we grow it in our garden and it makes a lovely ruby-red drink, high in Vitamin C, rich in antioxidants and other great health benefits.
Tell us why it's important to eat right?
It's simple...eating right isn't a complex formula or a commitment to a fad diet. We think that satisfying our natural food cravings and appetites the right way with well-grown and rightly-raised plants and animals, naturally processed, in its season, is a good way to encourage a healthy lifestyle. Local eating can be a great adventure. Choosing new seasonal foods exposes us to new tastes, colors, and flavors that feed our souls along with new nutrients and antioxidants our bodies require. 'Locally grown' helps our neighbor in our adventure and makes it a win-win for everybody in the community.
What's next for the Farmacy and for the Greens?
We're looking forward to providing more local foods and goods to Cape area residents and its visitors.
-Words AJ Koehler
-Pics T. Smugala