When you walk in the front door of Roberts Place Café in Pass Christian, it just feels like home.
- by Lisa Monti
Dorothy Roberts experienced that same homey feeling the first time she stepped into the 1930’s former residence on Davis Avenue, the space destined to become her café. “When I walked in here, I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh.’” The house was the perfect setting for meeting, hosting, and feeding people like they are family.
“Mom and Dad loved bringing people together,” Dorothy said about Lucimarian and Lawrence Roberts, her family’s inspiration for creating their new business venture. The couple met at Howard University and after moving some 20 times during Lawrence’s 30-year Air Force career, they ultimately settled on the Pass for their retirement home.
Roberts Place Café, just shy of a year old, is a bookend to Robin’s Nest, the shop next door that draws shoppers to the Pass with its selection of distinctive jewelry, art, and gifts. The shop’s namesake, of course, is Robin Roberts, the anchor of ABC's Good Morning America and the youngest sibling of Dorothy, Sally-Ann Roberts, and Lawrence E. Roberts II, affectionately called Butch.
Robin is featured prominently in the large collage just inside the café, and you can also find photos of all the Roberts family on display throughout the café.
One dining room is dedicated to Lucimarian’s community work, including her appointment to the Federal Reserve. In another dining area are mementos from Lawrence’s distinguished military career, including a treasured photo with the famed Tuskegee Airmen. All of the couple’s photos, letters, artwork, awards, and other keepsakes are meant to “inspire, uplift, and motivate others,” Dorothy said. “We wanted their names to be remembered in this town they loved so much.”
The decor in each room is matched to the honoree - blue walls and table clothes for Colonel Roberts’ Air Force service, and floral tablecloths honoring Lucimarian’s sorority.
No detail was too small to escape the attention of Dorothy, who divides her time between Robin's Nest and Roberts Place Café. The retired social work administrator had no experience in the retail or restaurant industry, but she has strong organizational and people skills along with a business sense inherited from her dad.
The restaurant business, she says, "is not rocket science, but it has lots of moving parts.” Three things are critical to success, she said, "Obviously good food, a good environment, and good service.” All three boxes are checked here with some help from Dorothy’s friends.
Before and after opening the café, she sought advice from Bobby Mahoney of Mary Mahoney’s, restaurateur Rob Stinson of Saluté, WWL’s Chef Kevin Belton, and Sean Pittman, who owns Cat Island Coffeehouse in Pass Christian. They shared their advice on restaurant equipment and operations. “I learned a lot,” she noted.
The café specializes in American Southern cuisine, all prepared to order. "It's just comfort food," Dorothy says, served like it would be in a good southern home. Unsurprisingly, the Roberts family influence is clear in the breakfast and lunch menus. There’s the Lucimarian based on the breakfast sandwich she made for her family: an open faced, toasted croissant topped with scrambled eggs, cheese, and bacon served with honey butter. The Roberts Place Breakfast covers all the morning meal bases with traditional options for eggs, meats, sides, and breads. You can also enjoy Dorothy’s French Toast and Robin’s favorite egg whites to start your day.
Colonel Roberts was partial to Asian flavors, so the Pass Burger on the lunch menu features an Asian-infused barbecue sauce in his honor. Along with a variety of grilled burgers, the lunch menu offers specialty salads, sandwiches, and the popular shrimp and grits. There are also daily southern specials like the traditional red beans and rice on Mondays, Mom’s baked rosemary chicken on Tuesdays, and grilled Pork Chop Day on Thursdays.
On this December Thursday at lunch time, the café was filled with sunshine and delicious aromas coming from the small kitchen. Guests in groups of two, three, and five were wrapping up their meals and conversations by the time I took a seat at a small table in Colonel Roberts’ dining room.
The boneless pork chops are offered two ways: savory, smothered with a mushroom gravy; or Dad’s Hawaiian Pork Chop, served with a sweet pineapple glaze. The savory chops served with mashed potatoes (more gravy) and green beans were the perfect choice for a chilly day - classic comfort food on a parsley-speckled plate.
After almost a year in the restaurant business, Dorothy and family have a good idea what their customers like, and they also keep things interesting by adding new items regularly.
The café rolled out its first Barbecue Night during the holidays, serving ribs, chicken, or combo plates along with a choice of baked beans, potato salad, greens, or cornbread. The response was positive, so the café is planning regular barbecue nights on the second and fourth Saturdays starting after the new year. “And we are extending our work schedule to include Wednesday,” Dorothy said.
Roberts Place Café
233 Davis Avenue, Pass Christian
New hours starting in January:
Monday to Saturday
Breakfast 7:30 am - 1:30 pm | Lunch 11:30 am - 1:30 pm
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