Monday, January 24, 2011

Open for Business: Welcome to Donna and her Cafe

A couple of weeks ago Donna Adams commented on the site:

Good morning!

I hear someone thinks I'm not opening...well I am! The road to this project has not been easy. The learning curve is/was tremendous and it will continue for a bit! I am new to the world of restaurant owning but not new to the world, learning or being flexible. I hope I can count you guys to help me grow in a positive way, thereby providing you with a positive and enjoyable experience at Donna's Cafe!I look forward seeing you all VERY soon!

Well we recently were walking by and it looks like a lot of progress has been made. Below please find a couple quick phone pictures we took from the outside.

Ironically, a reader just wrote us about the subject:

Hello Sloopin Crew,

Donna's Cafe on State and 13th is now open for business! I haven't been able to stop in yet, but I noticed that their hours are 6am-10pm Monday-Saturday and they're closed on Sunday.

Hopefully they have lots of success!
We second that thought! Welcome to the Sloop and can't wait to try it out. Best of luck!

(Hat tip: CR!)


Anonymous said...

I feel like I should preface things that I have lived in the sloop for six years and am a huge fan and supporter of small businesses and really had high hopes. I just got back from there and am nearly speechless. First of all, it took nearly a half hour to get our sandwiches and their were only six people in there.

Second, I swear to you the whole wheat bread and the cheese looks/taste like it is from Jewell and the portion of the sandwiches is the smallest sandwich I have ever had at a restaurant in my entire life. They then charge 7 dollars for the sandwich with no side.

The wait and quality/price of the food is beyond ridiculous. It would shock me if anybody who went there would return with all the other options.

Anonymous said...

Great. Another south loop "restaurant" which is owned/operated by someone with ZERO experience in the restaurant business! Wonderful! I think we all know how this ends. . . .

Anonymous said...

Good Luck to Donna's Cafe! I will have to stop by for a bite to eat this week. Let's all give this place a fair shake while it works out the kinks before we start with all the negative comments!

Anonymous said...

Yeah I suppose it would be better if there were no entrepreneurs and only established corporations created businesses. Keep it classy, anon.

Anonymous said...

I would wait until their grand opening on Feb. 19 (training just started a few days ago) before going on the attack.

Anonymous said...

Give them some restaurant opens and is immediately great (unless it's a chain that has their process down to a science). If you're looking for huge portions and quick service, there is a subway just around the corner.

I look forward to trying out Donna's

Anonymous said...

I have been to Donna's and look forward to you trying them too. I am not trying to be mean spirited but you should go and form your own opinion.

I support small businesses if they are worth supporting. This is not social welfare here. Go there yourself and really ask yourself about the price and the portion size. Better yet go there and pay seven dollars for a sandwich and then walk over to Panazzo's and do the same and then write a post honestly. If you don't see an issue with their portions and pricing you have lost your mind.

BTW- A sandwich shop has very little kinks to work out. This is not a fine dining establishment. They should have not opened if they weren't ready to MAKE A SANDWICH. Let's keep this in mind. They are a sandwich shop.

Anonymous said...

I stopped in and met the owner, Donna, and she seems very nice. The cafe has a great atmosphere inside. I was a little disappointed though to find out that a lot of the food there is not made on sight or homemade. The brownies and blondies and other treats are from a bakery and I also inquired about the salad dressing and it is not homemade. Not to say that her salads can't be great tasting, but like another person commented, for the price of the food, I would expect something fantastic. Mmaybe I just had an expectation in my head, but i was hoping the whole "cafe" vibe meant homemade, made on site..not straight from a bottle.

Stephanie said...

I know Donna follows Sloopin, so I have to comment on my husband's dinner tonight because I hope to provide some constructive criticism. I too had been looking forward to Donna's Cafe opening and having another option in the neighborhood, but after checking out my husbands meal, I think I'll wait a bit before I try anything myself. I won't comment on the price or the time it took to get the food, but here are my thoughts about the food quality:
My husband got a panini and soup. The bread was WAY too thin. (Not sure how to describe it, but the bread had basically disintegrated where there would normally be grill marks.) Thicker bread is needed for a panini. Secondly, lettuce should not go on a heated sandwich. The leaves were wilted and gross. His soup tasted pretty good, but was a little greasy. Also, the bowl was way too big, so it just looked like a half inch layer of soup lining the bottom of the very large bowl. I think this also made it cool quicker than if it had been served in a portion appropriate bowl.

I hope these comments will be taken (both by Donna and other Sloopin readers) as an opportunity to improve and not as a local resident "attacking" a newcomer.

Anonymous said...

Donna's Cafe -- already attacked by a bunch of wanna bees'.

Wanna Bees' = Kiddies.

My definition of Kiddies...
replace the K with a Y and turn the dd upside down.

I have no association with this business. I met Donna for the first time on Monday, and I met a warm, interesting and dedicated woman trying to live her dream.

I have just read the comments on this list, and now its my turn to address the WHINERS.


1. All soup is " a little Greasy "
and if the bowl was small you'd probably complain about that too.

2. ON SITE BAKERY ??? Please I beg you, post a list of all the restaurants or cafe's that you go to that BAKE all their own pastries ON SITE.

3. I suppose every restaurant has a full factory making their own salad dressings and Mayo???

Maybe Donna should have opened over on DeKoven St and called it Mrs. O'Leary's so they could have built a barn with a Cow for fresh Milk and Cheese.

4. If YOU ordered a Panini on WHEAT, what did you expect????

From Wikipedia, panino (Italian pronunciation: [paˈniːno]) is customarily made from a small roll or loaf of bread, typically a ciabatta or a rosetta


Try Wheat toast next time.

I will agree.. no lettuce on a Panini and orders have taken a little long, but I've gone there 3 days in the last 4 and have seen improvements every day.

As for no experience??

No, maybe she did not have any previous restaurant experience, but Donna has been there everyday and is trying.

Plus, you have to have a license in food prep to open a business and those are not just given out like candy !

It's a cafe' Kiddies!!! It's been open 4 days as of today - Thursday.

If you are in that much of a hurry and don't want to wait for a homemade sandwich, you can always go to McDonalds for plastic food at about $7 an order, for food that was cooked 30 minutes ago and kept hot just for you.

Or you can go to Subway and get fresh ingredients that were siting in a freezer and have been freshly unfrozen for you.

And a final comment to all of you that complained it's too expensive.

All of us in this neighborhood know how much we are paying for rent. And most of us are earning double, triple or more than this ex cop ever made.

Well, she too has to pay gas, electric, insurance, staff and RENT.

Think of the little extra you paid for that sandwich as an investment to our neighborhood.

Especially when you start seeing a lot of her friends (professional associates that are still wearing blue) hanging around the neighborhood, making it just a little safer.

Jon said...

Look, no one is attacking Donna. It is the right time to give feedback before it's too late. South Loop renters/owners have the cash to spend, but the vision for the South Loop has been established : High-End look + QUALITY food/product for the PRICE. Do you think this Cafe would survive anywhere north of here - even the LOOP? Either you are going to make it a nice college-centric, wi-fi cafe with average food/price or attract a higher-end customer. Also, patrons in any Cafe should expect to wait to be served . . that's the point, sit down & relax, but it should take over 10 minutes.

Anonymous said...

"My definition of Kiddies...
replace the K with a Y and turn the dd upside down."


Anonymous said...

It does seem like most of the feed back here is more of constructive criticism as opposed to attacks. I personally don’t have any issues with bread, pastries and other items being made elsewhere. In fact, I prefer that. A little place like this isn’t going to be able to do everything great, but they should be able to find people that can supply them with great products. I’d much rather they get their bread and pastries from a great bakery than to try and make it themselves. My guess is that nobody would have complained about things not being made in house if they were high quality.

My personal opinion is that if a café with a menu like Donna’s is going to make it in the south loop and charge $7 per sandwich they need the following things:

-Good Bread (Something like what you would find at Fox & Obel and not Jewel)
-Quality Ingredients (Boar’s Head or similar meats and cheeses)
-Good Coffee (Something like Intelligence or Metropolis)

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
"My definition of Kiddies...
replace the K with a Y and turn the dd upside down."


I think Anonymous forgot to add - change the first "I" to a "U".

Anonymous said...

I hope the ex cop with uneducated rant reads this again. You obviously have a personal connection with the business and are taking these comments the wrong way. Yuppies live here and spend their money here. We also help pay pensions. This place will not stay in business with quality of product they produce without constructive feedback. Also, what the hell was the comment about this place bringing more cops in the area. Is this place connected to CPD? If so, more the reason to lower the prices or increase the quality. The boys in blue don't need to be used as some weird connection to a restaurant the locals are trying to improve. Bottom line, nobody needs to eat here just because it is a small business. Embrace the criticisms as a method of improvement.

Anonymous said...

To the very angry anonymous poster, I also met Donna on Monday, she seems very nice and normal; not sure she benefits at all from your off-base and strangely angry response from someone who just met the lady...

On to the point; positive change for the business owner takes place by having insight into the way customers view the owners' work and work product. Donna will likey benefit from reading this blog, as we know she does, if she can separate her emotions from the facts; the ingredients used in a food business set the market for the price charged. If you use high quality ingredients, you can charge 7 dollars for a sandwich because people will taste the quality and will be willing to pay the 7 dollars. If you use lower quality ingredients, yet still the food tastes good, and you charge appropriately, people will return because it is solid good food for a reasonable price. If you use lower quality ingredients and charge as if you use high end, people will not return, even if the food is solid, namely because If the customer can tell the difference, they end up feeling cheated. I thought my sandwich at Donnas was solid. It was obviously not high quality meat and bread, and it was not memorable, but it was far from bad. Would I pay 7 dollars for it-no, would I pay 5 probably. Donna can choose to increase the quality of her ingredients and keep prices where they are, she can choose to keep the quality as is and lower the price, or she can keep everything the same and the "sandwich market" so to speak will respond appropriately to which ever action she takes. I hope Donna works it out because she seemed super nice and if his is her dream I hope she has many more pertinent people in the business advising her other then us blog lurkers!

Soothsayer said...

Wow- I've been looking forward to this place opening for a couple of weeks.

I visited this place on Tuesday and had a decent experience. I will definitely go back to try it again in the future.

Lets all relax, calm down our cyber muscles and realize whats important... Real Estate Value! Without anything happening @ Roosevelt Collection, the possible arson @ Ole Hardwood, and Opera closing we NEED Donna's to survive!

If it fails if fails, but I'll give it another chance so that when I sell my house I can say "close to an amazing cafe"

Sloop on!

Anonymous said...

Alright look, I wish Donna all the luck in the world. Especially when the South Loop is not capable of supporting our local small businesses.

We stopped in Donna's Cafe earlier this week and have to say we were underwhelmed. Im not complaining nor am I criticizing anyone. The decor is great but the concept is not clearly stated. We walked in and were not greeted by anyone. There were two young ladies working very frantically in the back yet there were only 7 people in the cafe and it appeared only two were waiting for food. They knew we were there however never acknowledged us. The coffee is not very good and I was a little taken back by the self serve coffee station. I wasn't sure what the cafe specialty was. It didn't seem like a sandwich place and yet it wasn't a coffee shop. I didn't eat anything but the prices seemed a little high. $7.99 for a soup, I would expect that from a sit down restaurant.

I do plan on trying the food and want to support the business. I do hope comments aren't taken miliciously but a way to improve the business.

Anonymous said...

$7 for a sandwich with good quality bread / meat and/or cheese: acceptable & returning customers

$7 for a sandwich with very average / below average (= Jewel brand) ingredients: no returning customers

I am sure Donna is highly ambitious and as a new sandwich shop owner she can certainly value feedback on her store.

I still have to try the place. I can only say that with a lot of Sandwich shops close by that serve sandwiches (think Potbelly/Subway/Jimmy Johns, Panazzo, A Cappella, Little Branch Cafe etc.) she will either have to make sure the quality is good or her price is lower if quality is just average in order to maintain in business for more than a few months. People in the South Loop know what they want and do not want and many businesses have felt the consequences.

I wish Donna all the best and hope this place keeps running! It is good to have empty spaces filled with good running businesses and to have choices as a customer.

Anonymous said...

I find all of these posts very interesting. I think that those of us that have lived for a long time have seen trends of businesses and really are extremely optimistic but also very realistic. I have lived her for nearly seven years and have seen many small businesses flourish like Panazzo's and Ma and I. Zapatista did so well they are opening a second location.

With that said I have also seen many fail that don't serve a purpose. I like many other people patronize businesses because they are good businesses. It makes me very confused how people feel you need to continue to go to a small business over and over again simply because it is in the neighborhood. I don think everyone should at least try the place first.

I have tried this place and agree with all of the constructive criticisms. The service is so slow it is laughable. Call me cold but it means nothing to me if this was someone's dream. That is not how a business stays open. It will only stay open if enough people feel it is worth the money and better than other options. I have gone their and will probably not go back because their are so many other options. I think it is naive to think the place will stay open and this makes me very disappointed because I wish a better businesses with a different model went in there. If you are reading this simply go there and judge for yourself. It is complete crap that the south loop doesn't support local business, we just support ones that are worth supporting.Go to Little Branch and compare your expectations of a Cafe.

Anonymous said...

I have no problem with the constructive criticism here, but comments like anon @ January 28, 2011 7:03 PM just seem motivated in tearing a place down that is not really even officially open yet. I would give them some time to train their staff and get the kinks worked out.

I would also encourage people to review it for what it is. Not every cafe needs to be as swanky as Little Branch. Not even Starbucks is! Do you think the parents shuttling their kids to/from the nearby day care or Columbia students are looking for that kind of establishment?

Anonymous said...

I don't understand how people can put the time and money into starting a business and do so many things wrong? Especially in this economy--who can afford to take chances like this?

I come from a restaurant family, and have worked the industry for years. Here are my thoughts/criticisms:

Food-haven't tried it, but the menu is unimaginative, with bad names--it's bad when I don't even want to try the sandwich because I think i could make one with better ingredients at home. Try some flavored mayos, good bread choices--pretzel rolls, ciabatta...
Limit your baked goods--have 4 or 5 treats, that's all people really need--2 chocolate things, 1 cinnamon, 1 scone like, 1 with fruit... Keeping so many items means things will either go bad or stale and you won't want to risk being tempted to serve it and get another bad review.

Coffee-amp up the coffee service! Big carafes of milk, cream so on. Give out the cups yourself and get an espresso machine! Coffee can help sales while you build up your kitchen and lunch sales. Honestly, I would lose the whole sandwich thing and just do a coffee shop in this location. Or just coffee and desserts!

Staff-new rule, if they're not busy they shouldn't be too visible. Bored looking staff reads to customers that your not doing well. Productive, busy, quiet but friendly staff says a lot.

Ambiance-Jazz is a nice theme and I heard some good stuff there. But add some more charm, old jazz legend pictures, add some warmth to the place. It's too small to try to go so stark with TGI Fridays looking menus on the tables. Go a little less commercial looking. Jazz up your wall menu--it's a bit boring. Hire an artist student from Columbia to do it.

You'll be lucky to have guests in between lunch hour who will want to sit and work on laptops, drink coffee etc, so make it conducive for those folks. Donna, don't take the best seat in the house. And too much gabbing with staff and friends makes it seem like I'm imposing on your home. The space is small, and can get awkward quickly.

Best of luck!

Anonymous said...

I tried to go today to see what all the fuss was about, and it was CLOSED! What kind of a neighborhood cafe/coffee shop is closed on Sundays! This place deserves to fail if it can't put forth the effort to be available to the neighbors on the day that most people are in the mood for a little R&R with a cup of Joe. This woman CLEARLY has no experience in the restaurant business.

Anonymous said...

Bottom line is that this place is short lived. But what do I know? A business like Exposure became Utopia and then became Ole Harwood (minus the whole fire thing). These are three failed business with the same owner. I am very curious what other factors exist that allow businesses to stay open for so long with such failed business models.

Anonymous said...

@anon January 30, 2011 8:30 AM: For the record, they just opened and their grand opening is not for a few weeks. Have you asked them what their regular hours will be? I think it is a reasonable assumption that a new business might not be open every day for their first few weeks as they make adjustments.

Donna's Cafe said...

I want to thank each and everyone of you. I really appreciate that you have taken the time to express your thoughts. I'm just so very sorry that I have been unavailable, due to the steep learning curve, to respond before now.
Again thank you.


Lauren said...

I have lived in the south loop for 5 years now so I know first-hand that WE all were always complaining about not having any good restaurants, cafes or coffee shops in the area (that we aren't tired of going to..). And now that we have somewhere to go that has a good atmosphere, good food and good people, everyone is still finding something to complain about. I myself love going to Donna's and appreciate everything she's doing. But come on people, be reasonable. No GOOD business started off to a great start, so things are going to be a little rough at first but they have progressed greatly! Yes it is a fast food establishment, but if you want it so fast that it's sloppy, nasty and falling all over the place, then McDonald's is the place for you. It's about quantity, quality and presentation, but you can't be too picky when you are paying someone to prepare food for you and they're just trying to make it look presentable, but also trying to move at a fast pace so that there are no complaints. I personally love the food and the staff. Donna, I'm sure that you'll do great and your business will prosper. And to all my fellow South Loopers, give them a break. Don't put too much pressure on them. Criticism is fine.. but u don't have to be rude about it!