Old Capital Tavern: A place for everyone

 

12717981_1292128987483055_557250980594456129_nThis weekend, I got to introduce my friend Lul to Gypsy Lea’s, one of my favorite places. Owned and run by Jami Lea Lewison, Gypsy Lea’s is one of those places where you can spend hours and still not feel like you’ve seen every cool thing that’s there. It’s heaven.

We shopped, and talked, laughed, and of course, we both found little treasures. I found a sweet little brooch and Lul got a retro Betty Crocker cake cookbook. She wanted old school: “No more recipes that start with ‘buy a box of yellow cake mix!’”

1_smallWe hit another little store and then decided to have lunch. Right next to Gypsy Lea’s is Old Capital Tavern. The food is good there, and I asked if that was okay with my friend, as she doesn’t drink alcohol. Would it be okay to walk into an establishment that serves alcohol? “I’m not drinking, so it doesn’t matter,” she said.

And, yes, we got a few looks, a white woman and a Somali woman—me in jeans and she in hijab.

We sat down and continued our conversation and our server, Caitlin, came up to us a few times, always patient because we hadn’t even looked at the menu. When we did choose, I mentioned to her that the side options were all pork. (I am still feeling stupid that I thought I had to speak for Lul, who is perfectly capable.) “Oh, that’s right!” She offered instead a side of potatoes in place of the regular bacon or sausage option. A few minutes later Caitlin came back up and said to Lul, “You know, when there’s a food allergy issue, we have the grill steamed down to eliminate contaminants. We could do that for the potatoes, too, since they’re grilled where we make the bacon. I’m happy to have them do that for you if you’d like.”

Lul and I lost our breath for a moment.

oAfter we’d finished eating, and as our food coma starts to set in, Caitlin came back and sat down next to us. “I hope I’m not overstepping…”

Questions for Lul, probably the same ones she gets all the time. But that would be okay. Lul is a pro and is committed to community education.

“I just want you to know how happy I am you two came in today. We don’t get many Somali people here, and we want them to know they are welcome, always.”

“I have too many [people in my life] who are racist and I just don’t feel that way,” Caitlin continued. “It’s time to move forward. The people who work at this restaurant are like a family, and we believe this is a place for everyone.”

Then her eyes welled up. “Sorry I’m getting teary. It just means a lot to me. Here’s my phone number, and if I or anyone here can do anything to make Somalis feel more welcome please call me personally, or anyone here at Old Capital Tavern.”

We don’t get many Somali people here, and we want them to know they are welcome, always. Click To Tweet

Needless to say, I friended her on Facebook, asked her to find us at #unitecloud, and invited her to guest write an article about her experience or her business.

The brunch menu is excellent, by the way:)

Stephen Raw Love bade me welcome (George Herbert)Love bade me welcome.

Yet my soul drew back, Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
If I lacked any thing.

A guest, I answered, worthy to be here:
Love said, You shall be he.
I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee.
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
Who made the eyes but I?

Truth Lord, but I have marred them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.
And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?
My dear, then I will serve.
You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat:
So I did sit and eat.

Poem by George Herbert

About the Author

Catherine Verrilli

Catherine is the #unitecloud Advisory Board Chair. She is a professor of music at St. Cloud State University where she teaches Music in World Cultures, Music History, and Voice. As a singer she made her Carnegie Hall Debut in 2012 as a member of Trio Lorca. A native of Connecticut, Catherine has been married almost 30 years and is happiest the presence of animals. She and her husband moved to St. Cloud in 1999 from Washington, D.C.