By Chelsea Royer
Walk into Anne Marie’s Cafe on a busy day and you will get a cheerful, bustling vibe. With chatter in the background, servers pouring coffee and calling familiar customers “sweetie,” and green plants filling corners, it creates a warm and comfortable atmosphere. On most days, you will see Anne Marie hustling from table to table or perhaps sitting with her paperwork at one of the front tables. Her big smile and friendly eyes greet you as you find a seat and are presented with a menu full of home-style meals.
In March 2015, Anne Marie Babineau celebrated her 17th year in business. It was a wild hair of hers after years of office work and raising kids. She lives in the same home she grew up in and cooks in the same kitchen she would dream up concoctions with her friends after school and on the weekends.
When she turned 40, Anne Marie decided she needed a change. Within 48 hours, she had made the decision to open a restaurant and signed the papers. She worked day and night so that within a month, she was ready to open. “I was nervous. I didn’t know anything,” recalls Anne Marie. “My brother helped me hire a great cook and servers, Judy and Elaine. They taught me everything.” From day one, they served soups and sandwiches, making as much from scratch as possible. Consistency is one of Anne Marie’s priorities – why change a good thing? The menu is still mostly soups and sandwiches, with a new special every day.
Though Anne Marie has experimented with dinner menus, in the past, she is currently open for breakfast and lunch all week long. Anne Marie’s consistency seems to attract creatures of habit, with out of town customers returning with each trip out to the beach and regular customers who appear on the same day every week. “There’s a group we call the ‘Coffee Boys’ who have been coming every week for 17 years and started meeting together long before I opened the cafe. The group has really shrunk due to many passing away, but the son of one man stops in every time he travels through. Photos of this group are all up on the walls,” says Anne Marie.
“Some of my favorites are the repeat customers,” she adds. “It makes my day. But what makes me feel the best is when someone comes into the cafe and sees a friend they haven’t seen in ages. It gives me goosebumps. We all get into our routines and our own worlds and sometimes it’s hard to socialize…but it’s such a good thing. That’s where my slogan, ‘the place to meet for good food and great company’ originated from.”
Anne Marie’s focus on relationships is why the cafe doesn’t have internet access. A difficult idea to get used to, but Anne Marie feels strongly about keeping web surfing to a minimum. “I am old school,” explains Anne Marie. “I believe that a lunch break should be just that: a break to regenerate you for the rest of the day.” So far, it doesn’t seem to hurt her business. People certainly do visit for the company – with one another as well as with Anne Marie and her staff. In fact, the place has become so much like home that after the last flood disaster, Anne Marie had customers showing up at the door to help with whatever she needed. “We’ve survived at least half a dozen floodings at this restaurant – the last one being the worst. But family, friends, customers and staff all came to help. They just showed up and said ‘put me to work,’” Anne Marie recalls with a tearful smile.
It isn’t just the company that draws people in, however. There is also the food. Whether you order french dip, a monte cristo, or a turkey sandwich (made from turkey roasted at the restaurant), the variety is wide and the flavors tantalizing. Anne Marie’s favorite meal off the menu is the eggs benedict with Hollandaise sauce (made with real butter) and fresh dungeness crab. “I could just fall face first in that sauce,” chuckles Anne Marie. “It is not a low calorie dish. I also really love soup which is why we always have one made. We just serve basic, home-cooked food.”
If you are interested in seeing some old (or new) faces and in testing out one of Anne Marie’s wonderful dishes, swing into the cafe’s location on the bottom floor of the Becker Building at 110 S I St in Aberdeen. Its unassuming location makes for a perfect lunch break – the kind of break in which Anne Marie believes.
Anne Marie’s Cafe
Hours: Monday through Friday from 7:00 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday from 8:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.