January 30, 2007

New Café Serving Organic Food Opens on Route 13

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Smart Monkey Café, a restaurant specializing in organic and natural food, has recently opened along Route 13, joining the ranks of Ithaca’s various innovative restaurants. It combines the speed and convenience of a typical fast-food joint with the ambience of a small café. Customers can order food at the counter and then wait for its delivery at one of the small tables or couches.

Smart Monkey serves breakfast all day, and its menu also includes wraps, sandwiches and salads. The Yepwich, Chef Yeppi Pulsts’ specialty sandwich, consists of a Kaiser roll filled with sautéed chicken, artichoke hearts, tomato slices, mustard aioli and melted Brie cheese.

“It’s the only place in town you can get it,” Pulsts said. “It’s my trademark. People love it.”

Co-owner Mayann Friend explained that although the food is organic, it offers much more variety than the typical brown rice and beans dish with a side of tofu. The restaurant serves a wide range of desserts, such as homemade cupcakes and warm apple strudel, and intends to acquire a wine and beer permit, allowing a variety of beverages to complement the other items on the menu.

The name of the café, “Smart Monkey,” originated from an experiment conducted at the Copenhagen Zoo involving apes that were given organic and non-organic bananas. The apes consistently chose the organic ones, eating the entire banana including the peel. They were then named “smart monkeys.”

Friend and her brother felt that, in the context of a growing organic momentum, it would be a good time to open a restaurant, that would provide Ithacans with access to what she believes can be healthier lifestyles.

“I believe pesticides cause stresses to our bodies,” Friend said. “It’s my personal belief any time you can reduce stress, it’s good. … Organic food also tastes better, especially local organic food.”

Nicole Sheehan ’09 enjoyed Smart Monkey’s open atmosphere, including the live music and intimate setting.

“I would definitely be willing to go back there and try something new. The menu has a lot of different items,” Sheehan said.

Currently, the employees at the restaurant are pleased with the customers’ reactions, especially during Sunday brunch.

“Competition in Ithaca is a reason for concern,” Friend said. “There are so many restaurants. That’s just the way it is. So we are constantly looking for ways to improve.”