Think Panera Bread, but with local ownership, local ingredients, local pride.
That’s what you’ll find at the Jo-li-me fresh garden café, the latest Hafner family enterprise to take up residence inside the spiffy new greenhouse complex at the North Syracuse corner of Buckley and Taft roads.
Nestled in the southwest side of the 65,000square-foot, seven-greenhouse expanse occupying 22 acres and named for owners John Caveny, his wife Lisa Caveny and their 13-year-old daughter Megan, Jo-li-me (pronounced “Joe-lee-may”) was fairly hopping during a post-Christmas lunch. The Cavenys opened the rustic-designed spot the week before Thanksgiving, and when the weather warms will be expanding to a patio, as well as seating in the adjacent greenhouse to provide indoor spots for those enjoying ice cream. It’s all part of a master plan.
“The goal is to have customers feel like they can spend a couple hours in the entire greenhouse complex,” says John Caveny (pronounced “Caveknee”), who most recently worked for Panera, overseeing the openings of three of the bread-, soupand salad-centered eateries.
“We’re hoping to turn the entire spot into a destination. At Christmastime we had bus tours coming in to visit the Christmas Room, and they stopped in here for a cup of coffee or a pastry. But in the warmer months, when there’s so much more to do here, we can see people spending hours at Hafner’s.”
Jo-li-me’s menu is designed for people on their way to work to grab a quick cup of coffee, latte or mocha; to linger on weekends over a bagel, pastry or breakfast sandwich (WiFi is available); to lunch on soup, sandwiches, salads, quiche or unusual piadines (more on those later); or to grab a mid-afternoon snack of a smoothie, made, thankfully, with skim milk— you won’t miss the fat or calories. The children’s menu turns fun with a Nutella sandwich with banana, a treat never seen around here.
Using as inspiration Aunt Linda Hafner’s cookbook, Simple, Fresh and Healthy, featured in the Nov. 23, 2010, edition of The New Times, the straightforward menu will change seasonally as different produce items sprout locally.
“Simpler is better, we’ve discovered,” says John Caveny. “Linda’s cookbook is a perfect example of that philosophy. So we’ll be selling fresh apple pie in the fall, strawberry items in June. There are no fryers here, no soda fountain. If you want a glass of water, we’ll give you a large cup you can fill, and not expect you to buy bottled water unless that’s your choice.”
Upon entering the 102-seat restaurant, you’ll see an open cooler of items used to make the tasty fare. “The message is that we’re using real eggs, real milk, fresh tomatoes: All the ingredients are right there for you to see,” John Caveny says. “At Christmas, we had bakers frosting gingerbread right behind the counter. The kids were fascinated with that.”
Those bakers comprise the first shift at Jo-li-me, arriving at 4 a.m. to make the baked goods on premises. “By 7 a.m., the goal is to have the bakery filled for our first customers,” John Caveny adds, “and to have the cannoli ready before lunch.”
Using knowledge gleaned from opening the Panera Bread locations in Fayetteville, Clay and Utica, John and Lisa augmented their menu with ideas they encountered while traveling. Unlike Panera, however, the Cavenys and staff like to deliver your food and clear your dishes when you’re done. “We’re not recreating the wheel here,” notes Lisa Caveny of the menu, “but we are bringing some originality.”
One example of that is the aforementioned piadine, a gyro-like sandwich you can roll up and eat like a taco. At Jo-li-me, you can choose such toppings as chicken, Portobello mushroom, caprese salad, and Greek salad.
The Greek, for example, takes a warm, round Italian flatbread and tops it with romaine hearts, hummus, tomato, feta, red onion, kalamata olives and a Greek vinaigrette. Just roll and eat.
“We first saw the piadines in San Francisco, at a place called Tomatina,” says John Caveny, “and they’re common in Italy.” Thankfully, Jo-li-me doesn’t sell them at San Francisco prices of $9.25 and up—they’re around $8 in North Syracuse.
Sides to the piadine include a baguette chunk (sort of redundant), chips or an apple. Those sides also show up with the specialty salads and soups. Served in a cup that is more bowl-sized as well as a bowl, the winter seasonal soups include chicken noodle, tomato and basil, broccoli cheddar and New England clam chowder. Not at all salty, and quite tasty, the soups, explains Lisa Caveny, arrive at the restaurant fresh, never frozen.
The décor at the 4,500-square-foot Jo-li-me is best described as rustic, with some impressive wood beams forming doorways as well as solid wood tables and large ceramic tiles accenting the walls painted rust, brown and drab green. A good deal of that wood was saved from the old barn—dating to the late 1800s—that stood across Buckley Road at the former Hafner’s location. “It would have been real easy just to take the barn down,” admits John Caveny, “but we think the wood adds a warm feel, and people just keep touching that doorway.”
That doorway leads to the garden center and the other greenhouses, closed until mid-March. The Cavenys hired Chris Clemans of Cab Fab, the Cabinet Fabrication Group located at 124 Burnet Ave. “He made the tables from the wood that made up the barn,” John Caveny says.
Jo-li-me is open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. In spring, it will remain open until 9 p.m., and then extend that to 10 p.m. at the height of summer. The ice cream stand opens in early April. The eatery also operates a catering business, but strives to keep its customer base to within a five-mile loop to ensure freshness and staff availability. For more information, call them at 299-4451 or visit their under-construction website at www.jolime.com.
Family matters: The Cavenys— Lisa, John and Megan—welcome diners to their casual cafe.