Leon & Lulu, a “lifestyle” shopping experience that has become a virtual landmark in Clawson, was named after two four-legged furry friends — a cat and a dog. So when proprietors Mary Liz Curtin and Stephen Scannell decided to branch out with a food option next door, it seemed appropriate to call their annex, Three Cats Café.
The building, formerly the Clawson Theatre, is separated from Leon & Lulu by a parking lot. It’s the perfect complement to the store carved out of another 1941-built structure, the former Ambassador Roller Rink.
The newer space adds Michigan products, distinctive greeting cards, vintage items, and a framing department to the eclectic wares next door. The renovation process was five years in the making before it was unveiled last October.
The couple gave Yvonne Belletini the task of overseeing the café.
“Everything is from recipes of family and dear friends of mine, recipes we all love,” she says, explaining the chalkboard menu features food larger than small plates: “enough food, but not too much.”
This is Belletini’s first culinary job, and she is relishing the experience. She describes herself as a home cook, whose career was in the automotive business before joining the Leon & Lulu team three years ago and then moving to the new space.
“It’s been a crazy ride for me,” Belletini notes.
Three Cats presents sandwiches and salads on vintage china. Soups, including what Belletini calls “family heirloom black bean,” are served in tea cups. The menu, based as much as possible on local products, changes daily and is refreshingly one of a kind, as befits the Leon & Lulu philosophy. For instance, Gus & Grey Chunky Monkey jam is used on the Nutella sandwich, and Hellfire hot sauce is what spices up deviled eggs.
Typical dishes include “flights” of sandwiches, like the combination of tuna, chicken, and egg salad. Salads might be poached pear, baby spinach, and mandarin orange, or garden vegetable with sun-dried tomato vinaigrette.
While the café itself has just four tables at the front entrance of the store, the entire space is available for seating. Patrons may take their fare into the shop itself and sit on any of the furniture.
No worries if a little egg salad or a splash of coffee falls on the merchandise. “It’s all stain-protected,” says Belletini, who works with one other cook, and who credits longtime local food writer Kate Lawson for helping her make the transition from home cook to professional status.
The café also has two baristas who make a range of coffee drinks that include the dessert-like affogato (espresso, ice cream, and a drizzle of chocolate).
Belletini doesn’t want to take credit for the café. She firmly believes “it takes a village.”
A liquor license has been applied for, and Three Cats plans to serve mostly wine when it arrives. That will add flourish to what is already an appealing spot.