ITHACA, N.Y. — Plant-based foodies, rejoice! Ithaca’s premier fully vegan cafe will be opening its doors this spring on the Commons with a menu to offer a full array of plant-based snacks and meals.
Tammie Olsefski, owner and founder of Star Truck, is the mastermind behind the new cafe, Ten Forward, which will be located in the space above Autumn Leaves bookstore.
Olsefski said the cafe, while its own separate entity from Star Truck, will borrow a similar theme from Star Truck, also attributing the name, Ten Forward, to a Star Trek reference.
“It’s going to be kinda spacey, there are books and bookshelves up there which I really like – it’s very cozy,” she said.
Olsefski said the plans to open a restaurant were only set in motion beginning in August, after she attempted to take a friend to lunch in the cafe which had previously taken up the space, only to find it had been closed.
“I saw the opportunity – I hadn’t ever thought about doing a brick and mortar business, but I got inspired, talked to the landlord, wrote out a business plan, and he ended up being really happy with it,” Olsefski said. “He knew I had been running a successful business with Star Truck.”
Olsefski said with the help of friends and family, she will be juggling both Ten Forward and Star Truck. While the truck might be open later in the season this year, Olsefski said she was still planning on bringing the truck to Grassroots and other festivals, as she has in the past.
“I’ve always loved doing the truck, but it’s very weather dependent,” Olsefski said. “That was one of the major factors in opening the cafe because I can still be open when it’s super cold, when it’s raining, people can come inside to eat, and I can be open year round.”
Olsefski, who has been eating plant-based foods since she was 15, said she had always been interested in doctors and researchers who focused on plant-based lifestyles and healthy eating. She said she planned to work with local farms in the area for fresh produce, and local companies like Ithaca Tofu and Susie’s Seitan for organic, non-GMO products to use in the kitchen.
“The food focus will be on hearty, healthy comfort food and wholesome food with low salt, sugar and oil,” she said. “We’ll have some awesome baked goods – cupcakes, cinnamon buns, cookies, maybe some croissants – coffee drinks and banana based milkshakes, we’ll have sandwiches and salads and soup … I’m thinking of a Reuben, maybe a Bahn Mi, curry tempeh, those kinds of things.”
The hours of the cafe will be the same as the bookstore hours, so Olsefski said she was expecting a late breakfast, lunch, early dinner kind of crowd. Olsefski shared her hope that Ten Forward would become a comfortable, cozy space to socialize and relax.
“I hope to do things like game nights, and there’s also a lot of meetups that already happen there which I’d like to continue – there’s a knitting group,” she shared. “I’m also hoping that the cafe can become a non-alcoholic space for the LGBTQ community to hang out.”
Olsefski said that during her travels, she makes sure to check out other plant-based restaurants.
“I get really excited when I find these places, and it happened with the truck too, when people found Star Truck they would get so excited that they found a vegan place to eat – I want to be that,” Olsefski said. “ It’s all so exciting… growing up in Ithaca I never thought I would be opening up a business on the commons.”
The opening date for Ten Forward falls on March 25. The cafe can be accessed through Autumn Leaves, which is located at 115 E. State St.
CORRECTION: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this story stated Ten Forward would be Ithaca’s first plant-based restaurant, while it is actually Ithaca’s first plant-based cafe.