Monday, May 4, 2009

Area chef hopes to ring in hungry patrons

Area chef hopes to ring in hungry patrons
By Danny Bernardini/
Posted: 05/04/2009

On a typical day, throngs of employees from the government center and courthouse in downtown Fairfield can be seen migrating towards Texas Street for lunch.

But one chef and business owner hopes to keep them closer to home after opening the Solano Cafe last week on the ground floor of the Solano County Government Center.

Daniel Bell, who has built a reputation in the area with Chef to Go Catering, is now offering a healthy lunch for those looking to eat well and locally. And folks have already started taking notice.

"Someone told me 'that was the freshest lunch I've had,'" Bell said. "That had a big impact on me."

Open from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Bell's cafe offers a "pick two" choice of a half sandwich, soup or salad for $5. The restaurant will also feature a full Peet's Coffee store in three weeks that will be open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Bell said the project has been in the works for about two years after the county approached him about occupying the space that once housed a coffee house/juice bar, that opened with the government center in 2005.

He said the planning took longer than he thought, which meant he would open to a rough economy.

"Here we go opening in the middle of a recession," he said. "The time is here. (America) just took over the top of the list as the No. 1 obese nation."

Knowing there was a failed venture in that space before, Bell said he wanted to know how things were run there. After he learned the last business didn't prepare food on-site, Bell insisted on having a prep room.

That meant the county had to knock out a wall and move a mail room to accommodate the cramped preparation area. In fact, at around 400 square feet, the whole restaurant is quaint.

But Bell said that doesn't stop him from creating big tastes, while using his "Healthy, green and local," approach. He said by limiting saturated fats and carbohydrates, his meals are healthier than most.

By serving the food on Bagasse -- made from sugar -- and using potato starch-based flatware, both items will return to dirt in less than a year.

And Bell uses local ingredients whenever they are in season, and plans to feature local products for sale in the cafe. All those practices are right in line with Solano County, which has spent the last year or so promoting healthy and local eating with it's employees.

Bell will have daily specials, which he will promote on the cafe's Web site each day at