HUMBOLDT — When the pandemic closed the doors of Kate Frick’s business in Tonganoxie, another door opened in Humboldt.
Frick recently opened Noon at 812 Bridge St., offering “grab and go” lunches made from regional and seasonal food products.
The new restaurant is part of the “slow food” movement, a concept that promotes local food and traditional cooking as an alternative to fast food.
“The idea is to offer foods that are fresh and in season,” Frick said. “In the spring, we’ll have a community garden and use foods we grow right here in Humboldt. Nothing tastes as good as a tomato fresh off the vine in July.”
She plans to grow things Humboldt residents may not be quite as familiar with, such as fairytale eggplant.
The idea for the restaurant grew out of Frick’s passion for gardening. At times, she has worked on organic farms.
“What feeds me literally feeds other people,” she said. “I love cooking. I think it’s one of the nicest ways to connect with people. It’s a passion project that gets to be a business.”
Though Frick is excited to offer the new restaurant, it wouldn’t have been possible if not for the end of a different dream.
FRICK opened a trendy cocktail bar in The Myers Hotel, a historic 1879 building in Tonganoxie in 2015. She later bought the hotel building and expanded the business with her partner and girlfriend, Stephanie Marchesi.
Almost immediately after the pandemic began in March and the business was forced into lockdown, Frick knew it was over.
“We were such a small business. There was no way we would sustain a shutdown,” she said. “I was in shock, but I came to terms with it early. We didn’t have any options. But it never faded away. It never turned into a lesser version of itself. It just ended. So hopefully people will remember what it was.”
The couple had met Humboldt’s Paul and Alana Cloutier when they visited the bar, and became friends. The Cloutiers clued them in on a new opportunity at Base Camp, a recreational and camping facility that opened this fall. Marchesi became the caretaker, and they moved with Frick’s daughter to a house on the property.
Frick thought she’d regroup and take it easy before she decided what to do next. She soon learned about the downtown restaurant building, formerly Floyd’s Place, and developed a business proposal.
Because of the pandemic and social distancing restrictions, Noon doesn’t offer indoor seating. Customers pick out food, hot and cold, from display cases. That makes it a good option for a quick lunch, especially for those who work in Humboldt, Frick said. It’s also targeted at tourists who visit places like Base Camp, as it introduces them to locally sourced foods.
The menu will change depending on what type of foods are in season. For example, she currently does not offer tomatoes in any of her dishes or sandwiches because they aren’t in season in Kansas right now.
“It’s a different way of eating and looking at the menu.”
All of the food comes from the region, which admittedly has been challenging in the winter months. Much of the produce she is currently using has been frozen. Frick also purchases food from producers across Kansas, up to southern Nebraska. She does much of her shopping in Lawrence, including purchasing bread at 1900 Barker Bakery and Cafe. She offers loaves of the bread for sale, and uses it to make sandwiches.
She also offers a homemade jalapeno aioli, which has become a best seller.
Though Frick has experience working at organic farms, she is a self-taught cook.
“When I taste a food, it gets me inspired to make something out of it,” she said. “I look for recipes and I truly love cookbooks.”
Some of her items so far have included veggie sandwiches, meatloaf sandwiches, soups, chicken madras curry, roasted butternut squash soup and turkey barbecue.
“My favorite way of cooking is to be inspired by the foods I’m using, and by being thoughtful about what’s seasonally available.”
Recently, someone came into the restaurant and asked about the miso sweet potato dish. Miso is a Japanese paste made from soybeans, which pairs well with sweet potatoes. Frick serves it on top of jasmine rice.
The customer tried it. And came back later for more.
“A lot of people will be really upfront when they don’t know an ingredient. I enjoy explaining it. I tell them to just try it and let me know what they think,” she said. “That builds trust.”
Of course, not every customer will be swayed. Some are turned off by terms like “vegetarian” and “vegan.”
“I think there’s a misconception that vegetarian items can’t be very filling.”
Frick does offer sandwiches with meat, but she’s passionate about introducing new flavor combinations.
“I hope customers can explore a new flavor and find something that excites them or gets them asking questions about their own food.”