John and Cindy Panian have operated the catering company Crabcakes Creative at 5003 Mardel Avenue for eight years. After watching four or five coffee shops go in and out of business in the space next door, the chefs finally opened their own storefront this past weekend: Corvid's Cafe (5001 Mardel Avenue; 314-481-1522).
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"There was always a little coffee shop in the building, and we did the food for the previous owners," Cindy Panian tells us. "We used to dream about what we would do different if it was ours."
Finally, after the latest tenant left, the Panians took over the space for Corvid's Cafe. They originally planned to open in October 2013, but were set back by red tape -- namely, zoning restrictions. The Panians wanted to name the cafe Magpie after their daughter, Magdalena, but there's already a Magpie Cafe in St. Charles. Their next choice was Sage, but there was already one in Soulard (it's now closed). Magpie and her parents settled for Corvid's, which is the family of birds that includes her namesake, as well as ravens, crows and nutcrackers. Cindy Panian says she hopes to foster a sense of community in the neighborhood.
"We live on premise, so we're here 24 hours a day. We lived in Clifton Heights for twelve years and knew two sets of neighbors," she says. "In eight years here, we know half of the neighborhood. We're hoping this will be a place people will go to if they want a cup of coffee and are feeling lonely and want to see people they know."
The building was actually a bakery almost 100 years ago, and it was built around the kitchen. Panian says they have the original ovens from the Old World German kitchen; it's the only commercial kitchen she has seen with hardwood floors.
"Obviously we want to make enough money to survive, but it's not the goal," Panian says. "We're not money-driven people. We want to make people smile. That sounds like a greeting card, but it's true."
The cafe's current menu offers soups, salads, paninis, sandwiches -- one made with the Panians' signature crabcakes -- pizzas and "Super Spuds," a variety of souped-up baked potatoes.
An earlier version of this post said Sage was in Benton Park, not Soulard. We regret the error.
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