New cafe offers ‘completely-from-scratch’ breakfast and lunch
Real estate, social work, therapeutic recreation and installing grass turf around the Northeast are all jobs Kristi Huard Norcross has had. In other words, no background in running a cafe.
“I have no restaurant experience, except for waitressing when I was younger,” said Norcross.
But clearly Norcross is not afraid to try something new. Her drive and desire recently led her to open Kristi’s Cafe, taking over the building where Silva’s Restaurant used to be at 767 Minot Ave. in Auburn.
Since opening on Oct. 12, Norcross and her staff of 14 agree it’s been extremely busy.
“The plan was to be open seven days a week, but it was so busy, we decided to close on Mondays,” said Norcross, of Auburn.
Current hours of operation are now Tuesday to Sunday from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Since purchasing the building, Norcross has had a lot of support remodeling and inventing the vision for Kristi’s Cafe, including help from her daughters and husband.
“Electrical Systems of Maine did the majority of the work. Without them this wouldn’t have happened,” said Norcross. “We took down complete walls, redid the electrical, flooring, all the plumbing, the ceiling and both bathrooms.”
Norcross wanted Kristi’s Cafe to be noticed right away from the outside as well.
A large sign now stands in front of the building announcing the new eatery. On a recent day it read: “Kristi’s Cafe. Beer, wine, muffins and mimosas.”
The cafe offers craft and domestic beer, wine, cocktails like mimosas and poinsettias, as well as home-cooked breakfast and lunch meals.
“We’re a cafe, not a diner,” said Norcross. “We have a cafe feel. The atmosphere is different. It has a different feel then the other places around.”
From the inside, customers walk in to an open setting with booths along the walls, family-style tables in the middle and two large flat-screen TVs propped on the walls.
“It is extremely clean, and it will stay that way,” said Norcross. “We will stay friendly, we will stay clean and we will stay producing great food.”
The bar’s seating faces the kitchen, which allows customers to watch the cooks and see Norcross’ youthful and energetic personality at work.
The same drive that pushed her to open the restaurant keeps her on her feet and busy.
Norcross spends any given day interacting with customers, creating the schedule, updating social media, baking muffins and interacting with staff to make sure they feel comfortable and happy, and that they’re doing the same for customers.
“We’re like a big family, all the wait staff,” said Laurianne Murphy, one of the servers. “Kristi’s so good with everyone. She’s a boss when she needs to be, but a friend the rest of the time.”
After purchasing the building and making it her own, Norcross knew she needed to find a consistent staff and good cooks.
“To make this a success, I needed the best cook around,” said Norcross.
And she found Sean Little from Minot, who was working at Mac’s Grill.
“I worked at a couple of five-star places in Portland and Brunswick (before Mac’s), but wanted a shorter commute,” said Little.
For the first time in his 17-year cooking career Little is the head chef, creating his own menu and turning Kristi’s Cafe into a “completely-from-scratch kitchen,” he said.
Little’s specialty and bestseller at the cafe is corned-beef hash.
“I’m breaking down the beef, brining, braising and corning it myself,” said Little. “And it’s unique because of the blend of species I use.”
Other specialties include the steak breakfast burrito, tuna melt and buttermilk fried chicken tenders.
Customers can also make their own omelet for breakfast or build a burger for lunch.
Little sees the menu evolving as the restaurant enters its second month.
Norcross also wants to host events, such as Christmas and birthday parties, and baby showers in the future.
“I want to be busy, but I want us to be consistent with our service,” said Norcross. “I want people to enjoy coming here and for it to stay a friendly place.”
Kristi’s chicken fingers are homemade, seen here served with french fries. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)
Owner Kristi Norcross stands in the dining room of her newly opened cafe on Minot Avenue in Auburn. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)
Kristi’s Cafe is on Minot Avenue in Auburn in the former Silva’s restaurant space. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)
Kristi’s Cafe’s signature cordon bleu club sandwich is made with Swiss cheese and homemade chicken fingers. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)
Kristi’s Cafe’s tuna melt
Makes two sandwiches
One five-ounce can of tuna
2 tablespoons mayo
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon dried dill
Two one-ounce slices of sharp cheddar
Two one-ounce slices red onion
Two slices vine-ripe tomato
Four slices hearty white bread
Two tablespoons unsalted butter
Mix ingredients for tuna salad. Place one slice each of cheddar, red onion and tomato on each of two slices of bread. Divide tuna between each of the two slices. Assemble sandwiches. Melt butter in medium skillet over medium heat, add sandwiches to pan, toast both sides in butter until golden brown.