Visit Vicki B’s Café on any weekday, and you’ll likely find Vicki B. Stahl taking a break from the kitchen and strolling through the dining room. “I love to be out on the floor, greeting customers, asking them if they like their food or if there’s something else I can get them,” she says. “I love to cook and see the looks on peoples’ faces when they eat food I’ve prepared.” By interacting with her customers, Vicki can better meet their needs. “Sometimes people just need a kind word, a hug, or someone to talk to.”
Vicki and her husband James opened their café in October 2016. The pair had been living a quiet peaceful life on a houseboat, “off the grid”, as she says. James came home from church one day and suggested they look at some property in Lake Charles. He had a vision they were to open a restaurant. Without knowing any details or where they were going, they drove around town and eventually stopped at the Lakeshore location. The building had been empty for over four years, but they knew it was perfect. Vicki says, “When we first walked in, the building kind of spoke to us. It felt like home.” The pieces fell into place and they opened Vicki B’s Café nine months ago. “It’s been an amazing journey,” she adds.
Vicki, a woman of strong faith, feels God had been grooming her for thirty years for her current role. She had worked at various Lake Area restaurants since 1992. Consequently, she’s experienced in every facet of the restaurant industry, from washing dishes and waitressing to managing, purchasing, and scheduling. “God’s been training me in every aspect of this business – a long, lovely training process.”
“Business has grown over the past nine months exponentially,” says Vicki. “The reception from this area has been almost overwhelming. People come here to find peace and something good to eat. Food does more than give us energy until the next meal. It comforts us and takes us places.” For example, Vicki serves turnip greens. It was a dish her grandmother had always made, often just for her, because she knew they were Vicki’s favorite. “So now, when I take a bite of greens, it makes me think of Nanny,” she says. Vicki hears similar stories from her customers. One elderly woman told Vicki the burger she was served tasted like one she recalled from a diner near her grandmother’s home. She said, “When I took that first bite, I was seven years old again.”
The café property, located at 1201 N. Lakeshore Dr., has an interesting history. It originally served as Ed Taussig’s Ford dealership, built in 1956, and continued to operate as several other Ford businesses. Later, it briefly served as a location for the Department of Motor Vehicles. Around 2012, it was slated to open as the Horsepower Bar and Grill. Owners outfitted the space with gear-head décor, but the business never got off the ground. Vicki kept their motor motif and it suits her business well, with colorful murals, vintage signs, and old license plates.
Vicki B’s Café is open Monday – Friday for breakfast and lunch. It’s a perfect place to relax with a cup of coffee and gaze out over the lake, or for groups to hold weekly or monthly meetings. She serves primarily eggs and hash browns for breakfast, but if a customer has a special request, Vicki does her best to accommodate. Daily plate lunch specials include southern favorites such as baked chicken, red beans and sausage, jambalaya, meatloaf, and etouffée. Burgers and chicken salad stand out on the sandwich menu. In the evenings and on weekends, Vicki hosts private events such as wedding receptions and Mardi Gras balls. Currently, the dining room accommodates 150; 200 if she includes outdoor seating.
Looking forward, Vicki plans to incorporate an ice cream parlor into the café sometime next spring. She also wants to remodel the car bays from the original dealership, thus expanding her event center to accommodate 500 people. “God has a purpose for us being here,” she says.
For more information, call 337-602-6688 or see their website, vickibscafe.com.
by Angie Kay Dilmore