By Laura Ann Tipps/Staff Correspondent
When Sarah Cornelius talks about her restaurant, simply and aptly named “Sarah’s Café,” almost every sentence begins with the word “we.”
Sarah and her three kids – Joey, Kim, and Rodney – started the business as a family, welcoming hundreds of local families into theirs since the restaurant opened 11 years ago at 3225 U.S. Highway 278 in Walnut Grove.
Sarah began to dream of owning a restaurant when she was 15 years old and worked at Little Joe’s in Oneonta. When a bar on Highway 278 closed, the Cornelius family seized the opportunity to purchase the building and rolled up their sleeves for some of the hardest work they’d ever done.
“We worked every day and every night for four months to get this place ready to go,” said Sarah. With a chuckle, she added, “We still work every day, just trying to make a nice place for people to come eat.”
Whatever Sarah and her kids are doing at the café must be working, because many of their visitors are repeat customers. Groups of friends gather every Friday night for the seafood buffet, after church on Sundays for the lunch spread, or for the special $10 T-bone or ribeye steak “with all the fixings” on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights when Sarah’s is open for dinner.
The reasonable prices certainly are appealing to Sarah’s customers. There are not many places where you can get a steak dinner for $10, a seafood or Sunday lunch buffet for $8 or a breakfast and lunch buffet for $7. The café also offers a large selection of delicious, sugar-free pies, in addition to regular pies, Kim’s fried pies and cakes.
Some of Sarah’s desserts, in fact, have practically achieved celebrity status.
“You know we’re famous for that chocolate pie, and I’ve sent that recipe as far as the Virgin Islands,” Sarah said proudly.
Sarah and Kim are working on a cookbook of their renowned desserts, which will be released just in time for Christmas. A sequel to Sarah’s first cookbook, Secrets of Sarah, this one will be titled Mother and Daughter: Two Sweet Treats.
As Sarah turned to ask some employees and customers if they thought the title was funny, Kim quickly chimed in.
“Yeah, it’s funny to anybody who actually knows us!”
All kidding aside, the family does a lot to help the community besides just running the restaurant, keeping their prices low and knowing how to bake.
“We try to buy all of our vegetables locally, including our tomatoes, which everyone tells us are always the best ones around,” said Kim.
“We buy them at Pat’s Produce in Snead, and the guy there told us that people come and tell him they want the tomatoes like we get,” added Sarah with a smile.
But the Cornelius family does more than support local farmers. It deliver plates to several people in the Walnut Grove community who are homebound, just to make sure they get one good meal every day. Every Wednesday night, Sarah’s Café delivers food to the Second Baptist Church in Altoona, where both members and non-members can buy a plate for a discounted price of $5.
“We provide Thanksgiving dinners for a lot of families, too,” Rodney said, referring to the boxes of food the family puts together for churches to deliver to homebound people.
Sarah’s also hosts and caters family gatherings and reunions, class reunions for local high schools, Christmas parties, birthday parties, church fellowship dinners and other events.
If you’re in the mood for some home-cooked food made with the love of a family, visit Sarah’s Café Sunday through Wednesday for breakfast and lunch, 5:30 a.m. until 2 p.m., and on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, when they serve a supper buffet (or the steak special) until 8 p.m.
For more information about catering or the banquet room, call 1-205-589-6355.
“We sure hope everybody will come out and eat with us,” said Sarah. “We love our repeat customers, but we like to meet new people, too!”