Catherine Vonderahe, South of Lane's owner, on fighting cancer, the PB2 and the community table
Catherine Vonderahe, owner of South of Lane
When Catherine Vonderahe turned 50, three things happened to her: She was diagnosed with breast cancer, she and her husband separated after nearly 30 years, and she was badly bitten by a friend's dog. But, as she's quick to point out, none of these moments define her. Rather, they gave her a chance to reinvent her life, to focus on two things she loved: entertaining and vintage goods.
Moving back to her hometown of Upper Arlington in 2010, Vonderahe built the concept for breakfast-and-lunch restaurant South of Lane (or SOL, as she jokingly calls it) around the cafe she felt the neighborhood was missing. She started with what she calls a really good Belgian waffle, a nice omelet, good coffee roasted locally by Thunderkiss and a small collection of vintage finds. The 23-seat SOL has only sprouted from there. "Nobody's luckier than I am," Vonderahe says. "And I know that."
On her mom
My mom was an amazing baker. We never had store-bought bread.
On cooking and entertaining
I was always the center of gravity for my family around the holidays. I'd feed everybody. That was a big piece of my old life that I missed.
On fighting cancer
I don't allow cancer to have purpose, in this space or in my life.
On humor and writing
My first love was always writing, particularly satire and humor. I published [The Politically Correct Cookbook] in 1994. I started watching all that was going on when the first Clinton administration was putting together their cabinet, and I saw this fun link between politics and food. So I started to take issues and individuals, would think of things in the dish or name of the dish, and took huge poetic license. [And all the recipes in the book are real, she adds.]
On the space
I wanted it to feel like it had always been here. I wanted it to feel warm and inviting. I didn't want it to be just Panini presses and coffee pots. I wanted people to embrace it as a really comfortable place where they could count on good food, on people serving them well-where they could linger.
On the community table
I love that table. Even if there's nobody else at the table, it's seemingly less lonely to sit at a 12-top than it is at a two-top.
On the PB2 (peanut butter and bacon in a waffle)
That was my son's creation. That's one of our most photographed dishes [laughing]. It's gratifying to see that become part of the vernacular in your neighborhood.
On why there's never a wait
Most places you go and put in your name and wait for a table. Here you put in your order and by the time your food is ready there's a place to sit. I don't know how it works, but it does.