March 25, 2014
Lancaster now is home to a restaurant that weds two concepts that rarely appear together: a vegetarian cafe and an indoor play space for kids.
The restaurant, called the Well, opened on March 10 at 203 S. Broad St. in the former Hammond’s men’s clothing store.
It’s owned by brothers Adam and Aaron Leu. The two, who most recently managed a health-food store in Canal Winchester, hadn’t planned to open a restaurant. The idea first formed around a play cafe.
“My brother and I both have three kids, so when play cafes started popping up, we saw that as an opportunity for our families. We wanted to provide a place like that down here,” Adam said.
The idea began to shift over time and eventually included an increased emphasis on food.
“We wanted to keep it simple, with the food as a side offering, but there is definitely a lot of desire for healthier options in town,” he said. “The more we talked to people, the more we were encouraged to offer that food. It’s the kind of food we eat every day.”
The Well offers gluten-free baked goods, which include all of the pastries, plus breads used for the sandwiches. In fact, the Leus decided to make the menu fully gluten-free to avoid any cross-contamination from wheat products.
The Well offers coffee and smoothies, as well as a small menu of sandwiches, salads and other fresh vegetarian and vegan foods. It is using as many ingredients from organic sources and local farms as possible.
“We’re trying to keep the menu simple,” Adam said. “We have daily offerings of salad, sandwich, soups, and all rotate weekly. We’re hoping to incorporate local food from local farms, and we are trying to keep it fresh and simple while keeping our prices low and our quality good.”
The 2,000-square-foot space seats about 30 people in the front portion and about as many in the rear, where the play structure is located.
Renovating the space was a big job, but the building was in excellent condition, which cut down on the work.
“The (men’s shop) left everything in very good condition,” Adam said. “We tore up carpeting and flooring, restored the old wood floors and put a kitchen in the center.”
The brothers even converted the upstairs into a living space for Aaron’s family.
All of the Well’s food is fresh and primarily raw. Aaron’s family bakes all of the goodies as part of its home-based gluten-free baking business. As a result, there was no need for an exhaust hood, which cut down on renovation costs.
The brothers did all of the renovations themselves, apart from the electrical and plumbing work.
“It takes a lot more time but saves a lot of money,” Adam said.
They liked the location although it wasn’t the only option.
“When we first started talking about doing this, I had just moved to Lancaster,” Adam said. “We were looking around downtown. We loved the old buildings and really wanted to restore one and use it in a new way. We came across this one, and it was just perfect.”
Apart from the cafe and play area, space is dedicated to selling products from local farms and artisans.
“We want it to be family-focused and inviting for families,” but not exclusive to others, Adam said. “The whole idea, including the name the Well, came out of wanting to be a gathering place for the community.”
Off the menu
• Diamond Jim’s Pizza is now open at 111 N. Columbus St. in Lancaster. It’s the latest project of the folks behind the Jimmy’s Jawbreaker mobile hamburger stand. The pizza shop is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
• Rishi Sushi is now open at 114 N. 3rd St. Downtown, in the former Fleur Bar and Lounge space. It is owned by Song and David Kim, who also own Moshi Sushi in Bexley.
Dispatch Restaurant Columnist Denise Trowbridge can be reached at email@example.com.