MONTPELIER — When shelter-in-place is done, hungry Vermonters will meet again at what once was Bagitos restaurant in Montpelier.
The restaurant will be called Food for Thought, and it will have a new owner, Sara Lourie, of Jeffersonville. It will also have a new menu but the same mission: to provide good food, a welcoming meeting place, and good music.
“The café will continue its role as a community gathering space and host to local and traveling musicians. Hopefully there will continue to be traditional music jam sessions on the weekends, as well as activities for parents and caregivers with young children during the day and longer afternoon opening hours to catch the afterschool crowd,” Lourie said. “The overarching theme of the café will focus on our relationship with the natural world and will provide space for storytelling, art and educational events that encourage a more sustainable relationship between our human species, and the rest of the natural world.”
Lourie plans to open the Main Street restaurant as soon at the statewide restaurant ban is lifted.
“When the Stay Home, Stay Safe order is lifted, and shops and restaurants are allowed to operate normally again, the cafe will reopen as Food for Thought — good food, thoughtfully prepared,” Lourie said.
Lourie will leave the day-to-day operations to Bagitos’ former staff, cafe manager Sarah Clifford; kitchen manager, Heather Lewis; and Ashley Sherman, weekend front staff.
“My role in the cafe will be mostly behind the scenes, particularly as far as the food goes. The current management and staff are keen to stay on, and I am delighted about that. They do a really great job, are a good team, and have an excellent handle on the operational side of the business,” she said.
Owning and operating a restaurant is a change for Lourie, who is an honorary curator the Redpath Museum at McGill University in Montreal, and has taught science at the college level.
“Owning a cafe is definitely a change for me, however, I’m excited to learn new things,” she said.
Lourie, the author of “Seahorses: A Life-Size Guide to Every Species,” earned a doctorate at McGill on seahorses and the use of biogeography in marine conservation. She also has a Licentiate degree in early music, taught in the biology department at McGill and designed, and taught a course about natural history collections and science.
She moved to Vermont in 2010 when her daughter started kindergarten. Her daughter, son and ex-husband now live in Montpelier.
“I have a passion for seahorses, but more broadly, I have a passion for the natural world, conservation and an interest in helping people develop a more respectful relationship with it. This will be somewhat of a theme to the café; humans are a part of nature, not apart from it. Nature inspires, provides, and is the source of all,” she said.
Why Bagitos? “I had often visited Bagitos in the past, and always enjoyed its friendly atmosphere, and delicious bagels. I was very sad to hear that, without someone stepping in to take over ownership, Bagitos was going to have to close.
“Soren Pfeffer, who started the café nine years ago, was ready to move on to other things and had been trying to sell the business for some time, but no one seemed to be willing to take it on,” she said.
“Soren was amenable to me buying the business, but logistically it made more sense to start afresh, hence the new name, Food for Thought. I did purchase all the contents,” she said.
Lourie plans to make some minor changes to the menu.
“We will be changing the menu slightly, offering more breakfast and lunch options, and reaching out to the community more with art, story telling and educational events in addition to the music. Ultimately success is the result of people showing up, and we hope that they will come,” she said.
“Bagels and cream cheese will continue to be the center of the menu, however, we will expand our breakfast selection, eggs any style, bacon, sausages, hash browns, focus more on lunches, soups, salads, nachos and add smoothies, fruit, protein ...” she said.
Lourie plans to keep the Bagitos Facebook page for the time being.
“We hope that a lot of customers will stay with us and will appreciate the changes that we do make. We certainly appreciate all the positive feedback we have received so far to our ideas,” she said.
Given the current COVID-19 pandemic, Bagitos is currently not open, however, the Facebook is active, she said.
Pfeffer started the business nine years ago with Philip Dalsimer after a survey showed potential customers interested in New York deli-style bagels, burritos and healthy, fast food besides sandwiches.
By the end of the first year Pfeffer was the sole owner of the business. In 2012 the restaurant was featured in Yankee Magazine in an article entitled: “Best Burritos, Bagels, and Blues.”
Pfeffer closed the 40-seat restaurant last month.