After hearing frightening stories about the effects of fillers in commercial dog foods, Johan Everstijn and Roland Strobel began making homemade food for their dog. They noticed such a significant difference in the dog’s health, they wondered what all of those fillers and preservatives in human food were doing to people, so they started feeding themselves as well as they fed their dog.
Moving to Naples for family reasons, the pair decided to open a completely raw food restaurant using no fillers and preservatives, and in June 2014, The Cider Press Café was born. In preparation, Everstijn trained in raw food preparation with Master Chef Mehmet Ak in Chicago, later becoming an instructor and executive chef at Matthew Kenney OKC in Oklahoma City. He is the Culinary Director at the Cider Press Cafe.
The Cider Press Café , 601 Central Avenue, St. Petersburg, Florida
Strobel manages the operations side of the business as the Business Director. He has a PhD in Urban Planning, and had no restaurant experience prior to this venture. Sometimes it takes an outsider on the team to envision the possibilities. I found them on a visit to St. Petersburg, Florida in their recently opened second location. With a soft opening in August 2015, the restaurant announced its Grand Opening in October.
Co-Owner and Business Manager Roland Strobel in the Cider Press Kitchen
Can you run a restaurant with no oven and no can opener? You can if everything you serve is fresh and raw. The Cider Press Café uses dehydrators, and nothing is heated above 170 degrees Fahrenheit, preserving the vitamins and minerals in the food. “It is very appealing to a chef to work in a kitchen with no heat,” says Strobel.
Watermelon instead of tuna in the Florida roll, eggplant sliced thin and dehydrated with herbs and spices to mimic bacon on the BLT and salads, and Pad Thai with kelp and zucchini noodles are just some of the creative ways the Cider Press Café creates traditional dishes in a completely raw way. “Bread” made of almond paste and flax seed is dehydrated, not baked. It holds together quite well, much better than other gluten free breads I have tried. The entire restaurant is raw and vegan. There is no gluten and no animal products.
Avocado BLT and Caesar Salad
The beverage menu of smoothies, cold- pressed juices, lemonades and kombuchas work well with a meal or as a mid-day picker upper. Beers, wines and ciders complete the beverage menu. Happy Hour goes from 3 pm -6 pm. $4 Beers, $5 wines by the glass and $7 ciders are offered. Wines and beers are chosen for the restaurant based on taste and sustainability in their production methods.
No meal is complete without a finisher. At the Cider Press the choices include made to order “ice creams” originating from soy milk, and sorbets with fresh fruit. The bananas foster was a nice combination of fresh bananas, pecans, and soymilk ice cream, sweetened with a date paste.
For those who follow a strict vegan diet, being able to go into a restaurant and have the choice of ordering anything on the menu is a treat. The more traditional diner will find many enticing options, and won’t even miss traditional bread and meat. “Satiety comes from the rich concentration of vitamins and minerals in the natural, raw food,” Strobel says. When you leave the Cider Press Café, you feel satisfied and energetic, not stuffed and lethargic.
Located at 601 Central Avenue, at the corner of Central and Sixth Street in the Central Arts District of St. Petersburg, and at 1201 Piper Boulevard in Naples, the restaurants are open for lunch and dinner. Reservations are taken for parties of 5 or more.
The Main Dining Room
Boating, arts, sports, and warm temperatures are all reasons to visit Florida. Now, healthy, delicious, raw food dining can be added to the list.
For Everstijn and Strobel, the love of their dog led them to a life transformation, not only serving their own health, but the health of others. Dogs really are man’s best friend.