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Good Life crew members are, from left, Luke Luther, Maggie Stennes, chef Joel London and Molly Luther. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

Inspired by 'big city' eateries, Good Life Café opens on Main

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Inspired by the food and ambience enjoyed at big city restaurants and buoyed by an upbringing in the bistro business, sisters Maggie Stennes and Molly Luther, with husband Luke, have opened the Good Life Café on Park Rapids' Main Avenue.

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"We grew up sweeping peanuts and filling napkin holders," Molly said of their upbringing. Dad Rick Stennes was Magoo's founder.

"We enjoy working with people," she said. "And there's satisfaction in giving people a good, interesting meal with a diversity of food choices."

Three years ago, Molly and Luke, residing in Boston, were eyeing a means to head back to the Midwest. "We were inspired by big city restaurants," Molly said. "And we saw an opportunity to offer the same type of food and atmosphere in a small town."

A business plan, with the aid of a counselor, began to gel. And a location was sought.

The business partners purchased the 220 Main Ave. South building from Ted Haberer in March, remodeling beginning the next day.

"The Main street location was important," Molly said. "We are very excited about the investment being made to Main - and want to add to that."

Maggie and Molly devised some "rough ideas" for the menu and handed them to their chef, Joel London from Sebeka, a graduate of New York State's Culinary Institute of America.

The menu is a balance of "traditional and adventurous" - from comfort food to vegetarian novelties to the international - complemented by regional and imported beer, wine and spirits at the full bar.

"We were looking for diversity of food," Molly explained of goals. Their quality of service principle requires staff with "great backgrounds" And atmosphere - "a clean, modern and bright" bistro waits.

The Good Life uses local ingredients, when possible, including Carter's Red Wagon and Anne Morgan's Community Sustained Agriculture Midheaven Farms.

Breakfast - with an omelet of the day - is served from 7 to 11 a.m. The Scotch egg, giant caramel roll and orange zest pancakes are drawing aahs from the eaters.

The lunch menu features a unique medley of appetizers, sandwiches, "miscellany" a soup of the day (for which London is famous) and salads.

Notables, based on customer "reviews:" the turkey avocado club, walleye BLT sandwich, wild rice hotdish and a spiced walnut and cranberry salad. Several vegetarian versions are available.

Glazed meatloaf and St. Louis barbecue ribs are earning two thumbs up on dinner menu, served from 5 p.m. until closing.

The menu will be "refreshed with the seasons."

Patrons arrive to find "a public living room," replete with couch and chairs and a classic bar. Booths and tables await family and friends or head to the garden patio.

"We're kid friendly," Maggie noted. A menu for "growing appetites" is available, replete with a book holding sufficient questions to wile away the cooking time - and then some. ("Who's your favorite Muppet, your favorite Dr. Seuss book, the best costume you've ever worn, the vegetable you most resemble?)

"It's a place for people to gather," Maggie said, "for people to be together."

The Good Life Café is open seven days a week, from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Watch for daily specials on the Web site, www.thegoodlifecafepr.com.

A grand opening is planned for mid-July.

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