In 2014, Karen Miller left Long Island where she was a caterer and event planner, with the goal to retire in New Bern. But she loved her career and just couldn’t give it up. She found herself going back and forth to New York to cater for her clients there.
Gradually, she shifted her attention to New Bern. She opened Sweet Pea’s Café on Middle Street. She found success there, but the kitchen and refrigeration were insufficient for her catering.
She sold the café and rented refrigerator space in a colleague’s kitchen so she could continue her catering business, Posh Palate Caterers. Business grew and grew and in June 2019, she reopened Sweet Pea’s in Village Square.
“It’s a place I can do both. There’s a dream kitchen here,” she said.
The second iteration of the café has a friendly atmosphere. Karen’s dad even works there.
“You always get greeted. So many people tell me that they feel like part of the family here. I love that,” she said.
It’s not just a family atmosphere; the food is homestyle, assuming that homestyle for you is world-class food.
Sweet Pea’s has seating capacity of 54 under normal circumstances, slightly larger than her previous location on Middle Street, and has a party room that customers can rent.
It also has a take and bake case. You can stop by and pick-up cooked meals like family size shepherd’s pie, quiche, soups, and even collards, and take them home to reheat and serve.
The café is open from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays. The café is closed on Sundays.
If you go at 10:30 a.m., you can choose from either the breakfast or lunch menu.
“Even after we stop serving omelets, which are beautiful, giant, and delish, you can always have quiche or frittata egg cups. We always have four or five different egg cups to choose from,” Karen said.
They also have Egg in the Nest, which is a hash brown potato nest stuffed with scrambled eggs and cheese, and stopped with sausage gravy.
For lunch, the café serves sandwiches, wraps, and salads. Choose from favorites like Ham and Brie with honey mustard on raisin bread, or roast beef with caramelized onions, mozzarella, and horseradish mayo.
You can also order individual sheppard pies, chicken pot pies, and quiches.
“My shrimp salad is off the charts,” she said.
The lasagna is made from fresh pasta and homemade marinara.
A stuffed meatball consists of almost a pound of meat stuffed with fresh mozzarella, and topped with ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmesan cheeses.
Fresh eggplant, asparagus, and other vegetables are roasted and drizzled with balsamic glaze bursting with flavor, but not overwhelmed by it.
The chef arrives early each morning and makes all the food from scratch, all except for one thing: the crumb cake.
“That’s only because I’m using the company up north. It is the closest to my grandma’s, so why mess with a good thing,” she said.
Karen’s catering company, Posh Palate Caterers, has a menu that is very different.
“I specialize in hors d’oeuvres. I have 60 different kinds. I love them,” she said.
She is creative with presentation and likes to make small bites easy to eat.
“I serve Chicken Satay that have shot glasses for personal dipping, and chicken quesadillas and guacamole in small flowerpot-type containers. I can also take a buffet table and break it down into stations,” she said.
Her company caters corporate events, weddings, baby and bridal showers, and also offers luscious sit-down dinners, with family style platters on each table.
Sweet Pea’s Café is a New Bern treasure. It’s a wonderful place to have a great cup of coffee and a bite to eat. And when you leave, you will be full and happy.