The Village Cafe: Eat Well and Do Good

Night owls will remember a Whalley Avenue watering hole called the Village Pub, but now it’s been transformed into an early-bird’s hangout dubbed The Village Cafe.

Run by the social services organization Marrakech, Inc., The Village Cafe is a 12-16 week, food-services training program. Marrakech clients learn everything from cleaning to customer service to the actual culinary skills.

“Marrakech, Inc. is a private, non-profit corporation serving over 1,900 men, women, and children who face mental, economic, physical, and psychiatric barriers, through a range of programs designed to meet housing, employment, training, and community participation needs,” says the website. Besides the experience, clients get a beefed-up resume from their work at The Village Cafe. Since its beginning in 2009, over 20 clients have found work in the the food-services arena in the greater New Haven area.

But the best part about The Village Cafe is that it’s a great place to get  breakfast or lunch, eat-in or take-out. Managed by Michele DuBois who oversees the kitchen and the front of the house, the Cafe is a cozy place to stop by for a bite.

DuBois grew up in West Haven, the eldest of five. Helping to take care of her siblings, she began to enjoy cooking. “I can’t imagine not being in this field,” she says. After high school she went  to a culinary program in Shelton. Graduating in 2006, she began work in deli and catering businesses. One was a dinner franchise that had opened a cafe. The relaxed atmosphere of the cafe called to her and after the business closed, The Village Cafe opportunity came up. “It’s very rewarding when you hear, ‘I want to be a chef, just like you,” she says.

They have walk-in clientele from the neighborhood and surrounding businesses, and happily their corporate catering is taking off. Michele’s food style is comfortable and honest. They house-make their pancakes and syrup, make their burgers to order (no patties), and no deli meats – they roast and grill everything themselves.

With its low-key environment (and free wi-fi), the Cafe is just right for a homemade breakfast or lunch break from a harried day.

Mara Lavitt

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Restaurant Website: Village Cafe of Marrakech

• The Detes: 520 Whalley Ave., New Haven. 203-389-1102. Open Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

• Price Range: Breakfast $1.50-7.95, lunch $3-6.95.

• Style of Food:  American-style breakfast and lunch

• Favorite dishes: Breakfast sandwiches, paninis, salads

• Drinks: soft drinks, tea and coffee (including espresso and capuccino)

• Take Out: absolutely

• Outdoor seating: some

• Catering: yes, yes, and yes

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