By McKibben Jackinsky
For the Homer News
A hungry public greeted Melody Livingston and Lewis Morris shortly after they opened the doors of Wild Honey Bistro at 7 a.m. Saturday morning.
“The first day we had a large group that came in at 7:30. They’d been waiting for awhile for us to open and came in first thing,” said Livingston.
Before the day was over, the busy bistro on Bunnell Avenue had used all the crepe batter, crepes — both savory and sweet — being the featured items on the menu, along with soup, salad and pastries. On Sunday, Livingston and Morris doubled the amount of batter and, like Saturday, used all of it before closing time.
The opening weekend’s success underscores the warm welcome the owners say they’ve experienced since moving to Homer from Kodiak to open Wild Honey.
“It’s been amazing to purchase a business from somebody that has quickly become a friend and a mentor and she’s been so gracious with her time and her insights. I can’t say enough about her,” Livingston said, referring to Maura Brenin, who owned and operated Maura’s Café in the same location until August 2016.
Morris noted the many touches added by area artists and crafters, family and friends: specially made Wild Honey cups, custom built shelves with beehives worked into the design, tablecloths that were a gift from friends, a one-of-a-kind door, artwork displayed around the room.
“One thing I like is that every piece is done by somebody who we know,” said Morris.
“That adds to the joy of this place for us,” said Livingston, a former Seattleite, who moved to Kodiak for work and met Lewis, who was born and raised in Kodiak, in 2009.
On Livingston’s trips through Homer, she had eaten at Maura’s Café and fallen in love with the food and the atmosphere. While in Homer in August, she treated herself to a meal at Maura’s and was sad to hear Brenin was planning to close the end of that month.
“I sat there, had my wonderful meal and thought ‘we could buy this. This could be our next thing,’” said Livingston, so certain of that thought that she announced it to Brenin.
Never mind that neither Livingston nor Morris had any restaurant experience. Livingston is a mental health therapist; Morris is an airplane mechanic.
Returning to Kodiak, she told Morris, “It’s crazy, but I found this café that I really want to buy.”
His response: “I always wanted to own a café. Let’s do it.”
And so they have. Livingston arrived in Homer in February and began renovations. Morris arrived a short time later.
The couple’s vision for Wild Honey was to serve food with a French flair. An emphasis on using locally grown and harvested ingredients is shaped by Morris’s Aleut heritage and what it taught Livingston.
“Being involved in the Native community, it made me very happy to forage for food and I felt more connected to my environment and my world because I was more connected to my food and the community of people that taught me,” said Livingston. “So when we thought, okay, let’s own a restaurant, I wanted to connect people to the food around them.”
Salmon in the house-smoked salmon crepe is caught by a Bristol Bay fisherwoman that Livingston and Morris know. The bistro’s eggs come from Blood, Sweat and Food Farms. Fresh pea shoots and pots of cilantro plants are from Synergy Gardens.
“I love that we know the woman from Bristol Bay. And I did a tour of each of the farms so we know their faces and what they grow. It’s part of the joy of this business and also part of telling the story of the food that we serve,” said Livingston. “As things come more and more into season, you’ll see more and more on our menu.”
Looking ahead, they plan to obtain a beer and wine license and expand the breakfast and lunch menu to offer a prix-fixe, or set-price, five-course dinner on Friday and Saturday evenings. It will be communal-style seating, with two seatings a night, and reservations required. Sunday brunch also is in the planning, with mimosas featuring such flavors as those created by locally harvested berries and fireweed honey.
For now, there’s plenty to keep Livingston, Morris and their four employees busy.
“There’s so much to running a café. (Morris) keeps saying he thought he was retiring and is now working harder than he ever has. I can say I’ve never been so tired, yet so happy,” said Livingston.
“Needless to say, we’re busy bees all the time,” said Morris with a smile.