Sleepy Bee Cafe: New brunch spot making buzz in Oakley

CINCINNATI -- Oakley business owner Sandra Gross always wanted to open a breakfast spot with her husband, but didn't expect to get started until later in life.

"We thought we'd wait until we were in our 50s. We're not 50 yet, but this building became available and so it just seemed perfect," said Gross.

The Indian Hill mother and artist owns the popular children's bookstore Blue Manatee and Brazee Street Studios , along with her husband Dr. John Hutton.

The Sleepy Bee Cafe will mark the third business for the couple, but they knew Oakley was the right place to open shop.

See the restaurant staff

"What we love about Oakley is many things… it’s a wonderful walkable community and we’ve felt a lot of support for Blue Manatee and Brazee, as well, but we always thought we wanted to open a breakfast restaurant," said Gross.

Plans for Sleepy Bee began last spring when Gross approached chef Frances Kroner, owner of Cincinnati catering company FEAST , who shares a similar philosophy about food.

"Sandy, John and I all have a health-conscious way of living our lives. We wanted to satisfy a traditional comfort food menu with little twists where people who are interested in dining healthy are satisfied," said Kroner.

Menu choices will be made with ingredients that are pesticide-free and non-genetically modified. A major impetus for their cuisine is the recent decline of the honey bee population. For Gross, who is an avid gardener, honey bee health is a major concern.

"I don’t think people link our food to the bees. I get very upset about pesticides and I think people are not clear that if we don’t have bees, we don’t have food," said Gross.

See the honeycomb tile display

Since 2006 the honey bee population has been declining at an alarming rate. It's a phenomenon researchers identify as Colony Collapse Disorder.

RELATED: Urban beekeeping on the rise as honey bee population dwindles

"My passion has always been from the culinary end of it... and getting to know more and more local farmers, it made me realize how connected it is and how important pollination is," said Kroner.

Gross wanted to create awareness of the crisis for her guests and even designed tiles for the bathrooms that show which foods are dependent on honey bee pollination.

Even though Kroner is conscious about the ingredients and where they come from, for her healthy doesn't have to mean boring.

"I feel like health food in general has become bland and standardized and a lot of restaurants think of it as an after thought and in our case it went kind of harmoniously," said Kroner.

Kroner expects "Bee Cakes," their signature pancakes made with buckwheat flour, to be popular with the brunch crowd. Guests will have the option to add bacon and only real maple syrup will be served.

See chandelier designed by Gross

Other will menu items will include the house burger, made with grass-fed beef and homemade condiments, egg dishes made with local eggs, salads, soups and sandwiches -- all of which is based on seasonable and available ingredients.

A special house coffee brew will also be available for retail purchase.

The Sleepy Bee Cafe is slated to open to the public on Monday, Dec. 16 with a Grand Opening on Dec. 21.

The Sleepy Bee Cafe
Owners: Sandra Gross, Dr. John Hutton
Executive Chef: Frances Kroner
General Manager: Beth Merusi
Menu: Breakfast and lunch
Hours: Monday-Friday 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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