An insider's view of the Connecticut dining scene
Sep 2, 2014
11:21 AMThe Connecticut Table
This Tasty Canaan Café Has a Twist; It's Staffed by Former Addicts
For a recovering addict at Mountainside Treatment Center, this is one of the final steps. The next level of recovery is introducing normalcy and getting back to a healthy, sober life. Nothing is quite as mundane and sobering, most would agree, than the daily grind of a job.
Mountainside Café has reopened after a four-year hiatus, and offers jobs to former addicts on the last leg of their path to sobriety. Up to 16 Mountainside clients at any one time make up the wait staff, prep staff and dishwashers. Mountainside, located off Route 7 in Canaan, is an addiction treatment and drug rehab center. It has existed since 1998.
The café is open to the public seven days a week and offers an array of farm-to-table brunch and dinner items. Terence Dougherty, co-founder of Mountainside, and his board of directors found the restaurant roughly a decade ago, and saw an opportunity. The restaurant had changed hands several times over the previous 20 or 30 years, and was again on the market. The location was ideal, given that the café is just four miles from the main Mountainside campus.
(Above, an avocado sandwich with cheddar, sprouts, red onions, tomatoes & chipotle aioli on multi-grain toast. Below, chef Charles Dietrich. Kathryn Boughton photos.)
Mr. Dougherty called it an effective location for the community and mentioned that “people love it there.” It also has aided Mountainside’s rehabilitation program.
“It’s been a very effective contributing part of our program,” Mr. Dougherty said. “We thought, ‘My goodness, this would be ideal for the people who have completed treatment and now are in extended care [to now] have a job to go to.’”
The point, Mr. Dougherty said, is getting Mountainside clients back into a daily groove. It forces them to be at work on time and work within guidelines. Daily tasks and responsibilities are introduced to a group of people who, to this point, have solely been focused on recovery. The café job is preparation for them to go back out into the real world.
“This helps them in developing and practicing life skills, social skills and work skills,” Mr. Dougherty said.
The café was closed in 2010, he said, to replace the septic system. This past Memorial Day, the unique venue re-opened with new chef Charles Dietrich at the helm. The menu, Mr. Dietrich said, is more “farm-to-table” than it used to be.
“We’re trying to support the local community and develop a local community diet with it,” he said.
The café offers breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday and brunch and dinner on the weekends. Mr. Dietrich said that they are best known for their farmer’s salads. They also serve sparkler beverages, which are a healthier alternative to soda.