CEDAR RAPIDS — Shannon O’Shaughnessy has always worked in restaurants, starting as a teenager as a car hop at the Barrel Drive In in West Union. Still, when she had the chance to buy the Riley’s Cafe location she was managing on Sixth Street SW, she wasn’t sure whether it was the right decision.
“I was a little hesitant at first,” she said. “I’ve always been good at managing, but owning is a lot.”
But if she didn’t buy it, the location would close, and she didn’t want to see that happen.
“I said, ‘Well, you only live once, right?’ ” she said. “We’re going to sink or swim.”
She bought the restaurant last June, and in November officially changed the name to Bea’s Cafe.
She added new decorations, including some donated by regulars, such as a custom-made Bea’s Cafe sign, and gave the inside some fresh paint — in green and orange, the colors of the Irish flag.
“When your name is Shannon O’Shaughnessy, you can’t escape the Irish thing,” she quipped.
She also developed her own menu, while sticking to the breakfast and lunch diner standards people expected from the Riley’s days, with omelets and French toast, tenderloins and hot beef sandwiches and burgers.
“Our hot beef is not made with sliced beef but with beef roast,” she said.
She has regular specials, including homemade meatloaf on Fridays and smoked brisket specials on Thursday, with brisket from Big’s BBQ in Mount Vernon.
“I always tell people we have sprinkles of love in our food,” she said. “The chefs definitely show their pride on the plate.”
Some menu items are named for family, such as the Poppies breakfast, with two eggs, choice of breakfast meat, potatoes or black beans, and toast or biscuit. It is simple, O’Shaughnessy said, but it is what her father ate every morning. Another item, the Big Time, with two eggs, choice of two pancakes, French toast or waffle and choice of breakfast meat, is in honor of her uncle.
Family also is embedded in the restaurant’s moniker; the cafe is named for her daughter Aveleen, 14, who she calls Bea.
“I used to call her Bean, and later that got knocked to Bea,” O’Shaughnessy said.
A mural at the front of the restaurant pays tribute to veterans, and O’Shaughnessy offers a 15 percent discount to veterans and active service members.
“They sacrifice a lot. I don’t feel like they get treated right when they come home,” she said. “It’s just to show my appreciation for what they did and to thank them for their service.”
She said she hopes the restaurant feels like a welcoming, family-like place for customers. She is open 365 days a year and serves holiday meals on Thanksgiving and Christmas, with that in mind.
“I have older people, regulars, who may be widowed, or who don’t have kids, who don’t have somewhere to go,” she said.
Any day of the year, she said she enjoys talking to her customers. Though she sometimes jumps into the kitchen to help out, she can usually be found in the dining room, making sure everyone is taken care of.
“I really want it to have the feeling of having breakfast at home, but we’ll clean up the mess, we’ll make you feel comfortable,” she said. “I want it to be cozy.”
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If you go>
• What: Bea’s Cafe
• Where: 2727 Sixth St. SW, Cedar Rapids
• Hours: 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily
• Details: (319) 826-3923
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