RESTAURANTS

Friends open Feedwell Kitchen & Bakery in Cedar Rapids

A Swiss cake roll is a holiday feature at Feedwell Kitchen and Bakery in Cedar Rapids. The enterprise grew out of a frie
A Swiss cake roll is a holiday feature at Feedwell Kitchen and Bakery in Cedar Rapids. The enterprise grew out of a friendship between two foodies, one with an extensive background in the local culinary scene and the other with a passion for baking. (Rebecca F. Miller photos/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Holly Ervin always loved baking. But it wasn’t until she befriended Melanie Abu-Nameh that she considered pursuing it as more than a hobby.

“My mom decorated wedding cakes when I was a kid. I would just sit and watch her,” she said. “I always said that’s what I would want to do.”

She baked for family and friends for years before Abu-Nameh, a chef and assistant professor at Kirkwood Community College, suggested she attend the school’s baking program. She did and soon the friends were planning to open their own cafe together. In October, they did just that, opening Feedwell Kitchen and Bakery on Boyson Road NE. The cafe serves coffee and espresso drinks, sandwiches, soups and salads, plus a full array of sweet treats like cookies, scones and cinnamon rolls, showing off Ervin’s baking skills.

“I’ve had the dream of opening a small cafe, but it just never felt quite right,” Abu-Nameh said. “Then this space became available.”

The location previously housed the restaurant Gumption, which closed earlier this year. Abu-Nameh said opening a new restaurant during the pandemic gave them pause, but not for long.

“People were like, ‘Are you sure?’” she said. “Other people said don’t give up on your dream just because of this.”

She said the business model was always built around counter service and people being able to take their coffee and food to go, so they were well positioned for the new pandemic reality.

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They did close briefly just after opening after a staff member tested positive for COVID, but have since reopened. They have dine-in and carryout available. They do not partner with a delivery service at this time.

Abu-Nahem previously was the first executive chef at The Hotel at Kirkwood Center and then the food and beverage director. She said, for her, cooking is about more than just the food.

“For me, it’s about experiences. I love giving people an experience,” she said. “I love seeing a smile on their face, love seeing them satisfied. They say the most intimate thing you can do is share a meal with people.”

She said the menu is focused on “friendly, not overworked food. Nothing is super extravagant. That’s my style of cooking — simple ingredients, made well.”

Abu-Nameh is half Cuban, which inspired some menu items, such as Cuban coffee and a medianoche sandwich. Her mother-in-law, who lives in Turkey, inspired the inclusion of Turkish coffee — when she visits, she may do a reading of the grounds, and is teaching the skill to her granddaughter Maddie, who works at the cafe.

They have gluten-free options, including baked goods. For the holidays they recently featured a gluten-free Swiss cake roll, and their eclairs are gluten-free.

Ervin said the holidays are one of her favorite seasons to bake, and they are taking orders for holiday treats.

“I love the reaction I get from the people who are enjoying my baked goods,” she said. “It’s purely just for my own good feels.”

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Comments: (319) 398-8339; alison.gowans@thegazette.com

If you go

What: Feedwell Kitchen & Bakery

Where: 560 Boyson Rd. NE, Suite A, Cedar Rapids

Hours: 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily

Details: (319) 409-6905, feedwellkitchenandbakery.com

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