If there was one constant theme at the Proctor neighborhood’s Babblin’ Bab’s Bistro, it’s that there never was enough seating. Years ago, the neighborhood cafe outgrew its cramped 900 square foot quarters.
The bistro known for only serving breakfast and lunch frequently had weekend breakfast lines out the door, something that chagrined owners William and Shannon Mueller, who worried about the amount of business they lost because of their lack of seating.
The cramped interior held only a handful of tables, even after the bistro turned a tiny side room into additional seating. The kitchen was outfitted with the bare necessities and was about the size of a walk-in closet with an annex area for storage.
Dec. 29, the Muellers served their last meal in their Proctor cafe. They’re destined now for a space more than three times the size of the original Babblin’ Babs, which they opened as a 14-seat bistro in 2006 (it operated as a Dinner Solutions before that).
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Their new restaurant will be in Lakewood in a space on Gravelly Lake Drive that previously housed Kimberly’s Cafe.
An overhaul of the space means an opening is months away. Plans call for adding a cafe lounge at the entry of the restaurant for quick-service dining and coffee, and reshaping the awkwardly chopped, L-shaped dining room.
The Muellers wound up in a spot they actually had intended to move to last year, but couldn’t agree on lease terms. A second round of negotiations found terms more to their liking.
The bistro’s move is not a surprise. The Muellers were on a month-to-month lease and actively looking for a new home to replace their Proctor space, which is slated to become part of The Proctor (read more in this Dec. 11 story by TNT reporter Kathleen Cooper).
The Lakewood restaurant will come with a handful of changes, including simplifying the name to “Bab’s.” Mueller said by phone the restaurant would still serve the same style of flavor-drenched bistro food for which Mueller has become known. He’s also been known to ditch the salt shaker, substituting herbs and creating his own salt-free seasoning blends (he'll still sell those). Here’s a curious change for a chef who pays special attention to healthy cooking - Bab’s is getting a deep fryer. Don’t expect a fattened up menu, though. Mueller said he’ll use that sparingly.
Mueller’s regional American menu will remain, but Mueller said he’s looking to add classic ‘60s era dishes. He's looking to update dishes such as Jell-O, ramake and deviled eggs, with modern ingredients and presentations.
The breakfast and lunch menu stays put and coffee and fresh-baked pastry offerings for in-and-out quick service are coming, too. “I’m looking at hitting every pocketbook” said Mueller. The new Bab’s may open for dinner, but when and how often still is under debate by the Muellers, who relish family time with their two children and rarely have served dinner at their Proctor restaurant.
The move to Lakewood, the couple said, was an easy decision because of the reception they received from neighbors, fellow Lakewood restaurant owners and city workers. With a much larger space, Mueller said they’re looking forward to doing something they’ve never been able to - hire a serving staff and kitchen help.