Managing partner Fred Peightal and Executive Chef Joshua Governale opened Cafe Genevieve in 2010.
Named after Genevieve Lawton Van Vleck, who was part of Jackson’s “petticoat government” in the 1920s, the restaurant building was constructed for the future town councilwoman in 1910.
Peightal thinks part of the cafe’s charm comes from the building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. He also thinks the restaurant’s menu makes it special.
The Pork Ramen Noodle Bowl and the Pork Neck Ragu are two of the establishment’s famous dishes. In fact both meals were featured on “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives,” the Food Network show hosted by Guy Fieri.
Peightal spoke to the News&Guide on Thursday about Cafe Genevieve’s history and its signature dishes. He also mentioned that the restaurant will close at 3 p.m. Sunday for kitchen renovations. He encouraged people to visit the restaurant this week to take advantage of two-for-one specials. Cafe Genevieve will open again Nov. 27.
Q: This building is listed on the National Register of Historical Places. Will you explain its history?
A: Roy Van Vleck built it for Genevieve, who was in Michigan. He was out here with his brother. He built a cabin and planted all these trees. When Genevieve moved out to Jackson this place became the gathering place. The story has it is that they had a well. People would come here to get their water. It became a place for people to gather.
Q: So it was a different kind of watering hole than it is now?
A: You could say that.
Q: You obviously named the restaurant after Genevieve. Why?
A: Prior to us taking over this was Jedediah’s House of Sourdough. I’m guessing it was named after Jedediah Smith. We wanted to keep it named after a historical character, but we wanted the name to have something to do with the building.
Q: Do you think Genevieve would have liked this restaurant?
A: I think she had a good time when she lived in this building. I think she would have had a good time at this restaurant.
Q: How did you get involved in the restaurant business here in town?
A: I moved to Jackson in 2001. When I moved down here I went to work for a friend, Gavin Fine, who started Fine Dining restaurants. I got to know the Jackson restaurant business, which is totally different from anything in a city.
Q: Why is that?
A: The seasonality of it and the fickleness of the locals. You have to appeal to the locals first, and then they talk you up to the tourists, which is how you make money.
Q: How did you meet Josh?
A: He and I met working at Snake River Grill.
Q: What sort of meals did you serve when Cafe Genevieve first opened?
A: We never thought we would do breakfast, but we decided it was built-in business and we better stick with it, because the restaurant prior to us was a breakfast place. That gave us the opportunity to grow our dinner program, which in the last two years has really taken off.
Q: What makes your restaurant different from other valley restaurants?
A: We stay open all day long. A lot of restaurants, even if they serve lunch and dinner, close in between meals. We start our happy hour at 3 p.m. as soon as we stop cooking eggs.
Q: What are some of Cafe Genevieve’s popular meals?
A: We are known for our brunch. For dinner, a lot of people love the fried chicken. A lot of people come to eat the two dishes that were featured on “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.”
Q: What dishes?
A: Pork Ramen and the Pork Neck Ragu.
Q: What is another signature item featured on your menu?
A: Pig Candy is one of our biggest hits. We sell boxes and bags. We put in on everything.
Q: There’s a lot of meat, especially pork, on the menu. Do you have vegetarian options?
A: Yes. For lunch we have the Moroccan Veggie Wrap. At night we do a barley risotto.
Q: How often do you change your menu?
A: We can’t get stuck in a rut. We change our menu about three or four times a year. There’s always a winter menu. There’s always a fall menu. Sometimes we serve a spring menu as a test for our summer menu.
Q: How do stay open during the offseason?
A: Our business rolls with when the park opens and closes. It’s about to close, and things come to a halt. That’s why we do the offseason specials. We have to give back to the locals that have been promoting us during the season. We are doing two-for-one dinners now. We will do that till the middle of December. We do it in the spring as well.
Q: The fact that Cafe Genevieve was featured on “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” is a selling point for the restaurant. How did Cafe Genevieve get on the show?
A: Producers called and asked if we were interested. Of course we were. It was a lot of work to get to the point where they actually filmed. You have to give them multiple recipes. That went on for about a month.
Q: What was the filming process like?
A: It was three days of filming. They do the interview with Guy, then they come back for another two days, and film everything again.
Q: Were you on camera?
A: Briefly. Most of the footage was of Josh cooking.
Q: You’ll be closed for most of the month. Why?
A: We’ve beaten up our kitchen for five years. It’s time to replace it. We are shutting down on Sunday after brunch service at 3 p.m.