From its beginnings as a shaved ice cart to a bricks-and-mortar restaurant in October 1997, Cafe Strudel has been serving the Midlands for decades. Over the years, owners Trip and Marila Turbyfill have grown their business into two restaurant locations, a food truck and a catering business.
“We make everything fresh, so it's not a fast place to eat. Not only that, but the environment here, it enables people to stay and chat longer. They feel at home; they feel comfortable,” Bradley Naylor, the general manager of operations, said.
There is one location at 300 State St. in West Columbia and one in Lexington. West Columbia residents frequent the restaurant, and its walls are decorated with local artists’ work.
“We take our mantra for our food, which is local and fresh and farm-to-table style, and translate that into the artwork as well,” Naylor said. “It's just another way for us to help support people who are supporting us and just keeps everything in-house.”
Breakfast is served all day every day with a list of specials that changes daily. The signature items the restaurant is known for are highlighted yellow on the menu.
“Our shrimp and grits, honestly, is to die for,” Chandler Richburg, a manager at the West Columbia location, said.
According to Naylor, Cafe Strudel started as a cart "that sold shaved ice on the side of the road." Later, it moved to a trailer in Fort Jackson, where it served coffee, donuts, cookie and pastries before eventually finding a storefront.
The staff has built relationships with returning customers, and regulars are a big part of the Cafe Strudel atmosphere.
“Over the last 20-something years, they’ve built a clientele list of some really quality people. They’re all characters, and each one of them has their own little pocket of ambiance while they’re here,” Naylor said. “They come in and they have their stories to tell or they share little snippets of their life with us and vice versa, and that's the most gratifying thing for me.”
Even as a newer staff member, Richburg said he knows how special these relationships are.
“I've only been working here for a few months, but just coming in every day and seeing those regulars and hearing stories about people that have been coming here for 15, 20 years and still love it, every step of the way, has just been really nice to see,” Richburg said.
Second-year mechanical engineering student Mary Jane Therrien said she likes to go to Cafe Strudel with her friends on Sunday mornings for brunch.
"I think it does give a cool, homey restaurant vibe," Therrien said. "It's just a cool place."
The restaurant is in the process of branding some of its signature items, such as its green onion aioli, to be sold. They will be sold in both restaurant locations, through the food truck and online.
“The love and support of the community is what keeps us here,” Naylor said.