WEBB CITY, Mo. – A restaurateur coming to a city is not always news. But this one is helping to spark downtown renewal as it opens Tuesday, July 25. (See related story on our Web site this week: "Webb City comes to life.")
Eric Tiregol, owner of the Food of Life Cafe, packed up and moved from Joplin. He came from a similar location, but he sees a world of difference.
JBJ: Why Webb City?
|Eric Tiregol, owner of Food for Life Cafe, stands in front of his new business home at 209 N. Main St. in Webb City. Robert L. Roach/JBJ|
Tiregol: Why not? The community needed another authentic restaurant perhaps, one with good ethnic food. I felt that I was led here, and I had an opportunity with this building: it was a good site, had more parking and more space for people. We'll have about 25-30 parking places and our seating capacity will double to about 50 people. That makes a tremendous difference. And we'll have a pickup window.
JBJ: Downtown isn't pretty right now.
Tiregol: Prettiness ... well, I'm a little bit of a spiritual person, so regardless of where you are at, it's what you make of the community. So I think maybe Webb City needs a place where people can fellowship and gather and not only share the good food but come to know one another. That's what I'm hoping this cafe will establish.
JBJ: You're the third or fourth restaurant downtown. Think you'll make it?
Tiregol: Yeah, I usually don't count on myself when I get up in the morning. And so we'll let the Maker take care of whatever comes along – he's already preplanned things.
JBJ: Is that just part of who Eric is?
Tiregol: That's who made me. How could I deny that?
And our location is great, and we have a great clientele already established and following us. Here we can accommodate more people, more parties and now we're doing catering.
JBJ: Why do your regulars come?
Tiregol: I think food, our service and our fellowship is what brings people back to the Food of Life Cafe.
JBJ: Tell me about fellowship.
Tiregol: Fellowship is something that you gain not by just coming and eating. I mean fellowship with other people who are dining here. Most of the people know one another. The idea of fellowship is to maintain a close friendship and help one another.
JBJ: So the community gets to know each other. Are others welcomed in?
Tiregol: Yes! We're not a club.
JBJ: Where do new clients come from?
Tiregol: I've already had people from LaBarge Electronics and Cardinal Scale stopping by and asking, "When are you going to open?" Then there's a lot of new subdivisions on "D" Highway up north.
JBJ: Is that why you're on Main Street?
Tiregol: Well, a good friend had this property and some others, and it was through him I came to the knowledge of the Lord. He saw my condition and said "If you want to buy this property, I'll sell it to you for no profit." I was a Muslim up to two-and-a-half years ago, then I got to know and accept Christ. Things changed for me, and the blessings and other things started coming – because of the knowledge of knowing Him. This building is probably a prime example.
JBJ: What about community?
Tiregol: It all goes back to helping one another. Someone came and helped me out when I needed help and I'm hoping I'll be in a position to do the same for someone else. I think the community is what you make of it, regardless of where you are at: how you treat it, and how you come together and help others as well. In all the remodeling of this, I try to use local people to help them out, because I know they're going to come back and eat here.
So that's the plan. The location could be anywhere – you could be out on the desert somewhere. How you feel about things and how your spirit leads you to do the things you're supposed to be doing. We're all here for a purpose.
JBJ: How about food in the new cafe?
Tiregol: We'll have an expanded menu: the same menu that we had before and some dishes we usually ran once a year. We're going to have grilled Alaskan salmon fillet with a special sauce and some special veggies on our menu. And we're going to have a rib-eye steak dish, and a lamb and chicken kebab.
We'll have appetizer specialties like falafel and dolmeh (dolma) – which is the stuffed grape leaves. We're gonna have tabouli salad, and a gyro platter with a couple of specialties. Those are some of the things people really ask for, the specialty foods. Then we have Mediterranean couscous.
Another specialty that is really popular is chickpea curry – everyone has been coming in asking for it. I had no idea when I put it on the menu that it was going to be this popular, but it is the top seller for our lunch.
JBJ: What are your price ranges?
Tiregol: Luncheon specials starting at $5.99, and dinner specials starting at $7.99. We announce in the morning the daily special on a couple of marquees that we set up outside and inside. And we offer at least 2-3 specials each day.
JBJ: You don't have regular breakfasts?
Tiregol: No. We have an extraordinary breakfast: a men's bible study that comes here three times a week, and gains a knowledge of more of our lord Jesus Christ.