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Green Bay Press-Gazette
August 5, 2022
EPHRAIM - The name of Ephraim's newest restaurant is exactly what its proprietors want it to be — a fresh take on dining in Door County.
Open since July, Fresh Take 42 owners Asche Rider and Dave Reera hope to make their place just north of The Red Putter Mini Golf stand out from the many others on the Peninsula, from the actual food being served to the service and look.
"We picked the name because (the restaurant) is a little bit of a fresh take on restaurants," Rider said in an interview with the Advocate. "We try to work with fresh food, we want to buy from local farmers, local purveyors as much as possible."
Rider and Reera describe the items on Fresh Take 42's menu as "comfort food with a twist," using locally sourced ingredients as much as possible for their fresh, seasonal offerings. Also, an a la carte menu allows diners to mix and match proteins, vegetables, sauces and starches as desired and share with their fellow diners, which Rider said tries to create a somewhat adventurous food experience.
"We think food is fun, we think eating is an awesome experience," Rider said. "We need to nourish our bodies. Our menu tries to have fun with that."
Reera, a native of the Pacific Northwest with more than 25 years of experience as a restaurant cook and chef across the country, is the chef. Rider, who previously worked at Fred & Fuzzy's in Sister Bay and whose family had a cabin on Door County for years, runs the front end of the restaurant, but they work together to design the menu, Reera said. They plan to keep the restaurant open seasonally, until about the end of October, but Reera said they'll open for one or two weeks around Christmastime.
Reera said Fresh Take 42's menu doesn't necessarily fit one style of cuisine but instead is kind of a fusion of multiple cuisines and cultures, similar to what he experienced in the Pacific Northwest.
"There's more cultures in the Pacific Northwest, a lot of breweries, a lot of people growing food," Reera said. "You can go to the farmers market and get fresh ginger root and use it. I guess our food is all over the place. There's a little bit of Italian, a little bit of Asian."
Among the lunch items are sticky chicken with tempura-style coating and a housemade citrus teriyaki sauce, schnitz (a crispy beaded pork cutlet with apple-cabbage slaw and country gravy) and a veggie pita with housemade chickpea-yam fritters.
Dinner items currently on the menu include seared flatiron steak with parsnip puree, mizuna greens (using a slightly sweet Japanese mustard green) and chimichurri butter; pappardelle with "flatballs" (spatula-flattened meatballs), red sauce, arugula and green cheese; and Yam-Shito, which has flash-fried shoshito peppers, crispy yams and mizuna greens with housemade ranch dressing.
Along with beer or wine, guests can drink housemade sodas in a variety of fruit flavors as well as cola, and creme brulee is available. The restaurant also offers a Mac Bar on Thursday nights, a Saturday night burger bar and fried chicken dinners on Sundays along with food and drink specials during happy hour (3 to 5 and 8 to 9 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays).
The interior of the building, which was home to Joe Jo's Pizza & Gelato for 14 years before previous owners Dick and Kathy Luther retired and sold it to Rider and Reera in July 2021, underwent extensive remodeling. Reera said the carpeting was 14 years old and there wasn't a subfloor.
Besides those, he and Rider wanted to match the restaurant's look with the themes of the menu — fresh, unique, yet comfortable. Reera worked with mills in the Pacific Northwest to get woods for bar tops and table tops.
"We wanted it to feel fresh ... wanted it to be warm and inviting," Rider said. "We wanted it to be an extension of the food we're eating."
"We wanted to create a space you enjoy being in," Reera said.
After Rider and Reera bought the former Joe Jo's last summer, they reopened it in September and October as Joe Jo's 2.0, offering a mixed menu of Joe Jo's popular thin-crust pizza with some of their own items, like house-made eggrolls, kale salad and sticky chicken. Rider said the two-month run wasn't exactly a trial period for what she and Reera were hoping to do.
"With the time required for a complete rebrand, especially including a full remodel, we made the choice to dive in," Rider said. "I don't think I'd call it a trial run so much as doing what made the most sense from an operational perspective. For example, changing the name on the sign on the road is a multi-month process.
"The biggest takeaway was running a restaurant with two people is really challenging."
One big challenge Rider and Reera know they face is that this is a tough time in which to operate almost any restaurant, much less open a new one. Staff shortages and supply chain problems since the COVID-19 pandemic struck the country in early 2020 have seen many establishments close or shrink their menus and hours of operation. Plus, the dramatic rise of the inflation rate this year has meant some people are less likely than before to go out to eat for a better meal.
Reera said he's keeping his menu a bit on the smaller side because of that, but he has what he called "a team of J-1s (exchange student visa workers) who are rock stars" to help on the staffing side.
"It's been challenging," Reera said. "Not a lot of diners want to spend a lot of money because a tank of gas is so expensive. We'd rather have a small menu and be a little less busy and produce good food than be slammed and produce mediocre food."
The result of all their efforts is a restaurant that is almost exactly what Rider and Reera were hoping to establish in Door County, Rider said.
"It's pretty close to what we were envisioning," she said. "We made some minor adjustments as we kinda got a feel for what folks in Door County are looking for."
Fresh Take 42 is at 10420 Water St. (State 42), Ephraim. For menu and hours updates or more information, call 920-854-3232 or visit freshtake42.com.
With white siding on the outside and wood on the inside, the high ceilinged Fresh Take 42 looks much like a barn, a fitting backdrop for the restaurant’s homemade dishes.
Sitting just north of the Red Putter in Ephraim, the eatery created by Ashe Rider and partner Dave Reera is a labor of love in its first season in the former home of Joe Jo’s Pizza.
Reera has several decades of experience as a professional chef, and Rider has worked in hospitality for about the same length of time. Together, they balance both sides of restaurant life: She handles the front of the house, and he handles the back.
When it comes to the menu, the newest eatery in Ephraim takes a slightly different approach to making meals. Guests choose an entrée – from Cobb salad to yam cubes with shishito peppers and much more – and all of the sides are served à la carte. That way, Rider said, people can choose what they really like and have more freedom to try new dishes.
“The theme we try to carry through our food is that it’s very natural, and you kind of know what you’re eating,” she said. “We don’t really use preservatives. We cook from scratch.”
Rider and Reera also serve desserts and small plates for guests to snack on during happy hours, 3-5 pm and 8-9 pm, on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. The restaurant is open those days, 3-9 pm; Friday and Saturday, 11:30 – 10 pm; and Sunday, 11:30 am – 8 pm. It’s closed on Wednesday.
The menu also rotates from time to time with four core entrées and three that change depending on availability and the season. Because Fresh Take 42 is focused on farm-to-table, fresh food, Rider said some menu items are limited in quantity, but that also allows them to introduce new offerings.
When they bought the building about a year ago, she said they wanted to do a complete overhaul of the inside, changing it to reflect the same theme as the menu through wooden stools, tables, benches and a bartop, some of which Rider and Reera made themselves.
Though they have no carpentry background – “We’re just handy enough to pull it off,” she said – the furniture (especially the bartop) is impressive. The room is also large and airy and has plenty of sit-down tables and bar stools.
“We like living things,” Rider said, pointing out the plants in the restaurant.
Sustainability is important to the couple, which is why they made some of the furniture themselves and replaced the plastic wall near the host stand with reclaimed wood.
They’re actively trying to avoid preservatives and pesticides as well, and she said it’s critical to source their food locally, though it’s a bit difficult to do as a new business. Nevertheless, they’re working at it and are building relationships with local farmers.
“It’s good for you; it’s good for the environment,” Rider said. “It’s, in general, just a better way to do business.”
Future Plans? A Vending Machine
Right inside the front door is a vending machine that in the (hopefully) near future, Rider said, will have some to-go options for those who don’t have time for a sit-down meal. Also, because the kitchen is open only until 8 pm and there are many hotels nearby, Rider hopes it will be a source for healthful, late-night food.
The machine, which she said took ages to find, is refrigerated and could offer goods to go such as peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches, housemade hummus and carrots.
“We’re just trying to make a really convenient, quick food option that’s healthy,” Rider said. “And made with real ingredients.”