By Bob Uphues
For the past 20 years, Teri Mortel has dreamed of opening her own café — one that would combine elements of her favorite places in Chicago, the suburbs and Europe — with great coffee, artisanal pastries, oh, and some smoked barbecue for good measure.
Later this summer, Mortel and her husband, Charlie, will open the doors to Café Teré at 8420 Brookfield Ave., across the street from the Metra's Zoo Stop at Hollywood Avenue.
"We love coffee shops — our wedding reception was held in a coffee shop," said Teri during a phone interview last week with the Landmark. "We wanted a family kind of place and a place where the food is actually good for you."
While the menu is still being finalized, the café's website (www.cafeteré.com) gives a glimpse of what customers might expect to find, ranging from cream cheese brownies with walnuts to veggie frittata with basil to chocolate marshmallows to sourdough bread.
"It'll be everything from cookies to croissants and bacon buns," Teri said.
The shop will carry Peet's Coffee, she said, and will include menu items that are "renal friendly" — like her kugelis, a potato casserole made by leaching the potassium out of the potatoes.
That particular aspect of the menu is inspired by Charlie Mortel, who suffers from chronic kidney disease and who urged Teri to forge ahead despite his health issues.
"You have no idea how many people thought we were crazy," said Teri, adding that she and Charlie will celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary in August. "You never know what's going to happen, so we decided it's better to just to move ahead with our dream."
For the past two decades, Teri Mortel has served as chief financial officer for a Chicago-based development company, but she's always had other inTerésts outside the accounting ledgers.
Ten years ago she attended and graduated from French Pastry School, where she learned to hone her baking skills, and she is also a certified yoga instructor. Charlie Mortel is an IT systems administrator, who also does woodworking and photography and barbecues on the side.
He also is the inspiration for the café, said Teri, who relates a story on the business' website that after a particularly good lunch, Charlie named their kitchen Café Teré and insisted that others needed to be eating Teri's creations.
"So I decided to give it a try," Teri said.
The Mortels, who live in Chicago near Midway Airport, stumbled across the Brookfield space after looking in other places, including Riverside, where a promising location fell through.
"I never really realized how close Brookfield was to us," said Teri, who was captivated by the space. "It was the look: the high tin ceiling; the cozy, homey feel of Brookfield; the patio out front."
Since last November the Mortels have been working to transform the 19th-century storefront that's been home to a string of businesses since 2000 from Riverside-Brookfield High Schools special education business incubator, The Paw, to a bar called The Station to a pair of short-lived restaurants, the second of which closed in 2015 after just six months in operation.
Photos from the renovation show that the Mortels have endeavored to brighten up the place, painting the walls with a neutral palette of white and gray, adding white wainscoting to the walls and installing new flooring.
The awning announcing the café's imminent arrival went up in mid-May.
When it does open, Café Teré will be a morning to mid-afternoon spot with counter service, though Teri said she hopes to inaugurate a monthly farm-to-table dinner event.