After Mayfield resident Jake Bidgood built up his Lake Winola restaurant, Lake Road Cafe, into a well-established operation, he set his sights on expanding with another place a little closer to home.
When it came to inspiration for a name for his new Olyphant eatery, Bidgood turned to his caramel-colored pit bull, and Cafe Lilah was born.
The East Lackawanna Avenue restaurant serves up eclectic breakfasts and lunches six days a week and draws on Bidgood’s 20 years of experience working in local kitchens for its menu.
The Mountain View High School graduate started as a dishwasher at 14 years old and moved up through the years, eventually managing a friend’s family diner by age 20. Bidgood later became a new restaurant opening trainer for Olive Garden (where he met his fiance, Justine), and assisted in opening four brand new locations between Niagara Falls and Baltimore.
Now, with two businesses of his own at age 34, Bidgood differentiates his food by focusing on underserved breakfasts and lunches in the Midvalley.
“My regulars in Lake Winola are very regular, but here I can experiment more. People don’t really touch on breakfast as much around here,” he said.
With seating for around 38 and delivery to businesses with orders of $35 and up, Cafe Lilah dishes out classics like breakfast sandwiches, build-your-own omelettes, four kinds of Eggs Benedict and house specials that include creative combinations like the Pancakewich, which stuffs eggs, cheese and bacon or sausage between two pancakes.
Hearty skillets fall under amusing names like the John Stamos (a Greek-inspired dish that features spinach, tomatoes, black olives, feta cheese and hummus) and ...Because ‘Merica (certified Angus beef, American cheese, bacon, onions, tomatoes and cheddar served with “#freedom”).
But the work that goes into preparing certain menu items is no joke. The house pork, for example, is smoked for 18 hours over wood chips before it’s added to popular Cafe Lilah dishes like El Hefe (a sandwich that also comes with ham, Swiss cheese, pickles and house-made mustard) and the Pork BBQ. And all baguettes are baked to order.
“They come par-baked, but they’re finished right before they’re served,” Bidgood said. “It’s as fresh as you can get.”
The Honey Garlic Chicken Salad comes with a house Arizona dressing (a blend that features the house-made mustard as a base), and the Grilled PB&J with Bacon is a hit for its unexpected combination of creamy peanut butter, strawberry jam and crispy bacon on grilled sourdough.
Other standouts include the Vietnamese Banh Mi (“It represents a clash of cultures and I love that,” Bidgood said) and the Parisian, which is an American twist on a French classic sandwich of ham, Swiss, mayo and European butter.
Off-site catering is available, but the bright cafe is a welcome respite from the nearby industrial parks for dining in, though the broad menu travels well for takeout wherever customers choose to enjoy their food.
“It’s just a lot of classic culinary things,” Bidgood said. “Cafe Lilah focuses more on different but familiar food, most of which you can’t get at many other places.
“We try to keep it fresh and different and appealing, because it’s not the diner down the street that’s been open for 30 years, nor is it the pizza shop on every corner in NEPA,” he said. “A lot of it is comfort food from different regions with our own twist on it.”
Address: 1450 E. Lackawanna Ave., Olyphant
Owner: Jake Bidgood
Established: December 2017
Cuisine: Eclectic breakfasts and lunches
Hours: Mondays through Fridays, 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.; closed Sundays