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By Doug Cantwell
They may have an earnest desire to help save the planet with their business practices, but Wake and Take owners Brittany and Noah Pettus believe it’s their tasty food and inviting space that are building them a following at 480 State Road 150 in Arroyo Seco.
There’s the Odin superfood bowl, named for the Norse god, that blends acai berries and blueberries with peanut butter, banana, hemp seeds and their own house-made raw granola. The Ganesha bowl, named for the Hindu god/dess, combines turmeric and ginger with bananas, strawberries, blueberries, chia seeds and granola. Both are priced at $11 for large, $8 for small.
Customer Manon Saint Wilde has come in often since the café opened in June. “I haven’t found anything on the menu I don’t love,” she said. “The atmosphere is warm and friendly, and I really like the comfortable couches.” She ordered the Buddha Bowl, a citrus soba noodle salad with broccoli, carrot, cucumber, avocado, sesame seeds and sprouts.
The hot savory lunch bowls have gotten popular with those who need something quick during the work week. The Chik’n Biscuit, one of their bestsellers at $8.50, features their own plant-based “I can’t believe it isn’t chicken!” product.
They were, in fact, getting set up to manufacture plant-based burgers, hot dogs and chicken when public demand took them in a different direction. They’d had great success selling these and other prepared foods at the Taos Farmers Market, Vortex and other events during the 2018 season.
“It was the Farmers Market that really drove it home,” said Brittany Pettus. “The plant-based community kept after us, saying ‘Are you going to do a café? Are you going to have a dinner spot?’ We’d tried serving some pop-up dinners [one-off events at restaurant spaces] to get a feel for how serious people were about wanting something like this.”
The Pettuses were no strangers to the restaurant business or to Arroyo Seco. Noah, a born-and-bred native, had opened the Taos Mesa Brewing Company’s Tap Room, serving as its first executive chef and general manager. The two of them had then founded Aceq in Arroyo Seco in 2012 but decided to sell the business in 2016. When they looked for a space for Wake and Take, they ended up renting an adjacent building from the same landlord who owns the Aceq property and has remained a good friend and supporter.
“One big thing,” Brittany added, “we want to be approachable to everyone. We don’t want people to think this is not up their alley or only for those who’ve gone totally vegan. We’ve designed our menu to be approachable: everyone likes a smoothie, and we’ve also got smoothie bowls, we’ve got noodles, we’ve got juices. We want people to come in and find something they really like … that just happens to be plant-based.”
They offered this nonvegan reporter a sample of their cinnamon coffee cake, which proved their point. It was rich and moist despite the absence of eggs and butter.
One element they feel has helped them build the business: their collaboration with Coffee Apothecary, which supplies their artisan beans as well as their coffee beverage recipes. “We love those guys,” said Brittany, “and we’re also supporting their ‘no waste’ model. We’ll give you a 50 cent discount if you bring your own bowl or cup. Hopefully it will help bring awareness to the rest of the community.”
The Wake and Take concept started at home. About the time they opened Aceq in 2012, Brittany had decided it was time the family try the “vegan thing.” Today, they have three children, and the vegan thing has stuck. “That’s what encouraged the new business idea,” said Noah, “and eventually led to our opening the café in June.”
“We’re not trying to convince anyone to change their diet,” he added. “But we’re providing people that option – to make a plant-based choice for one of their meals here and there during the week. We’ll make it super-tasty, and hopefully they’ll enjoy it.”
“We’ve got three kids,” said Brittany, “and we want them to have a planet to live on and to appreciate. If we can make a small impact in just this community, and help make people more conscious of what they’re putting into their bodies, both for the planet and for themselves. I don’t think people really think about what they’re eating most of the time. It’s just fuel, and it’s convenient. So we try to fill that gap by being convenient. You can call in your order, get it to go. It’s a way better alternative than just eating fries and whatever else you can find.”
While they owned a business here before, they have a whole new perspective on it this time.
“There’s always this thing in the restaurant industry that you have to prove yourself and put yourself out there to the world,” mused Brittany. “I think what we did at Aceq was great, but we have a different drive behind it this time, of being conscious on every level – spiritually, physically – the way we set up the space, the feng shui. We want people to feel at home here, to think of it as a gathering spot where they enjoy hanging out.”
Visit Wake and Take 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.