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Arlo Inspires Alice’s Restaurant

by Mairin O’Malley (BAKERY WORLD July/August 2000)

alice1 Arlo Guthrie’s song Alice’s Restaurant was the inspiration for the name of the cosy little coffee shop in The Moat Mall, Naas, Co. Kildare. On the wall behind the counter you can see signed copies of Arlo Guthries records, a reminder of the musical motif.

You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant“, the song goes. It is an anti-war protest song from 1968 which reminds me of my rebellious you” says proprietor Eileen O’Carroll. The coffee shop which seats 25 – 30 is decorated with William Morris wallpaper from Liberty’s of London while paintings by local artists and some old tinted photographs taken by Eileen’s grandfather hang on the walls. A large window looks out onto the small pedestrianised shopping mall, just a step from the main street.

Alice’s Restaurant caters for morning coffees and lunches with an emphasis on home baking. ” I bake what my mother baked – Welsh cheese-cakes, apple tarts, scones, brown bread, meringues, almond slices and carrot cake. It’s a bit old-fashioned but that’s what people want.”

Ms. O’Carroll, who is from Two Mile House outside Naas worked in the food and catering business in London when her children were small and on her return to Ireland went into the fashgion industry for a couple of years before opening Alice’s Restaurant.

I needed to be self-employed as I have three children and am a single parent. I wanted to be my own boss and work hours to suit the children and myself”, she says

alice3Eileen has to be very organised¬† as she is operating from a very small kitchen which is HACCP certified. She preps up the night before then is up at 6am the next morning to to do the baking and put everything together. She has up to eight part-time staff working with her.”For lunches we concentrate on sandwiches with a variety of fillings and different breads and do two hot dishes such as lasagne or quiche with a vegetarian option. Granery breads are popular as well as pitta bread with roasted vegetables. I make soup every day using no flour. As i am vegetarian myself my vegetarian soups are truly vegetarian. I don’t cheat.”

Despite the long hourss and hard work Eileen loves the business. ” I don’t know how many customers come through my door every week but I am making a living. I want to keep it small as you can only mind what you can see. We are especially busy Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays . On Saturdays we get families who come here as an alternative to McDonalds.” she says.

Alice’s Restaurant is about to get on the information highway with an internet station where customers can log-on and check their e-mails. The decor is undergoing change too as Eileen is exchanging her much-loved William Morris for a plainer look. Customers however will get everything they want at Alice’s