When Melanie Vijdani gave birth to her second daughter, Olivia, she and the new baby became strapped with new allergies and immune and digestive issues. Melanie researched her symptoms, and after several years of illness, she and her daughter adopted a gluten-free and dairy-free lifestyle.
Although the new way of eating helped Melanie and Olivia feel better, the family struggled to adjust, especially during holidays and eating out, which used to be a frequent family tradition. Favorite foods were off-limits, and frustration ended the joy of dining out.
Melanie and her oldest daughter, Maria Adrian, head chef at Olivia’s, decided the community needed a welcoming cafe that caters to people with food allergies and sensitivities, but with a family-friendly menu sourcing the highest-quality ingredients available. Their mission was to serve dairy-free and gluten-free comfort food.
Customers often refer to the cafe as their “happy place.” Melanie said, “They love the bright light, happy music, delicious food energy in the room. They comment on it.”
Popular menu items at Olivia’s include their Belgian Waffle topped with coconut whipped cream and strawberries, and Crispy Chicken Sandwich, coated in a potato-chip breading and then deep-fried. Although all menu items come gluten-free and dairy-free by default, customers can swap in dairy whipped cream or a slice of cheese on their burger, if desired.
Another customer favorite (often purchased by the quart) is the Creamy Chicken Soup. Typically, gluten-free or dairy-free soups come broth-based. “I wanted a creamy soup!” says Vijdani. Olivia’s creamy chicken soup contains coconut cream, organic shredded chicken, vegetables, and features their bouillon made from scratch. “We take extra steps to think things through and make everything CLEAN,” states Vijdani. “People can trust our food. “We try to get everything organic, and if not, non-GMO. Everything is verified.”
When Olivia’s first opened in the fall of 2019, the business quickly gained some popularity, but profitability suffered. “We’d have a wait of 15-20 minutes, yet we were losing money,” remembers Vijdani. “We also needed to save my other company that was funding the restaurant and the start-up, so we decided to close and regroup. People were sad and gave an outpouring of love. We spent so much time, love, and energy on it. It was hard.”
Vivaldi says she’s grateful that they took the time to pause because it gave them perspective. They didn’t want to sacrifice the menu but reviewed their model and implemented counter service, and cut hours to prime hours. They are open Friday-Sunday from 8 am to 2 pm. That was a COVID change. They also hope to grow their catering and takeout business soon and want to rent out their space for private parties. “We’re headed down the right track and we hope to make it through COVID.”
“We’re grateful for community support and outpouring of love and gratitude,” says Vijdani.
“It’s not taken lightly when customers email or communicate with us. It means a lot to me what they say – it adds fuel to the tank. It’s not been an easy journey. It’s a tough business with slim margins and hard labor. It’s a labor of love.”
Olivia’s Organic Cafe is located at 11849 Millpond Avenue, Burnsville, MN 55337. Phone: 952-346-8800. For hours please visit: www.oliviasorganiccafe.com