Benedict | Food | Northern Express

A breakfast worth waking up (and shining) for in Traverse City
By Janice Binkert | April 17, 2021

Regardless of the weather, Traverse City’s newest breakfast and lunch restaurant, Benedict, with its light-flooded, pale yellow speckled interior and the smile (also recognizable behind masks) of its owner Leslie Elsen, radiates a welcome that is as warm as the sun. and their friendly staff.

In fact, the cheerful decorative yellow accents on Benedict (yes, the name has everything to do with Eggs Benedict) do not emulate the sun, but the yolk of an egg. The idea for Benedict – actually Elsen’s dream – took shape a little over five years ago. “It was born out of my love for the pace and energy of the breakfast scene, combined with a passion for baking and years of experience in the coffee industry,” she said. I wanted to upgrade the classics and offer seasonal specials that were both comforting and interesting – something simple but memorable. “

Like many young people, Elsen (pictured above right) left home after graduating from high school – in this case the University of Michigan, where she graduated with a degree in communications and international studies. Positions in PR, accounting and project management followed over the next few years, but her heart was elsewhere. Eventually she went in a completely different direction.

“I took cooking classes and weekend and evening jobs in the food industry, including bakeries and small restaurants, and hosted pop-ups and catering desserts for weddings,” she said. “I immersed myself in everything I had to do with the culinary field. You could find me in my spare time reading cookbooks cover to cover or testing recipes to find the best possible version of what I wanted to achieve. “She even started writing a food blog, which in her words turned out to be a“ very unsuccessful exercise ”.

In early 2019, Elsen and her husband welcomed their first child, a daughter, but instead of putting their dream on hold, she moved on. “I knew I wanted to set an example for both her and myself that if there is something you are passionate about, you can make it your career,” she said. “What better time than now? And even though we were living in Grand Rapids at the time, having grown up here in Traverse City, I knew I wanted Benedict to call this city home, so I started looking for real estate and taking my business plan and aesthetic vision further to refine. ”

Less than a year later, with her nine-month-old in tow, she began making Benedict what it is today. “I had always imagined a room that felt small, cozy and neighborhood-friendly,” explained Elsen. She believed she found it on Benedict’s first location on Union Street, which debuted in December 2019. “Just three months later, in March 2020, COVID made us stop and think about how we would adjust our business operations into the high season in the future,” she recalled.

This turned out to be wise, as Benedict’s appeal soon turned out to be way beyond Elsen’s predictions. “We saw incredible demand from locals and regulars over the summer and quickly found that our space, while adorable, wasn’t scalable,” she said. “I knew the only way to grow and make impact was to find a new location that made it possible.”

Then, unexpectedly, just a few months after the fall, a new, larger home became available for Benedict on Lake Avenue when his former tenant, Patisserie Amie, moved to the vacant Franklin building on Front Street. But it couldn’t have come a busier time in Elsen’s life. “It was my intention to stay on Union Street for another year, but when the opportunity arose, despite the fact that I was five months pregnant, I couldn’t turn it down,” she said. “I certainly didn’t plan for all of these big life changes to happen at the same time!”

Making the decision to move was a challenge in and of itself, but Elsen soon realized that many changes and improvements had to be made to the interior before Benedict could move in. “We repainted the walls and ceiling, refurbished the floors and worked with our landlord to redesign the bar area. Overall, we wanted the ambience to be bright and cheerful, with a clean, modern feel to it with those bang of “egg yolk yellow”. We have also created a separate but contiguous room near our pastry shop, away from the main dining area, for those who just want to have a drink and a pastry and work or read on the computer, or for those who want a more private meeting room. We also completely gutted the kitchen and started over. “

During all of this renovation, Elsen worked (which she continues to do) to further develop the Benedict menu. “We don’t have a formal role as a ‘cook’ here,” she said. “It’s a collaboration between me and our incredible crew. We all work towards the same goal, helping to make our food delicious and our cuisine leaner. “Scratch cooking is a matter of course at Benedict, including many homemade products, e.g. B. Bacon and Canadian bacon, cookies, pastries, herb mayonnaise, sauces, dressings and other condiments. “Besides our scones, the homemade cookies are some of my favorite things on the menu,” said Elsen. “Both are freshly made and highlight the lamination process of ‘butter, flour, butter, flour’ to create that nice rise and layers.”

As far as possible, other ingredients for Benedict’s menu are sourced locally and seasonally. “You won’t find any asparagus on our menu in December or any ramps in October,” said Elsen. “About 80 percent of the items we buy come from a local farm or dealer because we want to support our local community as they continue to support us.” A constantly updated list of Benedict’s supplier partners can be found on the restaurant’s website.

Unsurprisingly, most of Benedict’s menu items feature eggs in some form. The biscuit sandwich (soft scrambled eggs, white cheddar, microgreens and house herb mayo, served with french fries) and the Northerner Benedict (biscuit, thickly sliced ​​bacon, tomato and cherry jam, poached eggs and hollandaise) are two particularly popular specialties along with the bread pudding of the day (a classic pudding base that highlights all the current ingredients that inspire the kitchen – a current version of lemon pudding with lemon curd and meringue). The seasonal hash (currently made with carrots, parsnips, potatoes, goat cheese, microgreens and two eggs, served with an assortment of toast) and the quiche of the day (made with ingredients that change with the seasons, served with a side salad)) are also Customer favorites.

Meal-size salads include farro and greens (farro, microgreens, goat cheese, fresh herbs and dried cherries with cider vinaigrette) and toasted carrot arugula (roasted carrots, arugula, candied pepita seeds, feta cheese and microgreens that come in a creamy Tahini) – poppy seed dressing – a poached egg can be added for a minimal fee).

Since Elsen was a mother herself, she made sure that a child-sized breakfast was offered on Benedict’s menu: the Mini Standard (a scrambled egg with bacon or sausage, toast and a side of fruit) or the Short Stack (two pancakes with a side dish Fruit)). Children can of course also order from the regular or à la carte menu.

For breakfast or lunch you will find a variety of drinks on the menu, from batch coffee and tea to juice, soda, chai or hot chocolate to a selection of the most popular espresso drinks (think espresso, cappuccino, latte, cortado ) Macchiato, mocha). Elsen is also in the process of obtaining a liquor license and is planning a small, curated drinks menu with many of the spirits sourced from the Iron Fish Distillery. “Among other things, we’re going to have Bloody Marys with a home-smoked celery salt rim and house bacon and mimosa,” she noted. “For the latter, we’re going to be introducing a Benedict Bubble Board that includes four types of juice and a bottle of sparkling wine to share and build your own mimosa.”

While one might wonder how Elsen could possibly fit anything else into her busy days, she slips (pun definitely intended!) Even more future plans for Benedict. “Our goals are to expand our pastry program and become more involved in the local community,” she said. “Last year was just strange with COVID, but we want to use this new space as a fresh start for these initiatives. We’d also like to start with small goals, like a community herb garden and small library near our entrance, maybe with an additional waiting area, especially for families with crazy kids like mine. “

Elsen admits the last couple of years have been a whirlwind for her, but looking back, she said she wouldn’t change the choices she made and where she is today. “My children keep me on the ground and remind me of my purpose,” she said. “It’s so easy to delve into every detail or spend hours in a restaurant trying to make things happen, but there is a time to say, ‘I’ve done enough. I tried my best. Time to go home. ‘ I love the work I do and what I built with Benedict and I hope my kids see that you can chase your dreams, work hard and still be home to accommodate them. Trust me there is a lot of dirty laundry and a lot of meals eaten over the sink in my household, this is life now, but I’m cool with it. “

Judging from the unsolicited comments from Elsen’s Brigade at Benedict, it is obvious that they value her very personal and down-to-earth leadership style and admire her talents and strengths. For her, appreciating and looking out for her co-workers is an easy case: “As a mother and extremely empathetic person, I want you all to feel that Benedict is a safe place and I understand the need for work – Life balance, both for her and for me. We all have lives and things to deal with outside of work, especially this crazy past year.

“My goal for Benedict has always been to be a company that strives to support local farmers, that is active in the local community and that offers a workplace where everyone can feel comfortable, supported and seen. And now where we start again with space to spread our wings, hopefully we can influence my wonderful hometown even more. ”

Benedict is located at 237 Lake Avenue in Traverse City. Take away or take away meals (online order) possible. Pick-up at the roadside on request. Open Wednesday to Sunday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. (closed on Mondays and Tuesdays). Outside terrace when the weather is nice. For more information, please call (231) 421-1000,, or on Facebook or Instagram.

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