Sanford365 is very thankful to our very first Sanford Selfie Sponsor of the Month, Sanford’s Corner Cafe, Home of Michael’s Gourmet To Go!
The Corner Cafe – 101 W 1st St, Sanford, FL 32771 – (407) 322-3779Enter the #SanfordSelfie Contest!
Everyone in town is familiar with Chef Michael O’Brien, and if you aren’t, it won’t take long to get to know him! This outgoing, loquacious business owner has been pounding the pavement in Downtown Sanford to spread his gospel since 2009, and has built a large following of loyal fans who clamor daily for his homemade soups and cuban-style sandwiches.
And even though we’ve known each other for years, I decided to send Michael some questions to learn more things about the Corner Cafe and the man behind it. As always, he does such a good job of speaking for himself that I’ve decided to let him do just that!
Sumalee: What changes have you made to your concept over time?
Michael: While the basic lunch menu has remained largely unchanged, focusing on Cuban sandwiches, scratch made soups and artistically composed salads, we added an elegant bistro approach to the weekend dinner motif, which we offer on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings from 4-8pm. Our guests can still order our killer Cuban style sandwiches, which we pair with a complementing soup…plus we start with a delicious house salad and finish with a dessert shot for good measure! What accounts for the biggest change to our menu are the elegant entrees we added about a year ago. They include such delights as “Spanish Roasted Chicken”, “Italian Braised Beef”, “Asian Barbecued Pork” and basil and cilantro “Soaked Shrimp Scampi”, which are also served as three course dinners.
(By the way, if you’re curious about Corner Cafe’s dinner selections, Michael is giving away a Dinner for Four at his restaurant in addition to the $100 Selfie Dollars offered every month! To win this dinner, submit your #SanfordSelfie today! Check out Corner Cafe’s dinner menu here.)
Sumalee: I attend a lot of Sanford events, and I feel like I see you catering at almost every single one! How much of your business is catering?
Michael: The cafe is actually owned by “Michael’s Gourmet To Go Catering & Events Management” (my company) and “J.D. Hill Advertising” (Jody Hill’s company) and they all work hand in glove with each other.
S: How do you design your menus for catering?
M: We are an ultra custom caterer. This does not imply “ultra-expensive”, but rather an insight that only comes from over thirty years of catering every type of event imaginable. We make certain that the vision that is in the mind of our clients comes to life on their special day. Practically every menu we compose has at least on unique item on it that is drawn from the inspiration of the client. We also do a tremendous amount of corporate catering throughout a 9 country area, servicing a variety of professional clients.
S: Where did you train and what’s the #1 skill that you have to use on a regular basis as a business owner?
M: Being in the food and beverage business since the age of 8, I have been mentored and then self taught for over 40 years. The #1 skill I employ is adaptability…which is the act of self-teaching!
S: Anything special you want to share about where you source your meat/bread/produce?
M: I am a cherry picker. I won’t use the big supply chains because everything tastes like the box or bag it came in. I usually make about 20-30 stops per week at everything from the downtown market to an ethnic market. My concern is primarily the quality of a product. I like midwestern beef, but my strawberries are from Plant City.
S: What’s your favorite place to travel and what’s your favorite thing about visiting other places?
M: If I had to pick one, it would be Asheville, N.C., but I like any town that has the same charm as Sanford. Down to earth people who really care about the people around them.
S: How does being open in Downtown Sanford affect your business?
M: Because we are the southern terminus for the Auto Train and we have the Sanford-Orlando International Airport close at hand, we have become an integral part of the vacation travel plans for thousands of people. Additionally, we are the perfect spot for folks who live far from each other to meet and eat! All of this while having a strong local following that grows more by the day!
S: What’s your favorite Sanford event?
M: The St. John’s River Art Fest for sure!!
M: Come prepared to give it some time. Sanford is slow to adapt but loyal to the end.
The Corner Cafe – 101 W 1st St, Sanford, FL 32771 – Call (407) 322-3779 for questions or reservations!