The Cozy Kitchen offers California-inspired Comfort Food

It’s only been a few weeks since The Cozy Kitchen opened its doors at 114 Putnam Street, but already the little restaurant has earned loyal customers and glowing reviews. Owner Casandra Clark is winning people over with her unique menu and California-inspired dishes.

The dining space itself has been transformed with warm tones of gray and simple, modern décor. The walls boast fun food-themed canvases, antique rolling pins and a piece that Casandra herself created with wooden spoons. Casandra is a human whirlwind, with an infectious energy both inside the kitchen and out. Her path to restaurant ownership was a meandering one with some unusual turns, including dog shows and a hunting lodge.

Casandra was raised in California and like her grandparents, became very involved with show dogs. In fact, she was the second youngest to win Best Junior Showmanship at the prestigious Westminster Dog Show. In college (financed in part from scholarships earned through golf and dog showing) Casandra majored in International Business and minored in Entrepreneurship. She explained that instead of attending culinary school, she learned to cook from her grandmother and other women in the family. “I loved being in the kitchen, surrounded by strong women who cooked,” she said. When life became stressful, Casandra took cooking classes as a way to relieve the stress and hone her skills.

While handling dogs at the shows, Casandra grew tired of the monotonous, unhealthy food that was available. She offered to work as a chef for a local bar in return for use of the commercial kitchen. The kitchen enabled her to make meals not only for herself but other handlers at the dog shows and soon she had a thriving catering business. Family ties in the Mid-Ohio Valley brought Casandra back for visits, and when she was hired as a private chef for a hunting lodge in Barnesville she returned to the area even more frequently.

The idea of owning a restaurant in Marietta was just starting to germinate when Casandra saw the vacancy notice for the Putnam Street site. She asked her parents to look it over, and within days the papers were signed and there was no turning back. It’s a testament to Casandra’s determination, energy and strong support network that only six weeks after signing the papers, The Cozy Kitchen was open for business. Through serendipity, Carla, the former chef at the Cornerstone in Beverly, introduced herself and became Casandra’s right-hand person in the kitchen.

The restaurant is currently open for breakfast and lunch, 8:00 am – 2:30 pm Monday through Friday and 7:30 am – 2:30 pm Saturdays. Casandra describes her menu as “new twists on classic favorites” and one could also describe it as “California style comfort food.” She explains that in California, a dish becomes “ultimate” with the addition of bacon and avocado (and Casandra makes certain she always has good avocado on hand). Those two ingredients on the Cozy Bistro Burger elevate the half-pound burger to a towering masterpiece. The avocado, brown sugar peppered bacon, and black pepper aioli perfectly complement the cooked-to-order beef, served with a side of hand-cut fries.

For breakfast, diners will have a hard time making a choice, from the blueberry waffle to the eggs benedict to the quiche, made fresh daily. In fact, everything is made fresh and Casandra plans to source local ingredients whenever possible. She’s already discovered the River City Farmers Market and Twin Pines Dairy and has found a local source for free-range chickens. And her support of local businesses doesn’t stop with ingredients – her signage was done by Discount Signs and Awnings and the weekly fresh flowers are provided by Two Peas in a Pod.

“Supporting the local community is very important to me. People hear I’m from California and think I’m from a big city but truthfully, I’m from a small town there, too,” she said. “I believe in using local resources to not only give back, but to ensure small business stays relevant in a tech-advanced world.”

One menu item that offers a tasty twist on a favorite is the Buffalo Chicken Flautas. Flour tortillas are stuffed with chicken, buffalo sauce, cream cheese, and cheddar, then lightly fried and served with homemade ranch or blue cheese dressing. Portions are hearty and the basket of four flautas can easily be shared. A dip into the blue cheese and a bite into the crisp tortilla releases a burst of cheesy, hot-but-not-too-hot goodness – you may change your mind about sharing!

Tuna salad has long been a staple of lunch menus, but The Cozy Kitchen makes it seem like a fresh new treat. Nicely seasoned, with a bright flavor, served with lettuce and tomato on a generous croissant – it just might become your go-to lunch order.

The menu also features Breakfast Boxes that can be prepared and ready to go quickly. The breakfast burrito, accompanied by fruit and a beverage, is a hefty portion of bacon, egg, cheese and potatoes wrapped in a tortilla. Add chorizo sausage, and the burrito is elevated to a mildly spicy blend of everything needed for the perfect breakfast. You won’t find desserts on the menu- instead, be sure to check the chalkboard sign on the counter. Rather than have set menu items for dessert, Casandra likes to create sweet treats that vary with her mood and ingredients.

In the short time since opening, The Cozy Kitchen has become a favorite spot for several downtown businesses and the lunch hour is a busy time in the kitchen. Casandra recommends calling orders ahead to avoid a long wait. Although many customers opt for take-out, the dining area provides clean comfortable seating and a friendly atmosphere. “I want people to relax and eat with no inhibitions, and I want to serve the kind of food people go to for comfort.” To “Back the Blue” and show appreciation to law enforcement, first responders and military personnel, Casandra offers a ten percent discount.

Throughout her life, Casandra has embraced new adventures and opportunities with little fear. A favorite memory is traveling to Greece and being invited to dine and learn cooking techniques among the locals. With her grandparents now living in the Mid-Ohio Valley, Casandra feels that her meandering journey has led her right to where she needs to be.

“I love food and cooking, and I feel very blessed to do what I love” she says with emotion.

We too feel very blessed, to have The Cozy Kitchen in the midst of our downtown community.