Café Selmarie Reaches Its 35th Anniversary by Staying in touch With Neighborhood Tastes
By Patrick Butler
Café Selmarie, 4729 N. Lincoln Ave., recently finished celebrating its 35th anniversary. The popular eatery has seen the Lincoln Square neighborhood transform itself several times over– from older residents to families to mostly younger people moving into the neighborhood with what Connie Kobayashi happily describes as “their foodie culture.”
Connie Kobayashi is the daughter of Birgit Kobayashi, who co-founded Café Selmarie with the late Jeanne Marie Uzdawinis, who died last year. Uzdawinis is fondly remembered for her “glorious cakes, grace and artistry,” and her role as “the very heart of the neighborhood.”
While Connie Kobayashi kind of grew up at the Café, stealing cookies as a kid, she admits that working in her mother’s restaurant was about the last career she had in mind.
“I fought it as much as I could. I didn’t want to be the boss’s daughter. But one summer I needed a job and my mother needed someone to work the bakery counter right away.
“To my dismay, I found it wasn’t bad being the boss’s daughter. After all, I had a great boss,” Connie laughed.
The summer job turned into a career now going on 21 years and counting, said Connie, who is now the general manager overseeing between 40 and 50 employees, depending on the season.
“Holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving are pretty big for us. And there are usually some kind of upcoming events, like the themed wine dinners we have two or three times a year,” Connie said. “There’s usually some kind of theme like our ‘Rose All Day’ party.”
While Connie and her mother have been urged to open up similar operations in places like Oak Park or Portland, Oregon, wherever they’re from, I don’t think we’re looking to do that.
“We just keep going where we’re going, keeping up with the trends, yet not trying to get too far ahead of customers’ tastes,” Connie said.
“We’re not trying to invent the wheel. We’re just trying to do it well,” she added.
Restaurant hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, 8 a.m. to 9p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and closed Mondays, she said.