One of Ashland’s best-kept secrets has to be Café 116. Located in downtown Ashland next to Atomica and Yogurt Hut. Café 116 offers European styled cuisine with special attention and care for its homemade soups, fresh made croissants and wide selection of lunch options. We stopped in to speak with and interview the owner Joachim Wald. Originally from Hamburg, Germany Joachim brings an exciting passion for food, travel, and an appreciation of fine things. He weaves all this together in the creation and experience of Café 116. Enjoy!
Joachim, thank you for speaking with us today. When you first created Café 116 you implemented extensive changes. What did you do and what have the results been?
We redesigned the entire Café and created a completely new look, feel and atmosphere. One critical change many don’t know is that we built a commercial kitchen above the Café that allows us to create everything that we offer on the menu ourselves: from bagels and croissants to all the deli salads, soups, lunch dishes and then chai tea and lemonades.
My vision is to always surprise and delight by keeping the menu fresh. We’re constantly turning new ideas into delicious things to eat and drink. And because dining is about the experience, it has to be in a beautiful place, with clean, modern lines, a warm atmosphere and outstanding service. In short, I wanted to create a place where you can absolutely count on great quality at a reasonable price in a beautiful setting.
Running a café has been a new experience for you. What has been your favorite part of bringing Café 116 to Life?
There are two things: one is to see and experience that hard work and staying true to a vision actually works even if sometimes it seems difficult. The more I enjoy it and grow into this journey, the more successful it becomes. My other favorite part is how bringing Café 116 to life has given me opportunity to grow and learn so much about myself. I’ve had so much help from friends and coaches, and I’ve taken it in so now I can do much more than I could a year ago.
One aspect I found interesting about your business is that you have an exceptionally high standard of quality. How do you go about establishing a level of quality for your business?
I come from an family of art lovers and have traveled quite a bit. From an early age I was taught to appreciate fine things and it’s translated into a passion to offer that same kind of quality through my own work. I could not, in integrity; own a café that I wouldn’t want to eat at every day. Quality is deeply personal for me because it’s an expression of caring. We really care about what we do.
Joachim, you’re originally from Hamburg, Germany and have traveled extensively. Can you tell us about some of your favorite places and the inspirations you have drawn upon in the creation of Café 116?
I love Paris and France in general. I loved India. And I’ve enjoyed big cities like New York and London. What’s happened over the years is that I developed a sense and appreciation for beauty and style that you find when you travel. You go to museums and see nice art and you walk through big cities and see great restaurants, architecture and coffee shops and this all went into creating my own Café.
Please share your philosophy on hospitality and consistency of service?
I like it when people who are serving me know exactly what they are doing and do it with joy. It can’t be forced. The server needs to feel they are at the right place, for themselves. In other words, you can’t serve someone well if you’re not well served yourself. This is becomes more true at the Café every day.
The menu at Café 116 focuses on many traditional foods that take a European twist. What are some of your personal favorites and specialties?
For breakfast I love our house-made granola with fruit and organic yogurt. And then of course a croissant with our delicious jam. My favorite for lunch right now is the eggplant dish. It’s light, yummy AND filling. I’m so proud of the large selection of deli salads we offer every day. They’re light, healthy and refreshing.
How have Ashlanders responded to more of the European menu selection?
Very positively. We have a lot of regulars, so there’s no question that our menu is widely appreciated. I don’t think it’s well understood how many European mainstays have become American trends, like espresso drinks, for example. And you find more and more European-style bread in America now, and we’re baking it fresh daily.
Locals can view your website to learn about live events, and daily specials, is that right?.
True, we update our website daily with our current soups and deli salads, and list special events and new menu items coming out. We also have Facebook and Twitter pages where you can stay informed.
One of the specialties of Café 116 has been your fresh, hand made croissants. Will you take us behind the scenes with some other delicious treats you are making?
What I find truly delicious are the traditional German cakes we’re now baking on the weekends. Right now it’s plum cake since plums are in season. Next month it will be apple cake. Not apple pie–this cake is something you rarely see in the states. It comes with a big portion of whipped cream as it is eaten in Germany. That´s a real treat. In addition to a variety of unusual cookies, our flourless chocolate cupcakes and baby carrot cupcakes are really nice.
Best advice you ever received?
You can´t run away from anything that is inside you. That was a good advice I was given at the right time, five or six years ago.
Recent customer favorites for breakfast?
The breakfast sandwich on a croissant with a scrambled egg and bacon, paired with a fresh pour-over coffee–that is for sure a breakfast favorite for many of our customers. But then my favorite – the granola with fruit and yogurt with a Café Latte, that’s a very popular choice as well.
Recent customer favorites for lunch?
For lunch I´d say a cup of creamy Italian chicken tomato soup and a Middle Eastern carrot salad, for example. Or a slice of quiche with a green salad. That with a fresh lemonade, followed by a traditional macchiato: an espresso with a little foamy milk on top. Our BLT and turkey sandwiches are also popular choices.
Tell us about your coffee. What makes it special?
We are in love with Blue Bottle Coffee. It was recommended to us a year ago by friends of mine who were in the Bay Area and thought Blue Bottle Coffee was the best in the world. So we all tried it, and we really liked it. Later we went down for training to learn their espresso making and pour-over making methods. It´s a nice company–very enthusiastic and passionate about what they’re doing. We’re the only place in Oregon you can taste it.
This past August has marked your one-year anniversary. What have been some of the highlights of the past year?
It´s been a year of constant change and improvement for us. One highlight for sure was the implementation of the new kitchen, working with Blue Bottle was another. When the outside was finished with new furniture, plants and a small area of paved natural stone, that was a highlight for me. And then just now, out of the blue, the whole building was painted. That was great, too.
116 Lithia Way, Ashland