From the Publisher's Desk: Dear Valued Customer...Yours truly, Luke

By Michele Grgas Thomas The Triplicate September 16, 2011 05:55 pm

 Christina Wile helps take-out customers at Luke’s Joint in Arcata last Saturday. The Daily Triplicate/Michele Thomas
Christina Wile helps take-out customers at Luke’s Joint in Arcata last Saturday. The Daily Triplicate/Michele Thomas
On our way home from the Warriors game in Ferndale Saturday, Rick and I stopped to eat in Arcata. We ventured beyond the two restaurants we’re familiar with and asked a waitress at “Big Blue Café” for a recommendation. She pointed across the plaza and said, “Luke’s Joint.”

The small café had only one empty table, one waitress and one chef. In addition to breakfast, the menu featured “sublime swine” as well as soups, sandwiches, wraps and grilled paninis.

While we waited for our food, I read the laminated letter on our table. The same letter sat on each of the half-dozen tables in the “joint.”

The owner, Luke Patterson, whom I later learned arrived in Arcata about three years ago, wrote, “Dear Valued Customer, Luke’s Joint is committed to providing our customers with a local, organic and healthy selection of menu options.”

Luke explains his “localcentric” point of view saying that in addition to the economic, agricultural, social and political sustainability benefits, buying local is “so easily doable right here in Arcata, CA.”

He lists the farms where he buys his greens, mushrooms, potatoes and beans. “Goat cheese is from Arcata’s very own Cypress Grove Chevre, a multiple award-winning, small-batch, internationally respected, artisanal cheese-maker.”

The credits continue to roll, praising local Brio Breadworks, Humboldt Hotsauce and Kinetic Koffee. Luke also mentions his supporting cast – the local bank, local construction company, local furniture maker, local upholsterer and local commercial appliance vendor.

On the wall across from me there’s an impressive wood mosaic featuring samples of redwood, walnut, yew, acacia, holly and five other species sourced from Almquist Lumber.  The letter says Luke’s own mother painted the walls.

Our waitress Christina Wile is friendly and helpful when I ask, “Is there really a Luke?” She seems proud assuring me that indeed there is a Luke who started off selling pork sandwiches from a cart in Arcata Plaza. Not long after he opened Luke’s Joint and it’s been a huge success. Such a success, in fact, that the very next night is the grand opening of his newest venture, an elegant dinner house called The Other Place.

Christina brought us the menu from The Other Place. Rack of lamb with rosemary and black truffle, braised cod cheeks with soft polenta, homemade fettuccini with asparagus, roasted cippolini onions and 12-hour tomatoes were among the entrees. Desserts like Grandma’s pear and goat cheese cheesecake and a dark chocolate mousse with lavender tuile and espresso anglaise sauce made my mouth water.

Local farms and businesses were also named on The Other Place menu. I don’t know if there’s a letter on each table there, but the one I read concluded, “We are determined to support local farms and businesses, period. And we are sincerely grateful for your support—without your continued patronage, this budding enterprise would wither away. Yours Truly, Luke.”

The patrons of Luke’s Joint were grateful, too. “That was awesome, man, thank you,” I heard one man say to the chef as he left. Others repeated the ritual. Eventually the lone cook walked out from behind the glass partition where he’d been working non-stop for the entire time we were there and greeted the guests.  “So, how was it?” he asked.

It was great, not just the food, the service, the eclectic vibe—but, most importantly for me, the business philosophy.  Luke’s Joint is open 7 days a week from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. at 887 H St. in Arcata. The Other Place is nearby at 660 K St.

  Reach Michele Thomas, The Daily Triplicate’s publisher, at mthomas@ trip­licate.com, 464-2141, or stop by 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays.