A cafe in Allen with lots of local lore has changed hands: Elke's Market Cafe, the cute lunch spot at 105 N. Greenville Ave., has new owners, husband-and-wife Gregory and Kim Casale, who come with their own glorious history.
The Casales previously owned a fine-dining restaurant in Arizona, and also have experience in the corporate restaurant and wine worlds. In August, they took over Elke's from Tim and Elke Marsh, who first opened the restaurant in 2004.
Tim and Elke came from Kuby's Sausage House, the iconic restaurant in Dallas' Snider Plaza; Elke is Elke Kuby Marsh, daughter of Ria and Karl Kuby.
Elke's was a smash from the day it opened, with locals lining up for their fresh wholesome sandwiches, wraps, soups, and salads. An adjacent market featured offerings such as King Ranch casserole to be taken home and heated up.
But after 16 years, the couple was ready to step back. Along came the Casales, who'd moved to Dallas for a corporate job, and were ready to open their own place.
Casale had an influential restaurant called Gregory's World Bistro and was hailed by the local press as "one of Arizona's most innovative culinary talents." Casale was offered a corporate job in Dallas, and Kim began to work in wine distribution; when they left Arizona, they were feted by the local culinary scene with a blowout tribute feast.
But they always wanted to have another place of their own, Kim says.
"A few months ago, we started talking with Tim and Elke, who were ready to retire," Kim says. "They didn't want to just pass it off to anybody, and we came to an agreement that we would take over Elke's and maintain the status, while doing some things to make it our own."
New surefire winners in the wings include breakfast and a wine-by-the-glass program.
"We don't want to reinvent the wheel as far as the overall concept goes," Kim says. "We still want the focus to be a lunch cafe. But we've added items like breakfast burritos and yogurt berry parfaits with granola. And the market and catering are important. Not big high-end plated dinners but box lunches and items that are popular in the corporate catering world."
One thing that will never go away is an Elke invention called the "nutty creation."
"It's our biggest seller," Kim says. "When I first read the recipe, it sounded like a hodgepodge. It's a sandwich on molasses bread with pecan cheddar spread, bacon, candied jalapenos, peach preserves, and lettuce. Somehow it works. It's our No. 1 seller."
"We do a lot of casseroles and our soups are homemade," she says. "We have a roasted jalapeno soup that is to die for. These are items we are not going to touch."
They're also adding their own treasured recipes such as their Bavarian knockwurst casserole.
"It's a family recipe with noodles, sauerkraut, sauteed mushrooms, and a whole bunch of sour cream," she says. "In the original recipe, you mix in kielbasa, but in this case we've added knockwurst. I'm from Buffalo, New York, and my family are old German butchers. It felt like it fit right in."
They're also giving the interior a "little refresh."
"Some of the items hanging on the walls are Elke's personal items and she'll eventually take those," Kim says. "It's very much a partnership, working with Elke and Tim over next year to integrate the space and the community, as well. We want to maintain that place in the community that they established. We are still Elke's, but Elke's 2.0."